A Weak (But Not Inaccurate) Kindergarten Overtesting Story

Sometimes I get calls complaining about news coverage or a particular story but can’t really dig up all that much to complain about, in terms of large-scale inaccuracies or massive misunderstandings. That’s what happened with yesterday’s Washington Post story about kindergarten overtesting.

Written by T. Rees Shapiro, the piece (What is making one first-year teacher reconsider her future? Lots of testing) tells the story of rookie Fairfax County kindergarten teacher Kimberley Asselin who, as the year at Riverside Elementary is ending, is said to be “questioning her future as an educator” due to “an onslaught of tests.”

Sure, the story might be seen as misleadingly overstated. It works overtime to make a big case based pretty much entirely on one teacher’s experience, and doesn’t tell us where Asselin fits in the spectrum of other Fairfax rookies or kindergarten teachers. (I’m also curious about how Shapiro found and chose her.) But it doesn’t overstate the rate of new teachers leaving the profession (as other recent stories have done) or get the amount of testing wrong (as other recent stories have done). For this much, I’m thankful.

The worst that can be said about the piece is that it’s overly reliant on its main character (who isn’t even leaving), doesn’t contain much by way of testing specifics (in terms of time spent), and seems to conflate high-stakes testing with diagnostic assessments.

According to Asselin, this year’s testing burden includes two reading assessments given to students three times a year, requiring two or more days to administer. “This spring alone I estimate I spent about 20 hours testing. And that was just on reading, Never mind math assessments. Throughout the year? I don’t even want to think about it!”

The state department of education noted that Virginia “does not test students in reading and mathematics until the end of grade 3.” Any state-required tests in early elementary grades are merely diagnostic, locally-selected “benchmarking tests that are not mandated by the state Board of Education.”

Asselin says she feels like her view and experiences were described accurately. Neither the District nor Shapiro responded to my email request for comment. 

Related posts: The Washington Post’s Wacky Montgomery County Coverage; NYT Journo Tweets Out 60-80 Days Of Testing ClarificationNYT Error Leaves Asians Out Of NYC Gifted & Talented Programs; Please Do A Better Job Covering Testing This Year, Journos!NYT Front-Pager Mis-Identifies Ed Trust President.

Alexander Russo

Alexander Russo is a freelance education writer who has created several long-running blogs such as the national news site This Week In Education, District 299 (about Chicago schools), and LA School Report. He can be reached on Twitter at @alexanderrusso, on Facebook, or directly at alexanderrusso@gmail.com.