kindertner with pencilRecently, when writing about changes in kindergarten, I came across this video from NY state. I was struck (in a bad way) by the cartoon teacher's comment: Remember when kindergarten was a place where you heard children singing and laughing?

The video went on to talk about how standardized testing is taking over learning time.

Testing in kindergarten -- and even preschool -- is indeed a hot topic these days. (See here and here and here and here and, oh yes, here.)

All over the country, both educators and parents are voicing concerns about not only the tests but also their uses and abuses.

I must admit a great bias here. In fact, in 2003 as a school principal, I led a successful effort in the state where I was then living, to change the law regarding state testing. Previously kindergarten and first grade had been included in the testing; the 2003 change in state law removed it. I and my principal colleagues were able to convince our state legislators at the time that standardized testing in these grade levels was a waste of precious resources -- both time and money -- and that what was being spent on testing would be put to much greater use with teaching and learning.

Remember when kindergarten was a place where you heard children singing and laughing?I was, however, always in favor of authentic assessment of children's skills and knowledge, including beginning-of-the-year screenings, as it is imperative that teachers have information regarding what their students know and can do. In fact, at my school -- just as in many others around the country -- we brought in our incoming kindergartners before the school year even began and administered a homegrown screener, one that our teachers had put together over the years, based on the skills and knowledge they knew to be important precursors to later academic success.

We used experienced early childhood educators to administer the screening, and it was given one-on-one. While the children worked with the teachers, their parents (the adult caregiver[s] who had brought the child in) were given a questionnaire to fill out. If the adult needed help, it was there. There was also someone making notes about the child's social-emotional state. How well did he or she separate from the adult? How well did he or she follow directions? How comfortable/distractible/curious/eager/anxious did the child seem in this new environment?

If you are worried that your young child is being asked to participate in testing that seems like it may be inappropriate for his age or developmental level, make sure you ask the questions to find out if your concerns are justified. How is the test being administered? What kinds of things are being asked? Is it pencil-and-paper, computer-based, activity based, or a combination of these? How much time is being allotted to testing and what part of the daily schedule is being sacrificed for it? What kind of assessment report will the test yield, and will you receive a copy of it? How will this information be used?

And finally, if you are still concerned about the testing, ask if its possible to opt out, and if so, how. (Here's a related discussion with some very interesting follow-up comments. And remember that testing by any other name -- such as "events" -- is still testing.)