“Where before we might have been more concerned about the child’s holistic development, and allowing them to move with their natural developmental process, now would we start teaching to the test?” Sabater said.
The early education initiative — which would replace schools’ individual accountability plans — would evaluate schools based on children’s progress in literacy, use of language, and math, as well as teacher quality and school attendance. Literacy and math would be weighted to account for 45 to 60 percent of the total score. A social and emotional assessment, weighted at 15 percent, would be optional.
Board officials said the tool they use to evaluate the quality of teachers’ interactions with preschool students, which accounts for 30 percent of the preschool rating, also considers social and emotional development.
For kindergarten through second grade, math and reading performance would account for between 70 and 80 percent of a school’s rating, with an optional social and emotional component weighted at 10 percent.
Schools would choose from a list of more than two dozen assessments already used for early learners. Many of the tests are given one-on-one, or the results are based on a teacher’s observations of children playing.
“Every school leader [on the task force] agreed that social emotional is a huge component of early learning, but they did not agree that it should be a mandated part of the framework,” said Erin Kupferberg, a quality and accountability specialist for the charter school board.
Traditional D.C. public schools are taking a different approach to assessment. They evaluate how students are developing in areas that including language, literacy, math, social, emotional and physical skills.
They use test results to improve instruction and inform parents — not to rank the schools, said Danielle Ewen, director of early childhood education for D.C. public schools.
If children don’t develop the motor skills to climb up a slide, they are likely to have a difficult time holding a pencil, Ewen said. If they struggle to follow directions, they are unlikely to do well on a reading activity.
“We do not weigh one over the other, because they are all connected,” she said.
Emma Brown contributed to this report.