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Your Opinion: JCPS' iReady program concerns

Your Opinion: JCPS' iReady program concerns

April 10th, 2019 by Jane L. Lester, Jefferson City in Opinion

Dear Editor:

I am concerned that Jefferson City Public Schools is throwing technology into the schools as if it were a magic guidance system for education.

I appreciate that JCPS works diligently to provide new technology for all students by providing Chromebooks to children in all classrooms, but I am concerned that policies are not put in place for judicious use. A recent study in Journal of the American Medical Association January 20, raises the concern that increased screen time for young children causes delays in communication, motor and problem-solving skills. The American Association of Pediatrics has raised similar concerns. However, our elementary schools are full of screens. Even in the hallways, screens are in place for children to see as they enter the school or pass to class.

JCPS has invested in a program "iReady" that provides assessments and individualized learning on Chromebooks for children Kindergarten-fifth. Kindergarten and first grade years are those when children need experience in social learning, fine and gross motor training and building vocabulary. Standardized testing (MAP tests) do not begin until third grade. Do we really believe that we cannot familiarize children with taking test on electronic devices starting in second grade or even the first part of third grade? What happened to the concern that teachers were being forced to teach to the "test" instead of educating in skills needed for success post school? Is the iReady program appropriate for children in kindergarten and first grade? Is it appropriate to suggest that progress in kindergarten and first grade skills be accessed by their ability to perform on electronic devices? Should kindergarten teachers be judged on how well their students perform on those tests?

The "iReady" system of assessment and remedial action in both math and reading has been purchased and is in use by JCPS. This system is accessed by students through Chromebooks. This system is all-encompassing, providing initial assessment, remedial exercises and assessment of its own effectiveness. A child getting individual instruction on the Chromebook may well improve on iReady tests but may still falter in math and reading. Teachers cannot conduct classroom lesson when even a few students have required time on iReady remedial lessons. Not only may individual work on the iReady program be inadequate for life skills in math and reading but it reduces the time for class instruction and student interaction guided by the real pilot in education, the classroom teacher.