The long history of tracking in the US also suggests that students who enter pre-K or K "behind" will be assumed to be less capable of learning and thus put in "slower" classes through which the gap in learning outcomes will expand. "Intelligence" tests have long played that pernicious role, complemented by "achievement" tests. Through these instruments, race and class effects are instrumentalized as "scientific" or "objective."
What Finland suggests is that there is simply no need to cram pre-reading "skills" down the throats of unready little children, or to turn kindergartens into drill sites. But that is precisely what is happening in the US, accelerating a trend that began some time ago. Deborah Meier, for example, has been traveling around the country, sadly noting the disappearance of 'play' in kindergartens. (As Peter noted, read David Elkind on this.)
The tracking effect will compound early differences. Parents often grasp these realities, and so see the "need" to push their children into these academicized programs - a need based not in real learning or in whether kids could rapidly 'catch up' at say age 7 (as in, effect, Finnish youth do), but in the tracking that will make it ever more difficult for those deemed behind to catch up.
Of course, NCLB was going to end that. For those still willing to believe that illusion, read the consequences of high stakes testing in Texas in Linda McNeil et al's probing analysis. They focus on high schools, but voluminous literature shows the effects of high stakes testing and tracking.
The FairTest website has many articles and links on our K-12 pages.
Tuesday, April 01, 2008
This IS a Test, Part 2
Monty Neill, Deputy Director of FairTest, is a friend and colleague of mine. He had this to add to my last post on the trend towards the widening gulf between the haves and the have nots, starting in preschool.