Preschool testing, evaluation totally inadequate - panel

Any parent who has been shocked by their preschooler's evaluative testing results and suspected that they must belong to some other child now has support from an official report. After two years of work, a professional committee has found that evaluative tests for preschoolers in Israel are totally inadequate, un-standardized and mostly irrelevant. A committee formed by the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities at the request of the Education Ministry and RAMA, the national authority for measuring and evaluating in education, released its final report Tuesday. The committee - led by Haifa University Prof. Zvia Breznitz, a specialist in learning disabilities - found that most of the evaluative tools in almost all disciplines lacked a solid rationale. The other tools were either not standardized or were not readily applicable to multicultural Israeli society. The report also noted that there were essentially no evaluative tools for Arab, Beduin or Druse preschoolers. While much theoretical knowledge exists, little of it is actually used in evaluating children, the report stated. Moreover, kindergarten teachers did not know how to translate the results of the evaluations into practical guides for differentiating between normative and aberrant behavior. Ministry director-general Shlomit Amichai was seemingly unfazed by the critical conclusions of the report and welcomed its findings. "The Education Ministry and RAMA commissioned the scientific survey out of the knowledge that there is a lack of measurement and evaluation tools in the education system," she said in a statement. "The ministry of course has great interest in learning and implementing the applicable recommendations; however, we haven't just sat back and waited for the report's results. Over the past two years, the ministry has developed a unique tool to evaluate preschoolers' acquisition of Arabic, which will start being used this year. A similar tool to evaluate immigrants' acquisition of Hebrew is in the final stages of development and will also be available this year." The committee noted that such tools had been developed after the report was written, and praised them as a good start. The creation of a centralized authority for administering and coordinating testing was among the major recommendations. The committee suggested that RAMA was ideally suited to fulfilling that role. A central authority would enable standardization and a database for research purposes, the panel said. They also recommended that each new educational initiative launched by the ministry be accompanied by an evaluation apparatus, suggesting that the testing system be based on clear ethical rules backed by a legal framework. The committee warned of the dangers of over-testing at the expense of teaching and suggested developing tests that evaluated through educational activities in which the children would normally be engaged.