Assessing Readiness

CIERA Report #3-002

Samuel J. Meisels
University of Michigan

CIERA Inquiry 3: Policy and Profession
How do state language arts standards influence the way teachers teach and, ultimately, what and how children learn? How does the content and structure of a state's standards influence those efforts?

In response to the first of the National Education Goals (1991), which reads, "all children in America will start school ready to learn," Meisels addresses four interpretations of the term "readiness" and the methods that have been devised to assess children's learning at the outset of formal schooling.

The idealist or nativist view claims that children's proficiency in school is a function of the child's maturation. The empiricist or environmental view sees readiness in terms of proficiency with a specific set of skills. The social constructivist perspective describes readiness as a function of the meanings and values assigned by an individual school community. Each of these views presents dilemmas for young children's learning and teachers' instruction.

Meisels identifies a fourth view--the interactionist--as a means for resolving these dilemmas. This perspective attends both to what children know and to the capacity of schools to adapt experiences for children who demonstrate different strengths and needs. The instructional tasks that emerge are grounded in a comprehensive assessment of the child's skills, knowledge, behaviors, and accomplishments.



University of Michigan School of Education

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Chapter forthcoming in Pianta, R. C., & Cox, M. M. The transition to kindergarten. Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes.