The District is planning to begin testing its kindergarten students, labeling them "below basic" through "advanced" within the first six weeks of the start of school, in an effort to provide more tailored instruction to young learners in their very first days of school.
Officials in the Office of the State Superintendent for Education are hoping that these "readiness assessments" will be tested voluntarily in some schools this fall and rolled out to all kindergarten classrooms in D.C. Public Schools and charter schools by the fall of 2013.
Annette Bridges, assistant superintendent of early childhood education, told The Washington Examiner that plans are in the preliminary stages and subject to change as OSSE moves forward.
"This will be a developmentally appropriate assessment -- no bubbles, nothing with a pencil," Bridges said. The test would focus on physical and motor development, scientific thinking, language arts and some mathematical concepts.
At an internal OSSE meeting this week, officials sketched out a plan to rate students "below basic," "basic," "proficient" or "advanced," the scale that is used to score older students on the D.C. Comprehensive Assessment System standardized exams.
For example, a student might be asked to write his name. A scribble would be "below basic;" a few recognizable letters, "basic;" a clearly written name, "proficient;" and a properly capitalized name, "advanced."
"Any school needs to know what kind of skills children are entering kindergarten with, so they know what kind of supports, what kind of interventions, are needed," Bridges said. Scores would not be used on teachers' Impact evaluations, as they are with older grades.
About half of states assess kindergartners' readiness as they begin school. The Maryland Model for School Readiness groups students as "fully ready," "approaching readiness," or "developing readiness," and has found that kindergartners who begin school "fully ready" are eight times more likely to pass third-grade reading and math exams.
HyeSook Chung, executive director of D.C. Action for Children Now, and parent of two Janney Elementary students, said she thought the D.C. test could be a good tool to help teachers get children up to speed, but was concerned about the consequences of labeling a 5-year-old student.
"We know families in certain pockets of the city don't send their kids to pre-K, and those children are going to test much poorer," Chung said. "... Teachers could use this as a way of stigmatizing and labeling students, and we have to be careful to not do that."