In contemporary kindergarten classrooms, children’s literacy abilities are often assessed by tests used to determine a child’s ‘readiness’ for school. Readiness often means letter identification, phonemic awareness, letter-writing, and other functions related to language mechanics.
A new paper (http://ecl.sagepub.com/content/early/2014/09/03/1468798414548778.full.pdf+html) investigates the assessment tools (both locally and federally mandated) that are used to measure and evaluate children’s literacy abilities. Drawing from a 4-month ethnographic study on teaching and learning in kindergarten, the study reveals the social, cultural and academic issues associated with labelling children as ‘below average’ readers and writers.
Through observations made at collaboration meetings, interviews, classroom field notes and children’s written texts, the study documents how three kindergarten teachers and their principal assessed children using assessment tools.
At the same time the author studied the writing practices of the children in one classroom, focusing specifically on those children identified as ‘below average’.
The study traces the ideological issues behind assessment tests, the kinds of discourse that teachers take up in response to these tests, and the obvious race and class divisions that separate students.
Finally, the study looks at the ‘below average’ children in one classroom to discuss the nonlinear, resourceful and innovative ways in which children arrive at language, many of which are not measurable.