Monday, January 28, 2019

MD: Failing Five Year Olds

Maryland joins the ranks of those states that have kindergarten exactly backwards. News overage of this Alarming Crisis starts with this sentence:

Less than half of Maryland’s children have the behavior and academic skills they need to be successful in kindergarten, according to a new state report.

Only 47% tested as "ready" (that's up 2% from last year). And I want to smack my head so hard that Maryland education policy makers all get a headache.

Look. If I go into business making pants, and it turns out that my pants don't fit the proportions of most living humans, the headlines do not read, "American men are built all wrong."

If I open a restaurant that serves food that most human beings can't digest, the headlines don't read, "American digestion systems are dysfunctional."

If I open an amusement park and all the ride have a "you must be this tall to ride" signs with "the tall" being set at 7 feet, 6 inches, headlines do not read, "Experts declare that the majority of Americans are too short."

And if I declare that five year olds must weigh at least 100 pounds to be considered ready for kindergarten, the headline doesn't say, "State's five year olds have alarming developmental lag."

Maryland has seen red flags about their test already; school districts "rebelled" because the test took too long to give. Now districts are allowed to do a "sampling." This is Bad Management 101-- make your people spend more time reporting on the work than actually doing the work. The final paragraph of the story hints at an actual use for a test like this--

A majority of kindergarten teachers indicated that the test, given in the beginning of the school year, helps them identify their students’ strengths and weaknesses, according to survey results released by the state.

-- but of course that can only work in districts that give the test to all students.

In the meantime, Maryland continues to push for earlier and earlier "education" rather than considering that this data might show them that their kindergarten is out of whack.

Yes, there's no question that some sort of intervention in earlier years can help close some of the gaps in later educational achievement. But it is not a five year old's job to be ready for kindergarten-- it is kindergarten's job to be ready for the five year olds. If a test shows that the majority of littles are not "ready" for your kindergarten program, then the littles are not the problem-- your kindergarten, or maybe your readiness test, is the problem. The solution is not to declare, "We had better lean on these  little slackers a little harder and get them away from their families a little sooner." Instead, try asking how your kindergarten program could be shifted to meet the needs that your students actually have. And if you still think that children raised in poor families have "too many" needs, then maybe start asking how you can ameliorate the problems of poverty that are getting in the way.

This is one of the legacies of No Child Left Behind-- the upside down school, where students exist to meet the needs of the school, specifically the need for good test results. This backward approach continues to be most obviously out of whack with the littles, where all of the best goals of early childhood education have been systematically replaced with the goal of "get these kids ready to take the tests."

This is backwards. The school exists to meet the needs of the children; test results like this don't show a failure of children, but a failure of the school system.

1 comment:

  1. Well, we do have Finn, Smarick and Pondiscio sitting at MSDE appointed by our Republican Gov who also chose a state Super who is very test friendly. Mike Petrilli also lives in the area and likes to run at the mouth. Our whole state board is TBF and it sucks having children in the school system. Child #2 goes to private school. ALL the privates are now filled with children whose parents are fleeing the public school system. I'm sure this is to push Gov Hogan's BOOST (vouchers for religious schools) program. Get the parents unhappy with all the stupid and abundant standardized testing (we still have PARCC and will be getting zombie PARCC from New Meridian and the dreaded KRA) aligned to the ridiculous CC standards and then parents will want to recoup their tax dollars being spent on public schools. But anyway you look at it, children should NEVER be considered a failure in kindergarten and children this young should NEVER be subjected to abusive testing. It's wrong and I don't know why the parents here don't revolt against this.