Assessments and Testing both in the US and Down Under


In early childhood education, state funded programs are required to assess their students. In California, where I live, when a child enters the program, the first assessment is given within the 1st 60 days, then every six months after that first assessment. The idea is to assess the children, assess the data, and create lesson plans around the results. Some lesson plans are geared toward specific children, some are geared toward the group as a whole. The problem I find with this is that administrators do not want to pay teachers prep time and assessment time to do this task. You cannot observe to assess and be directly involved with the children. I know most teachers do this work on their own time as part of their job. And I know that a lot of observations are fabricated and thus do not give a true picture of the child. I don’t work in state funded programs anymore because I don’t believe that kids and teachers need the stress of assessments, unless there is a problem. Children, especially preschoolers grow at different rates, and how do you tailor individual activities to meet the needs of individuals if you are forced to create these environments that do not look at children as individuals? That is what I abhor about elementary school. Why are we doing this to preschoolers? Play-based facilities are busy allowing children to be children – to be attuned to what the child is doing now and how to help facilitate his curiosity about whatever interests him/her. Dealing with anecdotal gets in the way of this goal. The same in school age care. I had so much darn paperwork, recording this and that, that I could not enjoy my time with the kids, and I sure could not supervise them while doing paperwork.

There has to be a better way to prove that the money that centers get is being well-spent. I suggest having analyst go in and observe for themselves, similar to a licensing visit. I think it is great to have parent conferences – to collect children’s work and to talk about the child’s development over the last six months. This is what public school teachers do – no one has them do the kind of paperwork that is expected out of preschool teachers. Talk with parents – keep the communication open. Have state auditors come down and see for themselves what is happening in the classrooms. Let the teachers do their job – be with the kids, help the kids try new things, and play with them. That is all the kids want really – just to be kids.

As for other countries –

Australia just began doing national standardized testing in 2008.
World News Australia quotes government officials who provide three justifications. They argue it helps identify which students need assistance. It helps identify which schools need assistance. Finally, it doesn;t increase overall stress because students currently get tested

Australia has an interesting dynamic as all children are divided up either aboriginal or non-aboringinal. Historically the aboriginal children are behind the others for various reasons, the number one reason is that aboriginal parents are afraid that they will lose their children to Western Culture, and consequently, their own. The government does not hold indigenous children to the same standards as the “white” children, and the statistics prove it. Lastly, in the Aboriginal culture, English may be the child’s second, third or fourth language. When most of the teachers speak and teach in English and not of aboriginal culture, it proves challenging, even to the most seasoned educator.
Here is some further information regarding the educational situation in Australia:
In most schools across Queensland (and probably across other states) the proportion of Aboriginal children is about five percent or less [15]. Many white teachers do not have a lot of experience teaching and dealing with Indigenous kids or communities.
As a consequence white teachers can misinterpret certain behaviour by Aboriginal students, for example when students avoid eye contact. In Aboriginal culture direct eye contact to an adult is considered rude.
When teachers in such a way misdiagnosed Aboriginal students’ classroom behaviour we can speak of ‘soft racism’. Other forms of such racism might be when teachers ignore Indigenous students, expect them to deliver low results or victimize them.
For many Indigenous children English is their second, third or fourth language. White teachers should explain things in more than one way and more than once to enable Aboriginal students to understand and learn. In Aboriginal culture knowledge was passed on through repetitive story-telling.
Teaching Aboriginal students needs to convey a ‘relatedness’, which is a key feature of Aboriginal world views, and connect it with the skills necessary for them to have a full and productive life [17]. Aboriginal students need to receive an education that enhances and promotes their Aboriginality.

Read more: 
This country will also have to deal with how ELL learners affect the testing. Will teachers take the brunt of the criticism  like here in the US? Will they be the scapegoat of a system that does not take into consideration that a large percentage of the children who are tested do not have English as their primary language? It will be interesting to watch and see how they deal with this issue in the land down under……


4 responses »

  1. Great Post!! As I read about the dilemma of the aboriginal children and the white teachers I cannot help but see the similarity I see in many places in the US. Many white teachers has little to no understanding of the black culture. And many of our black students has little to no exposure to whites. Nine times out of ten their white teacher is probably the only white person they have had direct contact with. So the problem exists within culture boundaries, in order to teach someone, or even be taught, you must first understand them and their culture. But because the understanding is not there many children are falsely labeled.

  2. Karin,

    I enjoyed your post. It’s hard to make a rebutal about something that you have experienced first hand. I believe that preschool teachers have a lot of paperwork in documenting the areas that the children have mastered. I also agree with you that some of that paperwork gets fabricated. Our focus should be the children, but at the same time, I believe we need some type of record to document what we have witnessed. Accountability and assessments have taken the focus off the children and more on statistics.

  3. I really agree with you on the assessment issue. Some of the best teaching happens when the teachers are focused on engaging the children and not assessing them! My brief career in Head Start was a traumatic experience!
    I think the money would be better spent training teachers, assessing learning environments, and performing longitudinal studies on the children as they progress through the school system and life!

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