No Second Grade Testing for our Children!

NO 2nd Grade Testing!
A couple of years back, while I was Chair of the Assembly Education Committee, we made a deal with the Governor. And now, he wants to back out of it! I guess that should come as no surprise, since he seems to only make deals for a short term gain, and chooses not to follow through with the parts he doesn’t like.
The deal was that the budget would pass and with it would be a commitment that California would end testing seven year olds with high stakes, standardized tests.
Why did the legislative majority require California to get out of the business of ” testing” seven year olds? Was it because we don’t want them to learn? Is it because we don’t think they can learn? Or is it that we just don’t want to hold teachers and schools ” accountable” ?
Well, actually, it is not for any of those alleged reasons. We, as a legislative body, decided that labeling very young children as ” failures” was probably not going to help them love learning, and was indeed cruel and unusual punishment.

Those who understand child development know that there are individual developmental issues for children under age 9. What that means is that if a child is not doing well on a particular skill or test, until about nine years of age, there are physiological developments that occur at different times for different children. You know this already if you are a parent. One child holds a pencil and draws well at an earlier age than another child. One child learns to roller skate before another child of the same age. We don’t call the later developing child a “failure,” or “far below basic” as we so nicely put it in California.
But even if we don’t care about developmental issues, we shouldn’t test seven year olds because they are too young and immature to deal with this pressure. I saw one 2nd grade boy curl up on the floor under his desk, and just stay there until the testing was over. Another, high achieving girl in the same class “wet herself” and had to go to the nurse’s office to change clothes because, as the teacher put it, the girl ” knew what was at stake.” Imagine a seven year old girl having to worry about ” what is at stake” !
But now, as the budget delay has lead to the usual ” swapping ” of everything the different negotiating parties want, the Governor seems to be insisting that we go back to ” torturing ” the very young. And this is in spite of the fact the No Child Left Behind does NOT require the testing of second graders. I suspect it is not required because they know the test results may be meaningless by the end of the following year for a great many children.
You can make the difference! A few newspaper editorial boards have been convinced by the lobbyists for those who make and sell these tests to California, that it is just too late to wait until third grade to test. And these no-nothing editors have supported putting the test back into the budget. Please call and write your State Senator and your State Assembly Member, and tell them NOT to agree to adding money to this budget to keep testing companies happy, while hurting young California children. Your voice can influence the Democratic leadership. And they can say there just isn’t enough money to pay for the harm done by this wrong headed notion of so-called accountability. Tell them that if they want to know how each child is doing, let each district buy an off-the-shelf diagnostic test that is scored at the school, and tell the third grade teacher where each child is weak and where he or she is strong. That will help the teachers prepare these impressionable young children for the 3rd grade standardized, high stakes tests.
TAKE ACTION: Make the call, write, e-mail, or fax both your elected representatives and the Governor. And do it today.

Jackie Goldberg is a member of the Board of Speak Out California. She has been a classroom teacher for over 20 years, a member of the L.A. Unified School District, LA City Councilmember and most recently a State Assemblymember, serving as the Chair of the Assembly Committee on Education. This is the latest in a series of articles she has posted on Speak Out California’s weblog. For her previous writings, just click on the Public Education section on the left hand side of the page.