Tuesday, January 12, 2016
Testing Five Year Olds
Well, we can at least thank Bailey Reimer for giving us one more look at how reformsters think, and a chance to confront just how wrong-headed that thinking is.
Reimer is the author of "How Bailey Reinmer's kindergartners came to love testing" (nothing about if they stopped worrying), and the piece in Catalyst Chicago is every bit as bad as you would imagine.
Reimer loves the Test, and her love leads her to say some astonishing things. She loves it, and she opens with the astonishing story of how much her students love it too-- so much that they are sad when they learn they won't be taking one tomorrow. "They love the uninterrupted work time and comparing their new score to their old one." Because, yes, five year olds are famous for their long attention spans and their desire to do seatwork.
Reimer correctly points out that ESSA has cemented the Big Standardized Test into schools, and so her school figures why not just get started practicing with kindergartners (because apparently her charter school is run by people who don't know much about child development). As Reimer tells her story, she throws in this set of non sequitors:
To get to a point where my students appreciate and understand testing, I had to first appreciate it myself. I love tests that give me relevant, timely information about how my students are doing, from how many letter names they know to how many words per minute they read. According to reports by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, children who read proficiently by the end of 3rd grade are four times more likely to graduate from high school.
If you need regular daily testing to tell how your kindergarten students are doing, you do not belong in a kindergarten classroom. And before one cites research, one should be clear on the difference between correlation and causation. However, Reimer might want to check out the research that shows that early "head starts" in learning pretty much disappear within a few years.
But that's not the most astonishing thing she says.
Of course, 5-year-olds don’t come to school automatically loving testing. As educators, it’s our job to build that appreciation and understanding.
No. No no no no no no no no no, no. No, Ms. Reimer, that is most decidedly NOT our job. It is our job to build appreciation and understanding for reading, art, math, running and playing, and learning in general. It is not our job to make them love the test. It is certainly not our job to teach that school is a place we go to take tests and get ready to take tests.
And get ready they do. Reimer also matter-of-factly observes that she "allows" students to spend time on test prep, but, you know, it's fun because they do it on a rainbow rug.
Is she done saying stupid things? Nope. Next she opines about the beauty of her data wall, which features flowers that move up the wall as each student hits a new benchmark.
As our class’s flowers climb up the wall, my students are not just becoming better readers but they are more aware of and interested in their progress. As soon as students see other flowers starting to move up, the most frequently asked question in the room is, “Can we do my test yet?”
It's at this point that we glimpse the real depth of Reimer's cluelessness. Here in her own story we plainly see that her students aren't interested in learning, and they like taking tests because it gets them a reward, because being left behind by their classmates is something five year olds really hate
Reimer finishes as off-base as she began.
As teachers, we have a chance to build a culture around testing that allows students to understand its value and the opportunities that come with it. That way, when it is time to announce an upcoming test, students can look like mine: smiles wide, fully attentive, delighted to show what they can do.
Actually, as teachers, particularly as teachers of very small children who would eat poop and punch themselves in the face if they thought it would win them the approval of the adults in their lives, we have a chance to build a culture around anything we choose. So why not build it around a love of learning. Why not build it around a small child's natural joy and curiosity about life. Why not build it around intrinsic motivation instead of the idea that success will always be defined by other people. Why not build it around play. Why on earth would you build a culture around testing?
Does Reimer seem like an untrained amateur? You will be unsurprised to learn that her background is Teach for America and Teach Plus, she's teaching at a Chicago charter, or that her LinkedIn profile she says, " In the future, I am interested working nonprofits or schools to provide students programming in service learning, literacy or the arts, or working as a leader amongst adults who are creating opportunities for students." So, not trained as a teacher, and not planning a teaching career. Just passing through.
I don't know if Reimer is full of it when she says her students love testing. But there's no reason on earth to report that as if it's a good thing. This is the kind of clueless amateur that reformsterism has set loose in classrooms. May Heaven help our children.