Standardized Childhood Assessments: I Fear for our Children’s Emotional Safety

My father dedicated his life to education.  He dedicated his life to children.  He defended children against an ever-growing Orwellian machine that classified and branded children, and its only goal and end. I wish he were alive to help me.

In this article, Selecting an Appropriate Infant-Toddler Assessment, from Kaplan, the criteria they use are particularly instructive:

  • Screening and assessment materials should be developmentally appropriate and created specifically for the age group in your care.
  • Assessment should utilize a variety of tools and processes, including children’s representative work (artwork, stories they write, etc.), observation records, and progress summaries.
  • Assessment should be inclusive and recognize diversity in children’s backgrounds, learning styles, and rates of learning.
  • Assessment tools should support children’s development and learning; assessment should not make them feel bad about themselves. A focus on what a child can do independently and with assistance is the best marker of his or her growth and development.
  • Assessment should rely on procedures that occur during real activities and classroom experiences instead of putting the focus specifically on skills testing.
  • Regular and periodic assessment should occur in a wide variety of circumstances with information about children’s growth, development, and learning being systematically collected and recorded.
  • Teachers should be the primary assessor, but assessment should also promote parent involvement and encourage children to participate in self-evaluation.
  • Assessment should encourage parent-teacher collaboration with information about children’s growth, development, and performance being shared regularly by both parties.

I won’t deal with each one, but you should read each one carefully, and think about any experiences you have had that either support or deviate from these.

The first  point is: Assessment should utilize a variety of tools and processes – it should not be limited to a short interview, or really any assessment kit (I will list those later). Clearly, an on-the-spot test, in any subject, for any purpose, will NOT be reflective of the actual state of the person taking the test. This is often referred to as the observer effect, although this, and the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle are misused in the context of psychology.  The correct notion is the Observer-expectancy effect.  This should be well-known by anyone who is assessing your child.  If your assessor is not aware of it, and is not able to cite its origin, then you should not trust their qualification.

 

Second, Assessment should be inclusive and recognize diversity.  This should not be dumbed down to only refer to cultural/ethnic  differences.  Often overlooked are the learning styles and rates of learning.  By and large, the childhood assessments I have seen are completely devoid of Howard Gardner’s Theories of Multiple Intelligences .  And that’s not OK. You certainly would laugh at someone assessed a visually-challenged child with flashcards, right?

Probably the most important for me is: Assessment tools should support children’s development and learning; assessment should not make them feel bad about themselves.  Standardized assessments are the antithesis of this!  They e-value-ate individual children on the basis of social and cultural norms, in alleged cognitive skill areas.  Nothing could be further from support.  It’s just evaluation.  And mostly, de-valuation.  Regardless whether someone tells the child “how they did”, the know – from a very young age – that they are being evaluated.  Further, subtle changes – or sometimes drastic changes – in the behaviors of parents and teachers after an assessment will be picked up by the children!  Do not think you are above this!  If you were raised in America, you have been damaged by the cult of performance.  We are NOT put on this earth to produce or to entertain!

Assessment should rely on procedures that occur during real activities and classroom experiences.  Ok.  Pretty obvious that an interview or testing situation does NOT meet this criterion, and should be invalidated.

Teachers should be the primary assessor, but assessment should also promote parent involvement.  Nothing here about a third-party evaluator.  Nothing at all.  Rest-assured, there ARE plenty of “professionals” who hire out for this.  Mercenaries who play on the insecurity of both teachers and children in their ability to assess the children they interact with every single day!  Preposterous!  Enable yourself!  Be the solution!

Once you have digested this, you could begin to look at the assessment instruments that are available – and COMPARE!  Here again from Kaplan is a handy chart. Look carefully, because it is NOT the case that having check-marks across the graph is the best!  Indeed, give the above discussion, only three of the tools listed do not use standardized (normative) comparisons. Particularly, a discussion of E-LAP and LAP-D used in rehabilitation could possibly change the way you think . This study uses Functional Independence Measure for Children (WeeFIM). E-LAP  (or E-LAP3) is neither standardized nor normative, whereas LAP-D and the WeeFIM are normalized.  The point here is, it’s not easy! But these tests can provide some insight in cognitive disorder, which could supplement (only!) teacher and parent awareness.

I particularly like the series Reaching Potentials.  There are two volumes, and you can get the PDF online right now and begin reading!  Here is the

Description:

Designed to assist early childhood professionals in applying the guidelines for appropriate curriculum content and assessment developed by NAEYC and NAECS/SDE, Volume 1 addresses reaching developmental potentials for all children—including those with varying language and cultural backgrounds and children with disabilities—and reaching the potentials of teachers and administrators.

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