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A captivating snapshot of standardized testing in early childhood

On the stability and utility of the Cito preschool/kindergarten tests
PhD ceremony:N. (Niek) Frans, PhD
When:September 19, 2019
Supervisors:prof. dr. A.E.M.G. (Alexander) Minnaert, dr. W.J. Post
Co-supervisor:dr. C.E. Oenema-Mostert
Where:Academy building RUG
Faculty:Behavioural and Social Sciences
A captivating snapshot of standardized testing in early childhood

Determining and remediating problems in language and mathematics development at a young age is an important motivation for the use of tests such as the Cito preschool/kindergarten tests. When using test results in decisions about individual children, it is not so important what the result says about a child’s current development, but what this means for the further development of the child.My dissertation explores how scores on the preschool/kindergarten tests relate to later outcomes and how teachers experience the usefulness of these tests. To answer these questions, the test data of more than 1800 children from 77 schools were analyzed over a five-year period. In addition, teachers with varying views about the tests were interviewed.The results showed that the preschool/kindergarten tests can give a (crude) indication of a child’s language and mathematics ability. However, the scores are not stable enough to make definite statements about the further development of the child based on one or two test scores. Only a small percentage achieves consistently low scores and large jumps in the scores of a child occur regularly. Finally, individual growth in scores turned out to be a poor predictor for future growth. Identifying at-risk pupils based on low initial scores or lagging growth in scores seems to be very difficult.Although teachers are not unequivocally opposed to the use of preschool/kindergarten tests, below average scores are often perceived as insufficient. In avoiding these scores, education is quickly influenced by the content of the test.