Monday, March 24, 2014
It's All About the Testing and Data...Isn't It?
As I read, I became more intrigued with her words. It could have been me writing this article. I spent the three previous years of my career teaching kindergarten. Was it difficult? Of course! I spent those three years begging to be moved back to 2nd grade. Not to say that 2nd grade isn't difficult either...but it's a different kind of difficult, with different kinds of challenges, problems, etc...
When I began my teaching journey No Child Left Behind did not exist. The excessive testing did not exist. Teaching was fun (at least I thought so) and requirements were more minimum. I felt like I had time! What's that you say? Time? Yeah, I had time. And I didn't realize how good I had it. Now, my time is so limited. So squashed together. There is no time anymore. It's run, run, run...go, go, go! That is how my day is now.
When I began teaching in kindergarten, I thought of all the centers I could do. When I was a child there was the blocks center, the housekeeping center, a store center. These are all great centers to help children learn, through creative play. But, to my horror, the principal removed anything in the room that related to the word "play". Yep! She came right in and stripped the room bare. No housekeeping, no blocks, no nothing! She expected these little 5 year olds to spend all day in a classroom with the same schedule that a 5th grader endured. (Oh, wait! It gets better!)
And just as the teacher in the article described in her school, the principal expected for the objectives to be posted on the board each day. But I'll go a step further...she would come in and choose 1-4 children "randomly" and expect them to be able to say these objectives and describe, in detail, what they were learning that day. (Let me remind you that these children were 5 years old.) Not only that, but she would record them on video and then play it at meetings so she could show us teachers how horrible we really were. Now you are probably wondering why I put quotes around the word randomly. Well, let's just say that her idea of random was choosing the lowest child, the shyest child, or the autistic child to ask these questions to. I'm sure I don't have to say more. Unprofessional? You bet!!!
As the teacher in the article described, testing became out of control. And it still is! We test these kids ALL THE TIME! In kindergarten, we had 3 math assessments that had to be completed one on one or in very tiny groups. We had a language arts assessment and again one on one. This took a tremendous amount of time and by the time we finished it was time to start again. Reminded me of the parent with triplets. By the time she feeds all three babies their bottles, it is time to start over and start the feedings again. Never ending.
I think a teacher's biggest complaint (and this is not just kindergarten teachers) is that we are teaching children skills that are not developmentally appropriate. I was teaching my kindergarteners skills and concepts that I learned when I was in 1st and 2nd grade. How is pushing all these skills and concepts down helping children? It's like expecting a 2 month old to walk. Not going to happen.
Every teacher can agree that the changes in education are negative for our students. When I began my career and I had time to teach, time to devote to my students, and I wasn't testing constantly, my whole class was on grade level or above. Did I do this alone? No. I worked with a team of wonderful professionals and together we made it happen. But the key here is that we had TIME to do it. We weren't testing constantly. We weren't doing a bunch of extra ridiculous, useless things just because it was mandated. We were teaching. I don't have that anymore and guess what? I have never had all my class on grade level or above since. Just something to think about.
If you want to read the article in the Washington Post that sparked my blog post click HERE.