We’ve only been testing for three days, but I can tell you that testing kindergarteners is a lot like interpreting in a foreign dialect. Test language, from directions to the actual questions, makes a world of difference at our grade level. Getting a five or six year old to understand what you want them to do is more than half the battle in measuring their level of knowledge. For privacy reasons I can’t give you actual test examples, but I am NOT very happy with the test we are currently giving and I am baffled by the wording of some of the questions. I wonder if the “experts” who wrote them have spent very much time with real kindergartners.
I can give you a classic testing problem from our daily math lesson:
A few of my students are still having difficulty with the math concept of zero.
Yesterday I gave them a paper with eight simple math problems, including two that used a zero. Imagine that the astericks are insects. That is what all of their problems used for illustration. Their task was to fill in the numbers below the pictures to create the addition problem. They have done this many times and most zipped right through it and went on to play with their playdoh.
** + =
__ + __=__
Three of my students couldn’t complete this problem. One wrote 2+1=3. I called him to my desk to review his work. I told him that his addition was correct, but it did not reflect what was in the box.
“What do you see?” I asked him.
“And what is here?” I asked, pointing to the empty space.
“So why did you write 1?”
“I don’t know. You told us to add.”
“But there isn’t anything to add. So what should you write for ‘nothing’?”
“Then what will you have in your box?”
“Good. Go back to your seat and correct your paper.”
Somewhere between my desk and his he must have become distracted because a few minutes later he brought back his paper with 2+0=0.
Did I ever say this was easy?????
More discussion, and the third time he worked on his paper he corrected that problem and the other one that included a zero. I’ve had the same student at my desk as many as seven times to complete one paper, because I refuse to let a child wander around my class with mistaken concepts and ideas floating around in their brain. And if I don’t insist that they correct their own work they will continue making the same mistake over and over and over…
The problem with mandated testing is that the directions and the questions are usually read once, or at most twice, and then everyone is expected to understand what you want. In my dreams!