New assessment of kindergartners emphasizes play
By Tara Garcia Mathewson
Two kindergartners are sitting at a table in their school, building a castle with colored blocks. One suggests they take turns picking which block to add next. Their teacher notices the interaction, snaps a photo and jots down some notes.
The teacher is collecting data for an assessment being piloted statewide in 64 school districts, including those in Carpentersville, Elgin, Mount Prospect, Palatine, Wheeling and Woodstock. The castle-building helps her measure how well the students interact with peers. She’ll also note the child’s suggestion for a new rule to guide their play — it relates to a measure about “responsible conduct.”
The assessment is meant to measure the school readiness of kindergartners through observations of everyday activities. It’s not a sit-down test, and it’s as much about kids’ behavioral development as academics.
“It’s going to put kindergarten back where it should be,” said Julie Kallenbach, director of early learner initiatives at Elgin Area School District U-46. “It’s going to make us pay attention to play.”
Kallenbach served on the advisory committee that recommended the assessment tool kindergarten teachers are using this year. It was first developed in California more than 10 years ago, but the latest version, specifically for kindergarten readiness, was released just last year.
The assessment is being touted as a vital new tool for gauging student development and tracking growth. But the initial reaction by many teachers and administrators involved in the pilot is less than enthusiastic because of its breadth and the amount of time it takes to complete.
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