Oak Park schools to test every kindergartener

Screenings will assess learning skills as students enter first grade

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By Terry Dean

Staff reporter

Every kindergartener in District 97 will be tested starting next fall to gauge their learning skills entering school, as well as to evaluate how best to help new students transition into the first grade.

That's pending the school board's OK for the administration to purchase the needed screening tools sometime this summer, which appears likely after school board members heard a presentation from administrators on June 14 about the proposal. The board did not take action at that meeting, but members expressed support for the plan.

Supt. Albert Roberts informed board members that the district does not currently have any screening process in place, not a surprise given that the district's full-day kindergarten program is only three years old — it launched at the start of the 2009-10 school year and was piloted in a few schools a year earlier.

Last fall, at the urging of then-board member Michelle Harton, the district created a task force to look at student achievement at the kindergarten level — the thought being to address the so-called "achievement gap" by redirecting attention to the lower grades. The task force includes teachers, parents and administrators.

Members of the group, led by D97's curriculum coordinator for elementary schools, Duane Meighan, presented their report to the board at the June 14 meeting. Testing would take place Aug. 8-15 and would take place on an annual process. The district had about 600 students enrolled in kindergarten this past school year.

If approved by the board, the district would purchase a "Kindergarten Readiness Test" for students and also a questionnaire for parents. According to the proposal, the test would take about 30 minutes, with a 10-minute rest period. The parent questionnaire focuses on their kids' social and emotional development. The survey, according to the task force, will help determine if those kids need early intervention.

Meighan explained that the screening process is not to determine whether kids will enter kindergarten and noted that the Collaboration for Early Childhood Care and Education are task force members. That network of Oak Park-area early childhood providers and educational activists has long focused on achievement for pre-K kids, birth to 5 years.

"It's going to allow us — both organizations — to continue to look at different types of data in very meaningful ways," Meighan said, "as we continue to work toward enhancing the learning experience of all our kids."


Update on Early Childhood Education Achievement Task Force

Reader Comments

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Posted: July 1st, 2011 5:49 PM

So, Violet Aura, is your argument that school is nothing more than a daycare? That seems to be where you're taking this. I can understand defending the teachers, but if they're paid to TEACH our children, what is it that we should expect? Nothing? Let's try being a little more realistic. It's reasonable that parents expect their children to get something out of their classroom experiences. Expectations from parents does not mean they're neglecting learning in the home.

O P Resident  

Posted: July 1st, 2011 5:23 PM

For the amount of money these teachers get paid for 9 months a year, they better be expected to do ALL they can to enhance my child's education.

Violet Aura  

Posted: July 1st, 2011 2:44 PM

I was defending teachers because when you have 10% of kids with IEPs, you are talking about an average of 2-3 children who require more attention. See, this was my job--to work 1-on-1 with SPED students so that the teacher could focus on the majority of kidlets. But I am just "ill-informed," right? And "responsibilities?" The biggest one is to give intellectual stimulation to your child. Nothing else (your Type-A drive, lust for new car, or hot stud) should compete with your child's edumacation!

enough violent aura  

Posted: July 1st, 2011 2:16 PM

Then we end up with ranting ill-informed individuals who are unable to even consider that all involved might have responsibiliities and who never miss a chance to make it clear that "kids with IEPs" are at least part of why teachers can't do their job.

Violet Aura  

Posted: July 1st, 2011 1:59 PM

*Sigh* Couldn't actually address my points though? I don't blame you. There's nothing much to say. Teachers are being expected to deal with up to 30 individuals, some of whom have IEPs, which these days can very well have to do with their behavior & emotional state. It is humanly impossible to place the onus on one person (or even two!) when it comes to such individualized instruction. That's where the parents come in. The parents are the first teachers & if they lie down on the job, then what?

Enough violent aura  

Posted: July 1st, 2011 1:54 PM

Your reputation for an inablity to participate in a civil discussion continues unabated.

Violet Aura  

Posted: July 1st, 2011 12:47 PM

Correction: Teach your child... The point is that no teacher will ever make up for an involved, committed parent. It takes having actual conversations with your kid, rather than staring at the smartphone screen like a zombie as I see so many parents doing when they are supposed to be having "quality time" with their kids. It means rearranging priorities (including financial ones) and making sure that you have a household where reading is modeled, versus video games, Internet,etc.

Violet Aura  

Posted: July 1st, 2011 12:43 PM

@OP Parent: Excuse me, but YOU seem to be blaming. How in bloody hell do you expect a teacher to give sustained attention to your precious little angel, when she's got a classroom full of students, 10% of whom require an IEP (my jaw is still scraping the floor at that stat)? Why don't you take the blindspots shown by the test and teacher your child?

OP Parent  

Posted: July 1st, 2011 12:13 PM

What parents do is important. But keep in mind, kids spend 5-6 hours a day in school. This is a lot of time - and a lot of opportunity for teachers to be role models and to encourage positive behaviors. Public education used to be the great equalizer. Has it now become the great blamer?

Done from Oak Park  

Posted: July 1st, 2011 11:02 AM

The acheivement gap is not "make or break" at the kindergarten level. It's at the levels that begin to require more parental involvement in focusing their child's attention to acheiving satisfactory grade advancement and acceptable social skills. When the parents have lost control of this most important function, the "achievement gap" begins. Their child is then spending all their time catching up or just gets lost. All-day kindergarten in Oak Park is nothing more than subsidized day care.

OP Parent  

Posted: July 1st, 2011 9:11 AM

Will D97 staff use this testing to divide and destroy or will they finally wake up to the benefit that can be gained when we assess kids, and then take action (i.e. TEACH) so all kids succeed? A few years ago one of my children was part of a D97 program that was supposed to involve teaching and testing. It tested (e.g. he didn't know Roman numerals) but it ended there - no instruction or other intervention. No wonder some parents are opposed to testing.

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