Thursday, January 31, 2008

Standardized Testing For Preschoolers - I'd Call That Child Abuse

Headstart children subjected to Standardized Testing.
President George W. Bush seemed to agree when, in July 2003, he took a field trip to a Head Start program in Landover, Maryland, to publicize an initiative aimed at reshaping the popular federal preschool program for poor kids. "We want Head Start to set higher ambitions," Bush told the assembled children. He stressed the need for "accountability," while noting, "I fully understand a four-year-old child is not going to take a standardized test. That would be absurd."

But not too absurd for the administration to roll out precisely such a test a few months later. Known as the National Reporting System (NRS), it was to be given twice a year to 450,000 four- and five-year-olds in 1,700 Head Start programs around the country. Much as with Bush's broader education reform, the No Child Left Behind Act, the goal was to compare programs and intervene in those that did poorly, possibly by cutting off their federal funding. And as with NCLB, the initiative set off alarm bells in many quarters.
That's just ludicrous!
But it's YOUR tax dollars hard at work to make these kids into nervous wrecks by the time they get to 2nd grade. Why can't they just let these kids have fun with Play-doh or Legos? What is the fascination that pointy headed "education experts" have with subjecting 3 year olds to idiot questions and tests?
"You can't test four-year-old kids-it's unreliable," says Dr. Edward Zigler, a.k.a. "the father of Head Start," a psychology professor and codirector of the Edward Zigler Center in Child Development and Social Policy at Yale University. "Some of the kids' response was to pee their pants." Four years and $100 million later, the NRS is on the chopping block, the data it produced are unusable, according to government investigators, and the official in charge of implementing Bush's accountability agenda has left amid charges that she defrauded her own Head Start program in Texas.
The program thankfully was proven to be a complete and utter waste of taxpayer dollars, has been shown to be questionable in it's handling of funding, and it has even caused harm to some of these kids.
To run Head Start itself, the White House picked Windy Hill, a Texas woman who had been tangentially involved with Laura Bush's literacy-promotion efforts in Texas....

As it turned out, Hill knew a thing or two about mismanagement: Federal investigators eventually discovered that the Head Start program Hill ran in Texas had doled out thousands of dollars in contracts to her family members and dubious reimbursements to Hill herself. She'd even written herself a $7,000 bonus from the Texas program's coffers after she took the helm of Head Start in Washington. (Hill, now working at the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, did not return a call for comment; HHS officials also did not respond to calls and emails.)

The test Hill and Horn rushed into the field in 2003 was hardly a masterpiece of scientific assessment. Shay Gurry, an education coordinator for St. Jerome's Head Start in Baltimore, remembers a kid who was asked over and over to pick out a picture of a knight; finally she erupted, "There's no moon, so there's no night!" Another, asked how many books would be left if you had three and gave one to a friend, explained, "I don't have any friends." Forced to sit still for 20 to 45 minutes at a stretch, kids would start giving random answers just so they could go out and play. Teachers were also not allowed to give feedback, no matter how often a child asked if she'd gotten an answer right.
Yeah - that's not only an outrage to taxpayers, but forcing these little kids to sit still like that is really child abuse. HeadStart is being used as a laboratory, and those poor kids (literally and figuratively) are being used as lab rats.

However, it is interesting to note that the testing data that they collected with these "tests" was essentially useless, according to a 2005 study by the federal Government Accountability Office. This article went on to say that they found the test used on these kids to be flawed and unreliable. Last fall, Congress voted to kill the testing program; until the very last minute the administration was proceeding with (and spending money on) another round of testing, planned for this spring.

Isn't it pretty incredible what our government is spending money on. What's worse is even the littlest ones in our midst are at the mercy of these idiot government programs. The Feds really need to get their fingers out of education, because they not only do it expensively, they do it quite poorly as well.

(H/T Sue K.)