When New York City unveiled a plan to subject kindergartners through second-graders in more than 30 schools to standardized tests -- previously reserved for children in third grade and up -- officials surely anticipated complaints from some parents and educators.
But at Castle Bridge School in Washington Heights, parents and the principal have taken their disapproval of the Discovery Education Assessment test a step further. Parents voted to opt out their children, and the principal has canceled the test. In short, no students at Castle Bridge (which serves kindergarten through second grade) will have to take the test this year.
I hope other parents follow their lead and opt out of the test, which measures math and English skills.
Most people who have met a 4-year-old would not think that the city's plan makes sense. It is a huge accomplishment for a kindergarten teacher to get all her students to gather for a morning meeting on the classroom's area rug, face the same direction and listen politely to one another.
So, forcing 4-year-olds to sit through a test is absurd -- and contradicts everything we know about children that age. It is also non-sensical, given testing policy, which partly evaluates schools and teachers based on student test scores. School officials have no business testing students this young.
In kindergarten, children begin to learn how to work in teams, and how to complete individual tasks -- whether it's drawing a picture or making a building with blocks -- without giving up. To succeed in school, kindergartners first need to be able to do those things well. Without that important developmental work, many of them may have difficulty learning how to read and write -- never mind perform well on a standardized test.
Theoretically, a school could lose funding for failing to produce the required test scores. But it's unclear what would happen if Castle Bridge repeats its unusual action. An education official told The Nation that children who opted out of the exams would make it to the next grade. But the official declined to comment on future votes to skip the test.
Sensible people everywhere should reject the testing of kindergartners.
Liza Featherstone lives and writes in Clinton Hill.