The Kindergarten Gatekeepers
One criticism I’ve received of my kindergarten readiness posts is that I’m talking about the readiness tests as if they were obstacles children had to get over, or tests to be crammed for, when in fact they’re just snapshots of a child’s ability.
Maybe some districts do use the tests that way, but many others use them as barriers to exclude “failures” from kindergarten. They also instruct parents to prepare their children for the specific tasks on the exams, either at home or through programs like this one:
“It came to our attention that there were children who didn’t pass the [Ohio Department of Education’s] Kindergarten Readiness Test” and therefore couldn’t get into kindergarten […] [T]he new program for four-and-a-half- and five-year-olds will offer individual instruction, at the child’s ability level, geared toward helping the child pass the readiness test, she said.
The Fulton Public Schools (the district whose readiness tests first prompted me to write about the issue) made it clear that coaching children for the exams is the parents’ duty:
“That green sheet is like your homework to work on between now and April.”
The district is not telling parents to work on their children’s overall development, only on preparing them for the kinds of questions they’ll encounter on the exam.
When districts treat readiness tests as barrier to kindergarten entrance, the arbitrary tasks on the exams become prerequisites for future learning. So while some children could learn to read and write even though they still wear velcro shoes, they all have to be taught to tie laces before they’re admitted to kindergarten.