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Reflect on the lesson materials regarding standardized assessments, previous lesson materials on content standards, and what you know about the push for accountability in education. Examine the cartoon then answer the following in 3-4 paragraphs:What point do you think the illustrator is trying to make in this cartoon?What opinions do you now hold about standardized testing in early childhood? (no right or wrong opinion)Using what you know about assessment, describe an assessment system that you feel could best address the issue of accountability in early childhood education. (This is opinion so no right or wrong answers).CARTOON ADDED AS ATTACHMENT along with the chapter for the week. Websites from this week lessonhttps://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/fact-sheet-testing-action-plan https://www.apa.org/pubs/info/brochures/testing***Please use readings to cite APA for citations.

Studies in Educational Evaluation 55 (2017) 9–18
Contents lists available at ScienceDirect
Studies in Educational Evaluation
journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/stueduc

Kindergarten standardized testing and reading achievement in the U.S.:
Evidence from the early childhood longitudinal study☆
Haesung Im
Ewha Womans University, Banpo Raemian Firstage 104-602, 275 Banpo-daero, Seocho-gu, Seoul, Republic of Korea
Standardized testing
Reading achievement & reading instruction
Early childhood longitudinal studykindergarten (ECLS-K) 2010–2011
Drawing from data use theory (i.e., a theory for making data-driven educational decisions), the present study
sought to understand how frequency of standardized testing is related to student learning, mediated by reading
instruction, after controlling for child-level (e.g., gender, race/ethnicity) and school-level covariates (e.g.,
private/public, proportion of students eligible for free lunch). Using data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal
Study Kindergarten Cohort of 2010–2011, the sample included 12,241 children attending 1067 kindergartens in
the U.S. findings from a multilevel structural equation mediation model suggest that the frequency of state/local
standardized testing in kindergarten did not have a direct effect on reading achievement near the end of
kindergarten, after controlling for covariates. However, the amount and type of reading instruction mediated the
relationship between the frequency of testing and reading achievement, after controlling for covariates. The
implications for policy and practice on the use of standardized tests in kindergarten are discussed.
1. Introduction
After the inception of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB, 2001),
assessment-driven accountability began to play an increasingly critical
role in shaping curricular and instructional practice in the United States
(Ravitch, 2011). The common elements of accountability included
standards, assessments, and public reporting policies to hold schools
and teachers accountable for raising student performance
(Goertz & Duffy, 2000). The NCLB utilized standardized tests as a
catalyst to improve instruction (Hanushek & Raymond, 2005). By
definition, standardized tests are testing instruments that are administered, scored, and interpreted in a uniform manner (Martella, 2010).
While some standardized tests are designed based on state content
standards (e.g., benchmark tests), other types of standardized tests are
developed without referencing the state content standards
(Goldstein & Flake, 2016; McMillan, 2013). Typically, those tests include end of year standardized tests that are designed based on state
content standards, high-stakes standardized tests, annual statewide
accountability tests, interim tests developed by districts, and commercially produced tests (Goldstein & Flake, 2016).
Standardized testing has increasingly become a key instructional
instrument in the field of early childhood education (Hirsh-Pasek,
Golinkoff, Berk, & Singer, 2009; National Research Council, 2008).
More than 70% of young children in the U.S. completed standardized
tests in kindergarten at least once in the 2010–2011 academic year

(Bassok, Latham, & Rorem, 2016). Increasing numbers of states are
developing pre-kindergarten standardized assessments for school readiness. As such, the use of standardized tests during early childhood has
been at the center of the educational debate over the last two decades.
Proponents of standardized testing believe that these scores can be used
for monitoring and evaluating teaching effectiveness and students’
learning outcomes (Hutchinson, & Young, 2011). They believe testing
will raise student performance by making teachers more accountable
for their teaching (Crocker, 2005; The National Early Childhood
Accountability Task Force, 2007). Furthermore, advocates of standardized tests also believe that test scores can be used to improve teaching
effectiveness through targeted professional development (Crocker,
Conversely, scholars and experts have published a substantial
amount of criticisms, warnings, and guidelines to inform the direction
for the use of standardized tests during early childhood
(Gullo & Hughes, 2011; Wilson, 2009). In 2003, the National
Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) announced
a position statement that argued that standardized testing is inappropriate for young children, due to their distinct nature, developmental stage, and rapid growth. Essentially, this statement purports
that young children are not cognitively ready to understand the goals of
standardized tests and their process (Goldstein & Flake, 2016; Meisels,
2007; Schultz et al., 2007). A specific level of language skills, possibly
beyond the reach of many young children, is required to successfully
The data provided in the current manuscript are part of a larger doctoral dissertation study.
E-mail address: [email protected].
Received 31 October 2016; Accepted 11 May 2017
Available online 23 May 2017
0191-491X/ © 2017 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Studies in Educational Evaluation 55 (2017) 9–18
H. Im
Fig. 1. A Conceptual Model Relating Standardized Testing to Student Achievement.
2006; Spillane, 2012). Data use theory offers insight into why certain
kindergartens may or may not utilize standardized test scores for
student learning (Brunner et al., 2005; Young, 2006). According to this
theory, there are three stages of data-driven decision making for
student learning (Mandinach, Honey, & Light, 2006). Here, data refers
to all types, including information about specific programs, family
backgrounds of students, student behavior, attendance, and assessment
scores. At the first stage, data exists in a raw state without meaning. At
this point, teachers do not use assessment data to improve instruction.
At the second stage, teachers utilize data as “information” to understand the educational context and their students. However, they do not
use this information to guide their instruction. Finally, at the third
stage, teachers utilize data as “knowledge” to modify, or refine their
instruction. This continuum of data utilization provides insight into
why the frequency of testing may or may not be related to student
learning mediated by teachers’ use of data (Hamilton et al., 2009;
Marsh et al., 2006).
Data use theory helps us to understand the complexity of datadriven decision making practices at multiple levels (Coburn & Talbert,
2006; Kerr et al., 2006). According to Spillane (2012), data-based
decision-making is influenced not only by individual teachers’ cognitions,
but is also affected by organizational norms at the school level. At an
individual level, there are multiple factors that influence teachers’
utilization of assessment data. For example, if kindergarten teachers did
not regard standardized tests as valid and reliable instruments for
assessing young children, those kindergarten teachers would be more
likely to disregard test scores as a means for making instructional
decisions (Bauml, 2016; Brown & Goldstein, 2013; Pyle & DeLuca,
2013). Another important factor that impacts kindergarten teachers’
use of data is called “assessment literacy,” which denotes teachers’
ability to collect, analyze, and utilize all types of data for student
learning (Hamilton et al., 2009). Teachers’ pedagogical content knowledge also plays a key role in making instructional decision based on the
data (Mandinach & Gummer, 2015). For example, when kindergarten
teachers believe in a “whole language” approach to reading instruction,
these teachers are more likely to allocate more instruction time for
whole language reading instruction, when their students do not perform
well on reading assessments. Similarly, advocates of “phonics” would
complete standardized tests. Further, younger children are more easily
distracted and influenced by their emotional status or physical needs
such as hunger or fatigue (Charlesworth, Fleege, & Weitman, 1994;
NAEYC, 2003). Hence, several national organizations and scholars
argue that young children should not complete standardized testing
before the end of third grade (NAEYC, 2003; National Association of
Early Childhood Specialists in State Department of Education, 2000;
Schultz et al., 2007; Solley, 2007).
Despite the debate on the use of standardized tests during early
childhood, the link between these tests and learning outcomes of young
children has been tenuous at best, due to the lack of studies examining
early childhood education (Bauml, 2016; Pyle & DeLuca, 2013; Solley,
2007). Specifically, while some studies have investigated the connection between standardized testing and student achievement during
middle childhood and early adolescence (Amrein & Berliner, 2002;
Dee & Jacobs, 2011; Rosenshine, 2003), fewer empirical studies have
explored this relationship during early childhood (Bauml, 2016; Boat
et al., 2005; Charlesworth et al., 1994; Hatch & Grieshaber, 2002; Rous,
McCormick, Gooden, & Townley, 2007). Additionally, these early childhood studies have exhibited limited generalizability, due to their small
sample sizes and qualitative research designs.
Even though the administration of standardized tests in kindergarten can result in a significant change in reading instruction (Au, 2007;
Gullo & Hughes, 2011; Hirsh-Pasek et al., 2009; Merki, 2011;
Miller & Almon, 2009), the existing body of research has primarily
focused on direct relationships between standardized testing and
students’ academic outcomes, without investigating the mediating role
of instructional practices. Thus, the current study examined both the
direct and indirect effects of standardized tests on kindergarten
children’s reading achievement and the mediating role of the amount
and types of reading instruction.
1.1. Theoretical and conceptual framework
Drawing from data use theory, the current study sought to
investigate the connection between the frequency of standardized
testing and reading achievement in kindergarteners, as mediated by
reading instructional practice (Hamilton et al., 2009; Marsh et al.,
Studies in Educational Evaluation 55 (2017) 9–18
H. Im
balanced approach. First, phonics is explicit instruction in the form and
sounds of letters used to decode written language. The benefits of
explicit phonics instruction, particularly on children with low literacy,
(Juel & Minden-Cupp,
Morrison & Connnor, & Bachman, 2006; Xue & Meisels, 2004). Next,
whole language highlights the importance of learning language as a
whole, in a meaningful context, without the need for explicit instruction (Goodman & Goodman, 2009; Pearson, 2004). Children learn to
read and write by engaging in self-selected projects, such as writing,
retelling stories, and performing plays and skits (Sonnenschein et al.,
2010; Xue & Meisels, 2004). Research generally suggests that whole
language is generally associated with improved reading achievement
(Krashen, 2002; Sonnenschein et al., 2010), except in low-achieving
children (Morrison & Connor, 2002; Morrison et al., 2006;
Sonnenschein et al., 2010; Xue & Meisels, 2004). Finally, a balanced
approach posits that phonics can be fostered in context by reading
predictable books, stories, rhymes, and songs (Adams, 1990; Dahl et al.,
1999; Farris, Fuhler, & Walther, 2004; Hornsby & Wilson, 2010;
Roberts & Meiring, 2006). Going beyond the dichotomy of phonics
versus whole language, an experimental study indicated that children
who learned phonemes within contextualized instruction displayed
higher reading achievement when compared to children in a control
group who learned phonemes in isolation (Bitter, O’Day,
Gubbins, & Socias, 2009; Dahl et al., 1999; Donat, 2006).
A plethora of studies have indicated that curricular decisions made
within kindergartens are constrained by standardized tests (Bassok
et al., 2016; Bauml, 2016; Gallant, 2009; Gullo & Hughes, 2011; HirshPasek et al., 2009). Although there is a general consensus that testing
policy has a tremendous impact on the types of early reading instruction, relatively few studies have provided empirical evidence based on
investigating the mediating role of reading instruction. On the one
hand, studies have reported that testing policy places greater emphasis
on phonics at the expense of whole language (Afflerbach, 2011;
Pearson, 2004). In fact, kindergarten teachers in 2009 reported more
emphasis on explicit instruction (e.g., worksheets and phonics workbooks), to prepare for state standardized tests compared to reading
Daniels, & Sortino, 1994). On the other hand, researchers have also
reported that some teachers utilize whole language despite the pressure
to teach to the test with direct instruction (Brown & Goldstein, 2013).
Given that the frequency of standardized testing may have a serious
impact on kindergarten reading instruction, there is a need for evidence
of the mechanism through which school-level testing policy affects
young children’s learning outcomes mediated by reading instructional
increase instruction time with phonics instruction based on the analysis
of the same assessment data.
At the school-level, when a school encourages their teachers to use
data for student learning, these teachers are more likely to use
assessment data to collectively modify their instruction (Kerr et al.,
2006; Means et al., 2009; Spillane, 2012). In contrast, when a school
focuses on accountability, teachers at that school are less likely to use
data to facilitate student learning (Schildkamp & Kuiper, 2010;
Shen & Cooley, 2008: Young, 2006). In light of data use theory, the
conceptual framework outlined in Fig. 1 describes how the frequency of
standardized testing in kindergarten impacts children’s reading
achievement both directly and indirectly through reading instruction.
1.2. Role of standardized testing in children’s reading achievement
The existing body of literature that has sought to investigate the
links between standardized testing and reading achievement in middle
childhood is laden with mixed findings. Some studies suggest that states
with high-stakes testing (i.e., externally mandated standardized tests
that are attached with serious consequences for teachers, schools, and
students) perform better in fourth grade reading achievement compared
to states without this testing policy (Hanushek & Raymond, 2005; Kober
et al., 2008; Rosenshine, 2003).
Other researchers have found that accountability policy was not
related to greater fourth grade reading achievement (Amrein & Berliner,
2002; Dee & Jacob, 2011; Lee & Reeves, 2012; Nichols et al., 2006).
According to comparative, interrupted time-series analyses of
1990–2009 NAEP state assessment data, no improvement was noted
in average fourth grade reading achievement after the implementation
of NCLB (Lee & Reeves, 2012). In fact, investment in statewide educational resources (e.g., investment in qualified teachers and small class
size) was found to be more effective in promoting student achievement.
Amrein and Berliner (2002) also found that 46% of the states with highstakes testing exhibited fourth grade reading gains. This may have been
because many states intentionally excluded English Language Learners
and students with special needs. However, the application of empirical
findings from middle childhood toward young children requires caution
because of the distinct characteristics of early childhood (NAEYC
(2003); Schultz et al., 2007; Solley, 2007).
1.3. Associations among standardized testing, reading instruction, and
reading achievements
Studies have indicated that the use of standardized tests in
kindergarten can impact the landscape of reading instruction in
significant ways (Hirsh-Pasek et al., 2009; Kontovourki, 2009). Generally, many scholars argue that testing policy has a tremendous impact
on both the types and amount of reading instruction. Studies have
indicated that administering standardized tests in kindergarten is
associated with increased reading instruction time (Bassok et al.,
2016; McMurrer & Kober, 2007; Miller & Almon, 2009). This increase
in reading instruction time has been shown to be devoted primarily to
test preparation, that is, teaching to the test with decontextualized
instruction (Gallant, 2009; Kontovourki, 2009). Not surprisingly,
research has indicated that increased reading instruction time is
associated with greater gains in reading achievement (Cavanaugh,
Kim, Wanzek, & Vaughn, 2004; Chatterji, 2005; Harn, LinanThompson, & Roberts, 2008; Simmons et al., 2007; Sonnenschein,
Stapleton, & Benson, 2010). However, relatively little research has
examined how the effect of testing policy on students’ reading
achievement is mediated by reading instruction time.
Generally, there is a consensus that the types of instruction make a
significant difference in supporting children to read and write
(Afflerbach, 2011; Pearson, 2004). In this study, reading instruction
was categorized into three types, by its orientation towards meaning
versus decoding skills: (1) phonics, (2) whole language, and (3) a
1.4. Present study
To fill the gap within the literature, the present study investigated
the direct and indirect effects of kindergarten standardized testing on
reading achievement, with nationally representative data. To the best of
the author’s knowledge, no research has investigated both direct and
indirect effects of school-level standardized tests on young children’s
learning outcomes in kindergarten. With data use theory, the present
study will provide empirical evidence of the process through which the
frequency of kindergarten standardized testing impacts reading
achievement, as well as the mediation effects of the amount and types
of reading instruction. The research questions are as follows:
• Is the frequency of standardized testing in kindergarten directly

associated with children’s reading achievement at the end of
kindergarten, after controlling for student-level and school-level
Does the amount and types of reading instruction in kindergarten
mediate the relationship between the frequency of standardized
testing and children’s reading achievement near the end of kinder-
Studies in Educational Evaluation 55 (2017) 9–18
H. Im
local standardized tests more than one time a month.
2. Methods
2.2.2. Types of kindergarten reading instruction
Kindergarten teachers were asked what types of reading instruction
they utilized via a 17-item teacher questionnaire in the spring of 2011.
These 17 items included, “how often do children in this class do each of
the following reading activities, such as matching letters to sound,
identifying the main idea and parts of a story, communicating complete
ideas orally?” Kindergarten teachers responded to all survey items
using a 6-point Likert scale (1 = never, 2 = once a month or less,
3 = two or three times a month, 4 = once or twice a week, 5 = three or
four times a week, 6 = daily). The types of reading instruction at the
school level were created based on the factor structures previously
reported by researchers, using ECLS-K data (Sonnenschein et al., 2010;
Xue & Meisels, 2004). The three-factor model from a confirmatory
factor analysis (CFA) included whole language (6 items), phonics (3
items), and a balanced approach (3 items). Detailed information about
the three factors are documented in the result section and Fig. 2.
2.1. Data and sample
In this study, data were selected from the Early Childhood
Longitudinal Study-Kindergarten Cohort of 2010–2011 (ECLS-K), which
is a nationally representativ …
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