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Oct 15 2013

Multiple-choice testing in kindergarten

The appalling testing mania that is permeating US education has steadily been going down to lower and lower grade levels. It has now reached even the kindergarten level, with little children having to learn how to answer multiple choice tests, one of the worst forms of assessment.

Administering the exams is a complete headache, teachers said. “They don’t know how to hold pencils,” said a Bronx kindergarten teacher whose class recently took the Pearson exam. “They don’t know letters, and you have answers that say A, B, C or D and you’re asking them to bubble in . . . They break down; they cry.”

Because the little test-takers don’t know their numbers, teachers direct them to find each question by an image printed next to the answers.

As a teacher says, “I can tell when a student needs help. I don’t have to give them a test.”

The effects of this madness are pernicious. Not only are the little children baffled by the whole idea of filling in bubbles for the right answer, they are also being told that their natural tendency to help each other is the wrong thing to do and that they must do their work on their own.

We are infusing toddler with the Tea Party mentality. Maybe schools will soon start identifying children according to whether they are makers or takers.

18 comments

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  1. 1
    dean

    Well, to be fair – the tea baggers wouldn’t do this because they wouldn’t let their children in a public school for fear of the children learning something or being in the presence of the wrong kind of people.

    How could anyone in education think that putting that level of stress on children could be a good thing?

    This testing foolishness is thick in schools, and often the government mandating it can’t even supply the tests in an appropriate manner. My wife works in our local school administration: our state tests (“Meap” tests) were sent out: packets are labeled to contain sets of ten tests, distributed to the schools, opened and, as they say, voila, contain any where from 6 to 9 (few actually had 10, but not many). OF course, they arrive on a friday before the tests are to be given, so no way to have more in time…

    What a frickin sad joke.

  2. 2
    Anthony K

    Maybe schools will soon start identifying children according to whether they are makers or takers.

    It’s not the children that the testing is meant to test—it’s the teachers. Everyone knows* that teachers are the griftiest takers ever†, demanding fair wages and compensation for something as easy as teaching children (something that their parents and God should be doing anyway if the government would just let them). If we don’t dissect their students to see exactly what those teachers are up to, why, they’ll spend every waking minute playing Angry Birds or something in the teacher’s lounge. Furthermore, nobody pays me to take summers off plus ‘run it like a business’, Q.E.D.

    *And if you don’t know it, Michelle Rhee will be happy to accept thousands in speaking fees to come explain it to you.

    †Except for football coaches, of course. They’re hardworking and necessary.

  3. 3
    trucreep

    This will be just one part of our decline, but a major one. If you can’t educate your children, you’re going to fail.

  4. 4
    colnago80

    For those who think that testing is something that got startedin the recent past, I have a flash for them. When I was a graduate student in Upstate New York a million years ago, the State of New York had a set of exams called the Regents Exams which high school students in New York had to pass in order to graduate.

  5. 5
    DsylexicHippo

    @ #4 (colnago80): I am not sure about Regents since I’ve had no experience with it but I am assuming that the testing format was not multiple choice back then? Maybe I am wrong but regardless….

    I have a particular issue with this testing format, especially when it involves little children. This is madness, this is dumb and above all this is sad.

  6. 6
    colnago80

    Re DsylexicHippo @ #5

    Not having gone to school in New York State until graduate school, I don’t know the format of the Regents Exams either. However, since the SAT tests were multiple choice, it would not surprise me if the Regents Exams were also.

  7. 7
    NitricAcid

    colnago80

    Did you miss the bit where it says that these were not high school students?

  8. 8
    dean

    “It’s not the children that the testing is meant to test—it’s the teachers. ”

    Bingo. And some of the discussed items for evaluation of teachers get to the point that teachers are not in favor of many on government.
    Here in MI one of the processes most often discussed for rating teacher performance has characteristics that say
    * if a teacher doesn’t get highest ratings for one year in an area, he/she is put on an observational plan. If there is no improvement there are penalties – increasing in severity, up to and including eventual dismissal
    * if a teacher rates at the top that teacher gets – not any reward, but a new list of things that should be concentrated on because “We know that teachers can’t excel at everything” and “We can’t give a monetary or any other reward for great performance, because they would take it as an insult since they don’t go into teaching for the money”

    In short: come up short: get penalized.
    Come up great: get penalized

  9. 9
    colnago80

    No I didn’t miss it. I was making a statement about testing in genera. There are some who think that testing began with NCLB in the Bush fils administration.

  10. 10
    Anthony K

    Are there? Really? Did they go to schools where there wasn’t testing? Does Maeby Fünke read this blog?

  11. 11
    AsqJames

    Some form of “testing” has probably been going on for as long as there has been education. But, at least according to QI (which is at least as infallible as wikipedia!) formal written exams were invented in 1792 by a Professor of Chemistry at Cambridge University. Until then university students were only given a “viva” in which a panel of professors tested them verbally…in Latin.

    if you think more than a vanishingly tiny number of people “think that testing is something that got startedin (sic) the recent past” you have a very dim view of your fellow human beings in general, and the readers of this blog in particular. Anyone who has studied, or who works in, education will readily agree that assessment is a vital part of education. The only arguments are over the frequency of public/state mandated tests, the forms such tests should take and what they are used for.

  12. 12
    colnago80

    Of course there were tests. I was referring to statewide tests, like the Regent’s Exams in New York State. Just for the information of Anthony K, I went to high school in California which had no such statewide tests at that time.

  13. 13
    CaitieCat, in no way a robot nosireebot

    But, at least according to QI (which is at least as infallible as wikipedia!) formal written exams were invented in 1792 by a Professor of Chemistry at Cambridge University.

    Really! How novel of them, to invent something that others in the world had only been using for a thousand years or so…wonders never cease in the inventiveness of English-speaking people.

  14. 14
    colnago80

    Well, I guess I’m not making myself clear here. The type of testing we now see where high school students are required to pass a state written and administered exam to graduate from high school, as is now required in a number of states (e.g. public high schools students in Virginia are required to pass a series of tests known as the Standards of Learning for example) is a fairly new phenomenon. A million years ago when I was in high school, few, if any states had such a requirement, New York State being a conspicuous exception. Now with the NCLB federal regulations, such testing is now in effect in most states as a federal requirement to receive federal education aid.

  15. 15
    Anthony K

    I admit that I didn’t realise you were talking about standardized testing when I wrote my responses to you colnago80.

    I’m not sure how many years exactly you mean by a million, but for the sake of comparison, I recall writing province-wide standardized exams in elementary school in the 1980s here in Alberta.

  16. 16
    colnago80

    I can testify without fear of contradiction that there were no such tests in California when I graduated from high school. AFAIK, there were no such tests in Oregon and Florida when I was a post doc at universities in those states. It is my recollection that there were no such tests in Virginia when I moved here. That’s a sample of 4 which, admittedly, is a lot less then 50. However, I’m fairly confident that New York, where I went to graduate school, was rather unique at that point in time. Much of the testing that we have today is a result of the NCLB law passed early in the Bush fils administration.

    By the way, it’s rather outrageous here in Virginia that private schools are not required to administer the Standards of Learning so that we have a lot of parents pulling their kids out of public schools just to avoid having to take those tests. And there is no requirement at the state universities that instate students have to pass those tests as a prerequisite for admission, thus further discriminating against public school students.

    By the way, a little snark here but I was not aware that Alberta had become the 51st state.

  17. 17
    Anthony K

    You’d be surprised how many Albertans wish it were.

  18. 18
    colnago80

    Re Anthony K

    Well, they don’t refer to Alberta as Alabama North for nothing. You guys can keep them, tar sands and all. We have enough nutcases in places like Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, South Carolina etc.

  1. 19
    …Or D) None Of The Above | Meddling Kids

    […] read last night about something that really annoyed me, how some schools are pushing multiple choice tests on students as early as kindergarten.  This is alarming to me, and being that I’m a prick with a blog, I get to tell you […]

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