In New York, Kindergarteners Baffled by Multiple Choice Tests

In New York City, even 5 year-olds aren’t immune from standardized testing.

New York City schools are giving difficult multiple-choice tests to kindergarteners, and the 4- and 5-year-old kids have a tough time with standardized math tests because they often don’t understand the questions or what is asked of them, according to Rachel Monahan of New York Daily News.

Kindergartners are required to take these tests because of a new curriculum and teacher evaluations system which are in their first year. The state’s teacher ratings require each city school to administer some tests and 36 early elementary schools are required to give the multiple-choice tests to kids who are just starting school. Kindergartners are forced to learn how to fill in bubbles on standardized math tests to show how much they know about numbers, shapes and order.

City schools, which are not required to test their youngest kids, also have started giving kindergartners similar math tests as part of the Common Core State Standards, a series of curricula designed to help kids develop higher-order thinking skills.

The Common Core State Standards have been adopted by 45 states, the District of Columbia and four US territories.

According to teachers, administering the exams is a headache as kids are becoming upset because they do not understand the tests.

Teachers said kindergartners are bewildered. “Sharing is not caring anymore; developmentally, it’s not the right thing to do,” said one Queens teacher, whose pupils kept trying to help one another on the math test she gave for the first time this fall. “They’re scared. They just don’t understand you’re supposed to bubble in next to the answer.”

“They don’t know how to hold pencils,” said a Bronx kindergarten teacher whose class recently took the exam. “They don’t know letters, and you have answers that say A, B, C or D and you’re asking them to bubble in . . . They break down; they cry.”

Kids who do not know numbers depend on teachers to direct them to find each question by an image printed next to the answers. Students are not allowed to help each other with the tests even though they keep trying to lend a hand to peers.

According to Education Department officials, the use of multiple choice is easy way for kindergarten teachers to learn how much their students know at the beginning of the year.

“Teachers should have access to multiple tools that they can use in a variety of ways to diagnose what students already know and what they need help with,” said Nancy Gannon, executive director of academic quality for the Education Department.

Teachers said testing this way is slow and traumatic. Trying to get a proper answer was next to impossible. “We said to color it in with a pencil, so they were taking out crayons,” said a veteran teacher on Staten Island. “I can tell when a student needs help. I don’t have to give them a test.”