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.