Test Prep at Age Four???

Private School Screening Test Loses Some Clout – NYTimes.com.

Oh yes, the dreaded ERBs are in the news again (click the link above for the article). It would be hard to convince me that testing for the purposes of admission in pre-K and K seem like a bad idea. The article focuses mostly on test prep, competition, and anxiety which are all terrible things to expect a 4 year old to do. Then there is also the validity in question. 4 year olds? What about late bloomers?

Don’t get me wrong, I think there is a place for standardized tests, but how they are used and how much weight they hold, should be carefully scrutinized.

My school administers a test put out by the Educational Records Bureau (the same company mentioned in the article) called the CPT4 every year. Here are some significant differences in how we use these tests to make them more meaningful:

  • It is administered in the fall, so that when we get results in late December, we can actually use the data and compare it to our own assessments, and then further customize instruction for each child for the remainder of the school year.
  • We do not use the tests for admissions or advancement.
  • Only kids in 2nd grade and above take it.
  • We try our best to minimize anxiety (in parents, teachers, and students) – although admittedly, sometimes this can be difficult.
  • We look at trends in the scores across grades to plan for school-wide initiatives and to examine how we teach.
  • “Prepping” them for the test is kept to a minimum – a few hours the week before.
  • The ERB is not our only assessment tool, but part of a whole set of tools. Seeing relationships between these tools is an example of what Daniel Pink refers to in his book, A Whole New Mind, as symphony.

Any teacher knows how much you can learn from a child by simply having a conversation with them.


Old and New

Sign outside Elliott Bay Book Co.

A new bookstore just opened near where I live. Elliott Bay Book Co. (an independent bookstore that has been in Seattle since the early 70s) reopened today in their new Capitol Hill location. This is reason to celebrate. Neighborhood independent bookstores over the past few years have disappeared rapidly. Rather than closing its doors, EBBC decided to relocate to a more accessible neighborhood and trust that there were many of us who still loved to browse books the old fashioned way. I happen to be one of those people and was thrilled to check out its new space today. The official opening celebration takes place tomorrow.

I’ve resisted writing about the ipad over the past couple of weeks as it’s received enough press. However, as I lingered in the stacks of this new bookstore, I couldn’t help think about the conflict between tradition and innovation. Continue reading