A Step in the Right Direction for Early Childhood Evaluation

Written by Diane Levin

Levin OutdoorsHiRes resized 600 Bravo to California Governor Jerry Brown for his decision to reduce the number of standardized tests students take in school, and to develop a more child-centered, rather that test-centered, approach to evaluating education.  I could not be more heartened by this news and hope it is the start of a new trend away from high-stakes testing and teaching-to-the-test that has taken over so much of education in the US today.  And here’s why this reversal is so sorely needed…..

Teachers are spending more and more time involved with what I have come to think of as “remote control teaching and learning,” i.e., rote teaching to the test at the expense of the classroom practice they know is in the best interests of children.  Engaging children in rich and meaningful learning, through creative play and hands on experience is disappearing in many classrooms.  At the most extreme, some states have taken almost all materials out of kindergarten classrooms so children can focus on the lessons, facts, and skills teachers are mandated to teach.

Never in my 40 years in the field of early childhood education have I met so many teachers who voice such despair about their work with children.  Over and over around the country I hear highly experienced and competent teachers say they are looking forward to when they can retire.  Why?  Because the joy and satisfaction of working with children in meaningful ways and nurturing their development and learning has disappeared.

And then there are all the parents who tell me that their children start crying when it’s time to go to school and when they get home from school too.  Many who have the resources to do it are turning to private schools or home schooling.  What about all the families who don’t have such resources and find that their children are getting turned off to school and learning?

So Governor Brown, as I work to help bring about a reversal of current educational trends using the best knowledge we have about how all young children learn best, you give me hope that the voice of reason can succeed.  And for that I thank you very much.
This posting is written as a reaction to the Washington Post’s recent article on the California governor’s decision to reduce the number of standardized tests taken by students. The article is available here .

Diane Levin, Ph.D. is Professor of Early Childhood Education at Wheelock College.  She teaches courses on play, action research, children and media, and the impact of violence on children.  She is the author or co-author of 8 books related to how various forces in society affect children.   She is currently working with DEY (Defending the Early Years), a project rallying educators to speak out about how new policies and reforms are impacting early childhood education.

Her website can be accessed at dianeelevin.com .

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