It is time we stopped treating 4 and 5 year olds like children

from the Orlando Sentinel, by Leslie Postal

In case you missed it, here is our story from yesterday on a new test for pre-K students that youngsters in Florida’s pre-K program will begin taking this month.

The new Voluntary Prekindergarten Assessment — required by the Florida Legislature — aims to judge students early literacy, language and math skills. The goal is to help teachers pinpoint who needs help with what skills. Eventually, the new test will factor into the formula that judges the quality of the state’s preschools.

There is some disagreement about the new test, however, with complaints mostly coming from the private preschools and daycares that represent the bulk of providers in Florida’s pre-K program.

But the whole concept of pre-K testing seemed to be mocked in this post by Stephen Krashen, an education professor emeritus at the University of Southern California.

Krashen wrote in response to our story, ”There is no hope for the US is to compete internationally, if we continue to treat 4 and 5 year olds like children.”

The test — where students point to pictures and answer questions — is meant to be viewed as a “game” by the youngsters who take it.

But early-childhood advocates say everyone must be careful that it doesn’t become something stressful.

“We already have kids stressing out about FCAT, we don’t need it when they’re four,” said Karen Willis, executive director of the Early Learning Coalition of Orange County.

The complaints raised by private preschool and daycare officials were that the new test: focuses on too narrow a skill set (it doesn’t deal with youngsters’ emotional, physical, or social development, for example), doesn’t come with the funding to correctly implement it, and will be given alongside a separate, new test for youngsters in the state’s subsidized child-care program (and there is overlap between the two).

In an echo of the K-12 testing debate, some also argue Florida would be wiser to use a nationally normed pre-K asssessment rather than it’s own, home-grown one.

“Florida citizens have the right to know how their upcoming workforce compares with young citizens in other states,” wrote the Early Learning Advisory Council, which wanted Gov. Rick Scott to halt implementation of the new test.

But state officials say it makes sense to have a Florida test to use when gauging how well students are mastering Florida’s pre-K standards.

“From our view, it’s only fair to measure student performance on the content they’re supposed to be experiencing in these programs,” said Michelle Sizemore, a DOE official.

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