Testing Toddlers and Preschoolers

Testing Toddlers and Preschoolers

We are a test obsessed society. And these days, even toddlers and preschoolers are being subjected to formal testing in order to assess their developmental progress. But does this make any sense?

First of all, such young children do not comprehend the concept of testing nor do they understand the consequences of doing well or doing poorly. Therefore, they may not be cooperating fully or performing in a way that would indicate their true abilities. In other words, there is likely to be a significant difference between what they do in the testing situation and what they are actually capable of doing. More importantly, what is going on in their minds at the moment may not be in line with what the test administrators are seeking to assess.

True story. A mother received a call from her child’s preschool teachers and was told her little one was color blind. The teachers had presented him with a variety of colored balls and told him to point to the red one, point to the blue one, point to the yellow one, etc. Each time, the child would look at the balls and reply, “It doesn’t matter. They’re all the same.” The teachers came to the seemingly obvious conclusion that he clearly could not distinguish colors.

Fortunately, the mother recalled that the previous week, the teachers had conducted a lesson on “multiculturalism” during which the children were told that when it comes to colors, “It doesn’t matter. They’re all the same.” So instead of indicating an inability to distinguish colors, he was merely repeating what he had learned.

Of course it is critical to monitor a child’s developmental progress. But formal testing is not the best way to do it.

Michael K. Meyerhoff, Ed.D. (a.k.a. “Dr. Mike”) is a member of the management team at Romp n’ Roll. After receiving his bachelor’s degree in psychology from Columbia University, he earned his master’s and doctorate degrees in human development from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, where he also held a position as a researcher with the Harvard Preschool Project. He may be contacted via e-mail at drmike@romproll.com.