Thursday, July 7, 2011

NUT Report: Funding for pre-school testing announced

With the debt-ceiling debate raging and the urgency to cut spending, the rationale and priority for a new Race to the Top pre-school standardized assessment initiative go unexplained. States will compete for $500 million in funds to develop tests that are intended to measure "academic performance but also children’s social, emotional, physical and artistic readiness for kindergarten." This assessment is intended to assist Kindergarten teachers in preparing targeted learning opportunities and are not to be used for any rewards or punishments for students, teachers, or schools.">Valerie Strauss of the Washington Post noted that in 2003 when President Bush suggested giving all children in Head Start programs a standardized test, reaction seemed different:
Critics howled. Early childhood development experts said preschoolers are too young to be evaluated by standardized tests in part because they don’t have sufficient ability to comprehend assessment cues. The plan was shelved.

A recent article in">The Nation notes concerns about this initiative.
The kindergarten-entry assessments are “probably the most radical part of the [Race to the Top early learning] program,” acknowledges Sara Mead, a pre-K expert and senior associate partner at Bellweather Education Partners, a nonprofit Washington, DC, consulting firm. “It would drive a big shift towards much more measurement of early learning program outcomes, which parts of the early-childhood education community have traditionally opposed.… But these are not intended to be assessments to determine whether or not an individual child is ‘ready’ for kindergarten, and they never have high stakes for kids, in terms of denying them entry into kindergarten.”

Laura Bornfreund, a policy analyst at the New America Foundation’s Early Learning Initiative, has written that pre-K assessment remains controversial:

Concerns over inappropriate assessments of young children are rampant, so it bears repeating that appropriate kindergarten readiness assessments are not “tests” in the way adults might think of them. They do not require children to sit down with a bubble sheet and number-two pencil. Often they are based on teachers’ observations of children’s drawings or playtime interactions. For many literacy assessments teachers conduct them by sitting down with students, one by one, to ask them questions about sounds and letters or to point to pictures. The idea is to create a low-pressure experience. But there are still many questions in the research community about how to ensure that assessments are administered in ways that are sensitive to a child’s age and stage of development.

Pop Quiz

1) What is the problem this new assessment will solve?
2) Will the data collected become part of the State Longitudinal Database Systems?
3) Will the data be made available to other agencies and researchers without parental consent in accordance with the proposed regulatory changes to Family Education Rights and Protection Act?

1) No one knows, but it's expensive.
2) No one knows, change is hard.
3) No one knows, we have to do something.

I am not an educator, not a policy wonk, nor a pre-K expert, but I am taxpayer and a NUT - No Unnecessary Testing. Peanuts anyone?

Posted for Sandra and Grumpy

1 comment:

  1. If there is anything the Secretary of Education could do that might add something to debt reduction, he'd cancel the plan for a preschool assessment and not spend the money...period. The costs that local districts will have to put into implementing the tests will ultimately be passed on to taxpayers. $500 million for a preschool test? Really, now.

    One of the testing consortia announced it was changing the common core assessment design, due to "feedback." I will cover that news tomorrow on Grumpy Educators.


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