Early Years Heavyweights Protest Baseline Tests in U.K and U.S.A.

blog_boyandbooksI know I’m a few weeks late, but happy new year.  When we last met, before I went underground to finish my book, I was exulting over an op-ed in the New York Times celebrating play in pre-K classrooms.   Such a nice jolt of serotonin to ward off depression before the elections in November.

As it turned out, I needn’t have worried.  A Christmas gift was soon on the way, courtesy of the Maryland State Education Association.  “Too Many Tests!” read the cover of the organization’s December issue.   The group had called for immediate suspension of the state’s kindergarten readiness  assessment in the wake of a survey of kindergarten teachers.  Sixty-three percent of them reported that they had received no meaningful data to inform instruction from administration of the exam. Well, how about that? The article featuring this blessed poll quoted Lily Eskelsen Garcia, president of the National Education Association, one of America’s two major labor unions for public school teachers.  “The testing fixation has reached the point of insanity,” she said.

Today, right after the season’s first blizzard went bust (the kids did manage a snow day, at least), I got wind of an article in Children & Young People Now. I hadn’t known about this publication until now, I have to confess. But it’s so comforting to know that I’m not wasting too much time on that Twitter timeline.  Look what gems emerge.  The headline was a beacon of light amid the detritus of the day:  “Early years heavyweights back campaign against baseline tests.”  As Laura McCardle reported, since the beginning of January, 2,086 people—including several influential figures in the early childhood world, parents and providers—had signed a petition to protest a new baseline assessment targeted to children as young as four.

Here’s  a little context:

From September this year, schools will be able to use new baseline assessments to test the knowledge and understanding of children as young as four in school reception classes at the beginning of the academic year.

The tests will replace the use of the Early Years Foundation Stage Profile, which monitors children’s progress at the age of five, in schools from 2016 as part of government efforts to improve the way primary schools are held to account for pupils’ learning and development.

And here, a few of the heavyweights weigh in:

The campaign, launched by Early Education, the British Association for Early Childhood in Education, warns that the arrangements could harm children’s development and those whose who perform less well could be “stigmatized and labelled as failing” within weeks of starting school.

Among those to sign the petition are Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance, Professor Cathy Nutbrown, head of the school of education at the University of Sheffield, and Penny Tassoni, president of the Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years.

Tassoni described the assessment as “another nail in the coffin” for early childhood. Spot on, Penny.

Sounds like education secretaries Nicky Morgan and Arne Duncan could use a rendezvous.  They need to bone up on  anti-revolutionary tactics.


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