Reconsidering School Readiness: Open Window or Closed Door? Penner, Kari
This paper will problematize conventional “school-readiness” discourse as evidenced in Supported Child Development Program (henceforth SCDP) assessment practices with young children with special needs from a postmodern theoretical stance. The prevailing school-readiness discourse proposes a maturational perspective as means for determining whether young children have the requisite physical, cognitive, and affective attributes needed for a successful school career. Young children with special needs undergo standardized assessments of their knowledge and abilities and are subsequently prescribed early intervention activities designed to ameliorate/reduce variances from normal developmental trajectories. These activities are widely used in early childhood classrooms so children will become ready for Kindergarten at age 5. Using standardized assessment with young children who have special needs can be problematic for a variety of reasons. The desire to prepare young children for mandated school, at a distant, future point based on results derived from standardized assessment tools serves to constrain them, and closes the door on opportunities for making their ways of knowing visible to others. SCDP Consultants and early childhood educators must recognize the influence they have for either encouraging or marginalizing the learning of young children with special needs. Raising awareness of children’s rights, inclusive practices, and assessment tactics that support learning through a strength-based orientation is crucial if children with special needs are to feel they are competent, contributing members of the classroom and larger society. Authentic assessment strategies, a useful pedagogical framework, and suggestions for conducting ethical assessment that open the window for viewing children’s capabilities through a new lens are considered.
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