Knox Co. teacher, parents call for changes in kindergarten testing

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — A teacher recently raised concerns about testing with school board members, her concern focuses on kindergartners and the impact of too much testing.

At Wednesday’s Knox County Board of Education meeting, 4th grade teacher Hedy Collins shared that current expectations could be causing feelings of frustration and failure in kindergartners.

“Beginning tomorrow, these 5-year-olds are going to spend 51 of their next 80-and-one-half school days being tested. That is 63 percent of the rest of their kindergarten days — taking a test,” said Collins. “It seems realistic to me to think that we could administer one reliable developmentally appropriate test which would provide all the data that kindergarten parents, kindergarten teachers and first grade teachers to make educationally sound decisions for each of our students.”

The Knox County School system says kindergarten skills assessments are mandated by the state through the RTI2 or Response To Intervention process to identify students at risk for reading and math deficits. KCS officials say this is so educators can intervene as early as possible.

Educators say the issue of kindergarten testing is nothing new and they believe it will take the entire community to change standards.

Parents say while there should be set guidelines, they’re hoping for change as well.

Five days a week, Melissa Cox’s 5-year-old girl goes to Pre-K, “She knows her letters, she knows her numbers and pre-reading.”

The family feels that’s the foundation of a successful year in kindergarten but they decided to wait before putting their daughter in the Knox County Schools System.

“I would hold her back this one year and she would go in as a 6-year-old, be a little bit more developmentally prepared, more emotionally prepared,” explained Cox.

Tennessee Department of Education officials say they require a universal screening three times per year for all students.

“Any type of assessment could be beneficial for them if it’s used appropriately and it’s used adequately. If we have too much of it and we’re not using data that’s going to help a student achieve better, then we’re wasting everyone’s time,” said Tanya Coats, President of the Knox County Education Association.

In 2018, the KCS Kindergarten report card was revised. KCS officials say during that process, they used suggestions from kindergarten teachers to make changes, as well as feedback from parents in their Family Advisory Council and Board of Education.

“We just need to make sure that it’s developmentally appropriate an the curriculum matches what we’re trying to test because some of the testing is just too much in too little of time or the curriculum is just not developmentally appropriate. We need to make sure we’re giving our kids the key things they need to know which is being a lifelong learner,” added Coats.

WATE 6 On Your Side asked KCS Board of Education member, Jennifer Owen, what it is they can do to change kindergarten testing.

“The largest thing we can do is lobby our legislators and talk to them about the issues. Over time we have gotten more and more legislators who are very involved and understand the issues,” Owen said. “I think that’s very helpful. So, I think we just need to help them see how the laws that they’re creating can make some changes there.”

The state does not have required assessments for kindergartners in terms of the TCAP program.

“I want her to want to learn. I want her to enjoy going to school, wake up every morning eager and ready to learn because it’s a fun environment,” said Cox.

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