Wednesday, August 8, 2018

FL: Slapping Pre-K Into Shape

Florida's approach to education policy has long been marked by a striking level of hostility to both teachers and children. This is the state that tried to force a dying child to take its Big Standardized Test; it's also the state that wanted to force nine year olds to repeat a grade for non-compliance with the testing regimen.

So it should come as no surprise that Florida intends to make life more miserable for four year olds.

What do you mean, I have to repeat being three?

Florida has piloted a new kindergarten readiness test. ostensibly to see which pre-school providers are doing a good job. According to the test, barely half of the Voluntary PreKindergarten (VPK) graduates were prepared.

There are several problems with this test.

One is that the test is given in the fall, as the students begin kindergarten. In other words, three months after then have finished pre-K and have spent the entire summer (1/20th of a five year old's entire life) away from school. Chances that littles have forgotten some of what they learned are excellent.

Another is that the test is given on computer. Yes, a five year old child has to take a test that involves comfortably using a computer mouse or tablet. The state argues that they totally give the children little computer tutorials before the test starts, so it's no biggie. On this point, the state is an idiot.

And the test focuses primarily on literacy, with no attention paid to social and emotional gains. And the test is a single snapshot and not a measure of growth.

These are all valid criticisms and excellent reasons to take the whole business back to the drawing board.

But beyond all of this is one other important point, and I cannot say this hard enough.

If your test tells you that half of kindergarten students are not ready for your kindergarten, the problem is not with the children..

I repeat: The. Problem. Is. Not. With. The. Children.

Florida's test results do not show that around half of kindergarten students are not ready for kindergarten. Florida's test results show that Florida's kindergartens are not properly prepared to teach the children.

Okay-- there is another possibility that the test results actually show that the tests are crap. This is Florida, so that's a very real possibility.

But if we are going to insist that the results are valid, those results are indictment of the kindergarten expectations and not of the children or their pre-schools.

All the pre-school in the world will not alter the speed and stages of human development. All the expectations in the world will not increase the academic capabilities of four year olds. This whole business is foolishness of the rankest kind, a program that can have no good effects and will have the effect of damaging littles either by making them hate school or by convincing them and their parents that they are defective somehow.

Can there be such a thing as a kindergarten readiness assessment that shows if children are ready for the Big K? Yes, there can.

But if that test shows that a vast number of children are not ready, the fault is not in the children. It is not a four year old's job to Get Ready for School. It is the school's job to get ready for that child. Honestly, Florida-- just once, get your act together.


  1. I live in a wealthy suburb outside of DC. Parents are crazy here. Parents start this "college and career ready" thing as soon as their kids can walk and talk. Test scores rule. Driving past some of the pricey pre schools (Young, Goddard, Celebrie etc), I am noticing the signs offering a STEM curriculum. Do parents realize or care that their child will be sitting in front of a computer playing poorly developed educational games all day? I think not....since my trips to the grocery store have shown children sitting in shopping carts playing idiotic, "educational" computer games and then throwing awful tantrums as the parent tries to extract them from the device. It's a sad society we live in. When my kids were little, these same pre schools were big on 2nd language education....we decided that our children would speak a 2nd language just as poorly as the english that was spoken in our household (they were toddlers!). We opted for a play based pre school and our children have done just fine.

  2. I sometimes wonder which of today's "experts" will be the Cotton Mathers of tomorrow, that will have Future Generations shaking their heads at how anyone could take such groundless, cruel and ineffective claims seriously.

    I think we've got a strong contender here.

  3. The "gathering storm" metaphor always comes to mind. This pre-school readiness disaster is the product of the swirling clouds of money grubbing tech "wizzards", a new generation of parents who believe that "achievement" is not only desirable but essential, a cadre of political leaders with decision making powers on subjects about which they know nothing, an overall American culture that tends to look at the surface of things and the future, as opposed to digging into the underbelly of things and reflecting on the past, a data-driven system for all aspects of management which drive policy and funding and a layer of the overall competitive spirit in all dimensions of society. All of these variables create this hurricane (we are talking about Florida here) of bad decisions and policies which are literally devastating our communities. If we focus on just eliminating one of these variables, the storm loses a bit of strength, but there is a lot to confront to diffuse the power of such a combination of conditions. The forecast is definitely not good.

    This honestly breaks my heart. Children are not treated as human beings. And the argument to do so is with the "best of intentions" to give them a competitive edge in life. Is this who we are as people? Thinking about a competitive edge with tender little souls?

  4. Why have you chosen not to mention Pay for Success here Peter?

  5. Children have optimal and then critical periods of development when skills are acquired. But not all kids are on the same developmental timetable. There may be kids who are able to master reading and writing readiness by age 5, but if all don’t, it’s simply because not all kids develop at the same rate. And pre-K and Kindergarten standards should not be developed around the kids who master these skills the earliest. There is a range of normal development and assessments and standards should reflect that range.

  6. Absolutely unacceptable! I have a child starting VPK in 1 1/2 yrs and I will either be fighting tooth and nail for him or finding a "claasic" school! I want to know why are parents and teachers not boycotting/marching for their OWN childs future? Have they not researched common core/standardized testing? Do they not understand the "end game"? I am disgusted by the lack of fighting for our kids future! These are OUR children, not the govts! We need govt out of our classrooms and out of our schools. We need teachers teaching our children, not a computer for data mining, bribery, automatons and children who know nothing of the history of our existance! OPT OUT is not enough, we need total and absolute refusal to shut this ridiculousness down and do away with it for good. Bill Gates has enough money, he needs his hands out of our pockets and our childrens education!

  7. Kindergarten readiness:
    * Can be away from parents for a few hours without a meltdown
    * Doesn't bite the other children
    * Toilet trained