In the not too distant future, every kid is going to pop out of the womb carrying a number 2 pencil (the device, not the blog :-). W’s Education Department is now requiring that the 4-year-olds in the Head Start program take a bank of standardized tests which, according to the spokesperson from Ed, are not intended to assess the children themselves but to measure the Head Start program.
That may be true but the assessments are still being administered to children too young to understand the testing game. And, as with many standardized tests, the one being used to evaluate Head Start students (er… the program) has problems. For one, some of the questions are outside the experience of these kids – not many inner city 4-year olds know what a swamp is and, although they might be familiar with the concept of "horrified", they probably don’t understand the word. Even the application of the test seems almost cruel since teachers are not allowed to answer the kids’ questions or provide any feedback. I always remember a big goal of early childhood education was to encourage curiosity and questioning skills in the kids (it should be a goal at all levels!).
So, it looks like all-tests, all-the-time is becoming business as usual in American education. And, at least one person associated with this program is putting the goals in business terms.
Craig Ramey, a psychologist and professor at Georgetown University who heads the committee that advised federal officials about the test, talks about it in the language of business. "If you were the head of any industry I know – automobiles, pharmaceuticals, take any product you would use – you would have a quality assurance system in place to determine how your product is faring in terms of quality," Dr. Ramey said. The Head Start test, he said, "is just another quality assurance program."
Wow! Do you hear that sucking sound? That was all the joy of teaching and learning being evacuated from the room!