As a kindergarten teacher, I am responsible for five year olds first experience in our schools working with a group larger than their own family. I take the responsibility for making that initial experience in school positive – one where children feel safe and loved, where their individual curiosity, talents, and potential are nurtured – where each child develops a love of learning. I learned This gift is what parents value in me as their child’s first teacher. If our parents knew how toxic testing impacts their children, I think they would be alarmed.
I love finding each child’s strengths and unlocking the key to their challenges, helping them grow socially and academically as whole children. From gifted students who read at a 4th grade level in kindergarten to those who will not learn their letters by the end of the year due to neurological issues that impact their ability to learn – I know they all come to learn something new. Children are neither standard nor common. Each child comes to me with an empty rice bowl hungry for new and different knowledge. Feeding them all the same standardized diet does harm. Why are we taught to differentiate our instruction, yet forced to administer standardized tests? This doesn’t make any sense and isn’t best practice.
I work to give my students joy every day and know that research shows ALL children learn how to learn through play, a well-rounded curriculum with art, music, theater, movement, and games that provide a varied diet for multiple intelligences rather than one-size-fits-all. But now, the agony of this increasing testing has for the first time, moved down to pre-school and kindergarten. Instead of joy and a love for learning, our 5 year olds experience test anxiety and are labeled as failures. How can a 5 year old be labeled as a failure already? Building, district, and state mandated testing strip our children of the exact experiences they need. In kindergarten almost all testing is done one-on-one, losing valuable instructional time while expecting 5 year olds to work independently and quietly for hours. WA Kids takes hours at the beginning of the year when it is important to develop relationships and establish routines. This is not best practice. Nor are the bubble tests for kindergartners. I was mandated to administer a WELPA bubble test lasting an hour and ½ last year to children just learning English. Several students cried, begging me to stop, saying “Mrs. DuFresne, this is too hard. I want to go home.” I wanted to go home too.
For these reasons, I cannot remain silent and join my colleagues in their objections.