Dear Bill and Melinda,
It is no surprise that 522 + people find the headlines to Nerissa Ediza’s tweet horrifying. Her question is so rational and yet, what is irrational is what is actually happening behind the closed doors of our kindergarten classrooms — testing upon layer of testing – standardized, summative, and formative testing of 5 year olds that is often hidden from their parent’s eyes. Mandated unnecessary corporate-reform-instigated-standardized testing of 5 year olds is growing at an alarmingly rate, as Race to the Top and Common Core have invaded our kindergarten classrooms. How can this be? If parents and community members knew the truth, what would they do about it?
While this tweet is about Oregon, the standardized testing program called Teaching Strategies Gold Assessment Tool (TSGAT) discussed in The Oregonian is ramping-up across America with your financial support. I found several instances of your funding TSGAT.
Peg Robertson give readers great details about TSGAT in her blog: “Do Not Go for the Gold (Teaching Strategies Gold) for Early Childhood”.
You can read The Oregonian author’s report here:
You see, TSGAT is not the only standardized test, nor the only assessment we are mandated to use on our kindergartners. I will discuss my kindergarten testing experiences in order to meet the requirements of the layers of bureaucracy over me: Corporate aka federal, corporate aka state, and corporate aka district mandates — are layered on top of building and team data decisions — all of which dictate the quantity of tests, types of tests, and amount of time spent on kindergarten testing today. Testing is not teaching. Testing takes time and costs big money. Testing is used to feed BIG DATA, stripping children, families, and teachers of privacy. Testing takes away the time for developmentally appropriate experiences. Over-testing and developmentally inappropriate testing cause stress on young growing children.
I can tell you first hand, all children are experiencing these stresses, but “What sober person gives a standardized test to kindergartners?”
Parents have a right to know what we are doing TO their very young kindergarten children behind our closed doors.
But what happens when children “fail” these standardized tests? Matt Walsh writes about it in his blog: “Your 5 year old failed a standardized test. Therefore, he is stupid, insane, and doomed to a life of failure.” Is this where corporate reformers are headed? Culling children out of the herd in Pre-K? Will we cull them inutero via some high stakes standardized test you are developing next? Should we shame children and label them publicly in “Data Walls” like this in Pre-K and K?
This post is intended to create transparency about these layers, the “rigor” — gosh, should the word “rigor” and five year olds be used in the same sentence? — and the time it takes from what 5 year olds really ought to be doing instead of testing, testing, testing. Is this “rigor” being added so it can be used to cull in early childhood? Why aren’t more parents alarmed and horrified? Why don’t many parents already know about this corporate testing avalanche?
One reason: Typically in our schools of poverty, parent involvement is very low — not because parents don’t care as much as Lakeside School parents (where your children attend) — but because of the opportunity gap in schools of poverty. Parents’ economic status limits their opportunities for taking time off of work, due to fear of losing their only source of income. Parents in our schools of poverty typically visit the first day of school, at parent events, and come at conference time — if we are lucky to have this much involvement. Like test scores, parent involvement can be measured by zip codes.
What happens from the beginning of TSGAT? Parents saw my warm smiling face through the WaKIDS “home connection” time — they take one look at my classroom environment and they said, “It feels like a home.” They see a sofa, chair, coffee table, a doll house, a paint easel, a Lego table, a sensory table, cars and dinosaurs, and a little wooden kitchen set — then they breathe a sigh of relief, thinking to themselves “My child is safe here.” We interview the parents and children, but they do not interview us. There is no time to discuss the plethora of testing we will put their children through over the course of the year. There is not time to tell them that the use of these developmentally appropriate items in our classroom will see less use than ever before due to testing. If we had more time, I would let them read our blog. If we had more time, I would have a very frank face-to-face discussion with them. One half hour per family is not enough to go into depth, however.
Lakeside parents have a different orientation — no layers of corporate reform testing for teachers, children, or parents to worry about — no layers of top-down bureaucracy or funding deficits. But unlike Lakeside School parents — our parents today are busy surviving — not worrying about what they will wear to the next social event in Medina, or getting their photo shoot for being nominated as Glamour Magazine‘s Woman of the Year, or planning their next trip for their “seat at the table” on Air Force One.
In a district where parents volunteer, they could see the onslaught of assessment. In my district parents are often working 2-3 low paying jobs just to stay afloat. As a result, there are few volunteers compared to volunteering at Lakeside School.
There are many reasons why our parents don’t realize how many resources “testing costs” strip away from their children. While testing costs strip us of the ability to provide the very things our children at risk need to succeed, our schools of poverty do not have a “matching gifts” opportunity to fund all the extra programs that funding testing sucks out of our resources.
There are many reasons our parents don’t know how much testing is going on inside our classrooms. Democracy and parent involvement are lowered in schools of poverty. Not because parents are not equally interested in their children, not because parents do not want to have a voice, but because of the oppression and fear of top-down reforms and because our parents are barely getting by – operating in survival mode.
Top-down corporate reforms mean – there has never been a parent information night about the adoption of Common Core State Standards or WaKIDS TSGAT. Top-down corporate reforms mean – only two people in our state were the ones who signed off on Common Core leaving taxpayers with yet another mandate not voted upon. Top-down corporate reforms mean – even if we did have these meetings, would parents hear the truth from the slick propaganda you have prepared? Top-down corporate reforms mean – our parents don’t always have access to online surveys and struggle just to keep up with the steady stream of paperwork in their child’s backpacks. Top-down reforms mean – we don’t have the resources to keep up with sharing testing information in 100’s of languages, therefore our parents who are learning English don’t always have the language skills they need yet to fight back or comprehend the information we do send home. For these reasons and many more, based on my parent involvement experiences, our parents in schools of high poverty don’t REALLY know what is going on in our classrooms.
Please be sure to read “What sober person gives standardized tests to a kindergartner? Ever meet a 5-year-old?” – Part 2 , and Part 3 to find out what really happens behind the closed doors of my kindergarten classroom now that corporate reforms are mandating top-down standardized, summative, and formative assessments and “rigor” through Common Core State Standards. Is all of this developmentally appropriate?
What do you think? Are corporate reformers on the right track here?
Susan DuFresne, Full-Day Integrated Kindergarten Teacher and Co-Author of Teachers Letters to Bill Gates