ERIC Identifier: ED326305
Publication Date: 1990-00-00
Author: Bredekamp, Sue - Shepard, Lorrie
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on Elementary and Early Childhood
Education Urbana IL.
Protecting Children from Inappropriate Practices. ERIC
Early childhood educators need to devote energy and commitment to resisting
inappropriate practices for children. Policies such as using readiness
testing, holding younger children out of school, or raising entrance age
are at best short-term solutions, and at worst, harm children and contribute
to inappropriate expectations.
All children deserve the best education possible, and schools and teachers
must be accountable for providing high quality instruction and recognizing
and adapting instruction when children fail to learn. But the use of standardized
test scores as the predominant indicator of accountability is ill-advised.
There is increasing evidence that when test scores take on too much political
importance in schools, scores can go up without an actual increase in student
learning (Shepard, 1989). We need alternative strategies that ensure excellence,
equity, and accountability. Here are some suggestions to help guide educators
in making decisions.
MAKING DECISIONS ABOUT ENTRANCE AND PLACEMENT
Avoid use of standardized tests for entry to school or promotion in
Establish a uniform kindergarten entrance age whereby most children
attending kindergarten are 5 years old and most first graders are 6. Accept
children for school on the basis of their chronological age and legal right
Use valid developmental screening tests as a first step in identifying
children who may need further diagnosis of a health, learning, or developmental
handicap (Meisels, 1985).
Use valid standardized tests as one of many sources of information needed
for a complete diagnosis of a child's special needs or the cause of a child's
problem, and appropriate intervention and remediation strategies (Meisels,
EVALUATING PROGRAMS' ACCOMPLISHMENT OF GOALS
Avoid use of standardized achievement testing of all children until
at least third grade. When standardized achievement test scores are used
in third grade as accountability measures and for comparisons of schools
and districts, don't test all children; rather, use sampling to obtain
the same results. This is cost effective and does not label individual
children. Conduct the test in the fall of the year to prevent teaching
to the test and evaluating teachers with test scores.
Develop alternative assessment instruments and procedures that can be
used instead of standardized tests. These include oral tapes of children's
stories or reading progress and portfolios of students' writing and artwork.
Recognize that currently available standardized tests provide very limited
measures of school and student success and become invalid if children are
drilled on questions that are just like the test items.
Increase the use of systematic observation of teacher and student performance,
and documentation of sources of evidence of children's progress for use
in curriculum planning, evaluation, and reporting to parents. Increase
the use of measures that assess children's strengths and deficits.
PLANNING AND INDIVIDUALIZING CURRICULUM AND INSTRUCTION
Use developmentally appropriate teaching methods to individualize instruction.
For example, when children work in learning centers or in small groups
on projects, ensure that the teacher is free to work with individual children
and use techniques such as peer tutoring, coaching, and individual progress
that use group heterogeneity as an instructional asset.
Clarify the terminology used to describe inappropriate practices. While
in some ways an escalated curriculum expects too much and is too fast for
the age group, in other ways it expects too little. Emphasis on drill and
practice and worksheet-dictated curriculum is "shockingly unstimulating
to children and fails to extend their thinking" (NASBE, 1988, p. 4). Young
children can engage in problem solving before they know addition and in
sophisticated reasoning and questioning about stories before they can decode
words, provided that opportunities are provided in ways that are meaningful
to children's level of understanding (Peterson, 1989).
PROMOTING APPROPRIATE POLICIES
Encourage concerned parents to join together and complain about inappropriate
practices and policies. When children's rights are violated by testing
abuses, vocal parents are the most effective agents of change.
Enhance collegiality within schools and all sectors of the early childhood
profession. Encourage teachers and administrators to join professional
early childhood organizations.
Use the many valuable tools available to advocate appropriate practices
in all early childhood programs. Some of the position statements that strongly
support sound practices for young children are:
*American Federation of Teachers. (1988). "Standardized Testing in Kindergarten.
1988 Convention Policy Resolution." In AFT Convention Report (pp. 58-59).
*Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. (1988). A Resource
Guide to Public School Early Childhood Programs. Alexandria, VA.
*California State Department of Education. (1988). Here They Come: Ready
or Not. Report of the School Readiness Task Force. Sacramento, CA.
*International Reading Association. (1986). "Literacy Development and
Pre-First Grade: A Joint Statement of Concerns about Present Practices
in Pre-First Grade Reading Instruction and Recommendations for Improvement."
Childhood Education, 63, 110-111.
*National Association of Early Childhood Specialists in State Departments
of Education. (1987). Unacceptable Trends in Kindergarten Entrance and
Placement. Lincoln, NE.
*National Black Child Development Institute. (1987). Safeguards: Guidelines
for Establishing Programs for 4-Year-Olds in the Public Schools. Washington,
Position statements are being developed by the National Association
of Elementary School Principals, the National Center for Clinical Infant
Programs, and the American Academy of Pediatrics.
The early childhood profession must first increase its degree of consensus
about these issues, then act with one voice to influence policy. The next
step in the early childhood profession's process of articulating standards
for appropriate practice is the development of guidelines for appropriate
curriculum content and assessment in the early childhood unit, prekindergarten
through third grade. The National Association for the Education of Young
Children (NAEYC), in collaboration with the National Association of Early
Childhood Specialists in State Departments of Education and other national
organizations and experts, is working on this project. (Guidelines for
appropriate content and assessment in the early childhood unit, prekindergarten
through third grade, will be available from NAEYC in 1991.)
This digest was adapted from an article titled, "How Best to Protect
Children from Inappropriate School Expectations, Practices, and Policies,"
which appeared in YOUNG CHILDREN (March, 1989): 14-24.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Bredekamp, Sue, and Shepard, Lorrie. "How Best to Protect Children from
Inappropriate School Expectations, Practices, and Policies," Young Children
(March, 1989): 14-24.
Cannell, J.J. Nationally Normed Elementary Achievement Testing in America's
Public Schools: How All Fifty Schools Are Above the National Average. Daniels,
WV: Friends for Education, 1987.
Meisels, S.J. Developmental Screening in Early Childhood: A Guide. Washington,
DC: NAEYC, 1985.
Meisels, S.J. "Uses and Abuses of Developmental Screening and School
Readiness Testing." Young Children 42 (2) (1987): 4-6, 68-73.
National Association of State Boards of Education. Right from the Start.
The Report of the NASBE Task Force on Early Childhood Education. Alexandria,
VA: NASBE, 1988.
Peterson, P. "Alternatives to Student Retention: New Images of the Learner,
the Teacher, and Classroom Learning." In L.A. Shepard & M.L. Smith
(Eds.) Flunking Grades: Research and Policies on Grade Retention. Lewes,
England: Falmer Press (1989).
Shepard, L. "Why We Need Better Assessments." Educational Leadership
46 (April, 1989): 4-9.