Springtime in the United States means it’s time for standardized testing. In California, STAR testing begins in the second grade, despite recommendations from the National Association for the Education Young Children (NAEYC) that this is too young. NAEYC explains:
- Standardized tests for young children must be valid and reliable for their purposes and must be used only for those purposes for which they were designed.
- Standardized tests may be used only if and when they bring benefits to young children (through more individualized planning, more appropriate instruction, a better match of curriculum and instruction with individual needs, and clearer communication with parents).
Of course, assessment is an important part of education, but it must be authentic and developmentally appropriate. According to the NAEYC position statement:
• Assessment evidence is gathered from realistic settings and situations that reflect children’s actual performance.
To influence teaching strategies or to identify children in need of further evaluation, the evidence used to assess young children’s characteristics and progress is derived from real-world classroom or family contexts that are consistent with children’s culture, language, and experiences.
Unfortunately, the practice of giving standardized tests to the entire school population is not in the best interest of children or education. Teachers across the pond agree. The Guardian reports:
Ministers are stripping primary school children of their basic human right to a well-rounded education, a teachers’ leader warned today.
Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said national tests for 10- and 11-year-olds, formerly known as Sats, contravene the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Under the Convention, which Britain signed in 1991, children are entitled to a broad education which develops their “personalities, talents and abilities to their fullest potential”.
Blower told the NUT annual conference in Liverpool that Sats only gave children the right to pass exams, not the right “to be educated in the round”. They reduced children to “little bundles of measurable outputs trained in a mechanistic model of education,” she said, repeating words used last month by the children’s commissioner, Maggie Atkinson.
One secret schools don’t tell parents is your child does not have to take standardized tests! As a parent, you have the right to opt your child out of such testing. I did it last year, and all it took was a written statement to our school administrator. Schools can get in trouble if too many parents make such requests, but I believe it does send a message to state departments of education that standardized tests don’t benefit our children, schools, or environment (think of all that paper and number two pencils!).