An Alternative to Kindergarten Readiness Tests
Samuel Meisels, the president of the Erikson Institute in Chicago, was quoted in this article about kindergarten readiness tests:
Meisels said readiness surveys are not accurate indicators of childhood success. He advocates for teachers to observe children over time, rather than a one-time evaluation.
Districts might be inclined to use a flawed assessment rather than none at all, but Meisels explains the damage a readiness test can cause:
“It changes people’s perceptions. It can change a teacher’s perception of likely success in school. It can create parental anxiety. Worst of all, it can make a small student feel stigmatized and less capable,” Meisels said. “If any one of those consequences occur, based on a poorly designed test, it’s inexcusable to me.”
Meisels’ suggestion to observe students over time is a good one, and districts like Fulton could adopt it in place of the readiness tests they use now. The districts could accept all five-year-olds and observe them in their kindergarten class for a week or two. Then, if it’s determined that some children aren’t ready to continue with kindergarten academics, the district could place them in a separate class, have them repeat a year, or make other arrangements.
This system would give children a better chance to prove themselves ready than a short assessment provides. Kindergartners can easily fail a short readiness test because they’re nervous or distracted at the time; observing them in a classroom over several days gives a better picture of how they interact with their environment. And the only downside is that a few children with below-average hand-eye coordination or counting skills would attend kindergarten with the others for a week. (Serious developmental disabilities are not diagnosed with kindergarten readiness tests, but through more involved — and medically meaningful — assessments. So, abolishing readiness screening for all need not interfere with special education services.)
Districts shouldn’t settle for faulty readiness tests when there are better alternatives.