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Curmudgucation: FL: Continuing the War on Littles

Of all the toxic effects of test-centered schooling-- here's some news from Florida:

Nearly half of the children who attended a state-funded voluntary pre-kindergarten program last year were not ready for kindergarten this year, according to the preliminary results of a new test administered last fall.

I was desperately hoping that the next line would read "and so Florida officials concluded that there was something definitely wrong with their test and probably with their expectations for kindergarten students as well."  But alas, I was doomed to disappointment.

The only tots that belong at a university


The test was a new one this year, administered in the first month of kindergarten, because it's never too soon to make children understand that they go to school in order to take standardized tests. Besides the newness of the test, there are other bad reasons for the result:

This set of scores is based on children who attended VPK during the 2016-17 school year. The state didn’t decide on STAR as the assessment tool until the summer of 2017, so the providers could not gear their instruction toward a specific test.

In other words, they weren't given a proper chance to teach to the test. Because when you send your four-year-old to school, you want her to spend time learning how to take a standardized test. I mean, how better to foster a love of learning and school.

Several pre-K providers are quoted as being disappointed by the poor results and sad that they didn't have enough advance warning of what test the state would use. Because pre-K ought to be organized around a state test, rather than the needs and health and wonder and natural exploration of four year olds. Also, one pre-K provider is called Tiny Tots University. Florida-- what the hell is wrong with you?!

The TTU rep notes that the test does not in any way measure how far the student has come (because, you know, some of those three year olds are just big slackers), which speaks to one of the fatal flaws of test-centered schooling-- its complete disregard for what a child can be expected, developmentally, to accomplish in a certain time period. Instead we just keep moving the bar, so kindergarten is the new first grade, or maybe second grade, and pre-K is the new 1st grade, and fetuses had damn well better start drilling SAT vocabulary by the second trimester.

Oh, and did I mention that this test is administered on a computer. A five year old is supposed to navigate a standardized test. On a computer.

Florida provides funding for pre-K schools-- as long as they promise to emphasize test readiness. Some people (you know-- people who have actually met small human children) have an issue with this.

“There has been a propensity for the early learning educators to say the K-12 system is expecting too much from our children,” Beth Duda the executive director of the Suncoast Campaign for Grade Level Reading said. “K-12 pushes back and says there is a place for play-based learning, but it has to be grounded in benchmark standards.”

No! No it does not!! The play-based learning has to be grounded in play!

The continued pressure to force littles to be molded to suit the whims of a bunch of standards-wielding, test-selling numbskulls is just one of the worst things to come out of the reform movement. There is nothing quite so backward in all of education these days. I'm reminded of listening Yong Zhao speak a few years ago. We should not be trying to make sure that five year olds are ready for kindergarten, he said, but should be asking if kindergarten is ready for our five year olds. Betsy DeVos may consider Florida an educational exemplar, but asking all the wrong questions remains a hallmark of Floridian education. But the most important question that should be asked is simply, "Florida, what the hell is wrong with you?"

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Peter Greene

Peter Greene has been a high school English teacher in Northwest Pennsylvania for over 30 years. He blogs at Curmudgucation. ...