Jan 28, 2009

Action on Radical Early Childhoold Bills – Bills Impose Government Curriculum on All MN Childcare SF 72, HF 40, and HF 246

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Despite a massive budget deficit and lack of evidence of effectiveness or support in the general population, liberals in both the House and Senate are attempting to implement a statewide Early Childhood quality rating system (QRS).  This is not about school readiness or academics. It’s about indoctrinating our most vulnerable citizens with the ideology of the left. While a rating system that would help parents understand health, safety, costs, hours, or provider philosophy would be useful to parents, the government wants control curriculum, as well.

Instead, SF 72, HF 40 and HF 246 require programs to monitor preschoolers’ academic progress with an assessment tool.  The most likely tool will be the Kindergarten Readiness Assessment, also called the Work Sampling System.  This assessment is very vague and subjective. It is based on the controversial Minnesota Early Childhood Indicators of Progress, and it is falsely used to say that 50% of Minnesota children are not ready for kindergarten.  The end product will be that every childcare program in the state will be required to teach a government curriculum that is subjective and non-academic and that promotes fuzzy mental health outcomes.  The legislation would expand this controversial QRS that was developed as a pilot program by the Minnesota Early Learning Foundation (MELF). MELF is the un-elected non-governmental organization that was given $6 million of our tax dollars in the last biennium to set important early childhood policy with no public oversight whatsoever. 

SF 72, sponsored by Senator Tarryl Clark (D-St. Cloud) will be heard in the Senate Education Committee at 8:30 AM on Thursday, January 29th.  The House companion bill, HF 40, sponsored by Rep. Sondra Peterson (D-New Hope), as well as an expanded version of the QRS, HF 246, sponsored by Rep. Nora Slawik (D-Maplewood) will be heard in the House Early Childhood Finance Committee on the 29th at 4:30 PM.

Here is a summary of the many problems with these really bad bills:

1. Uses subjective, unreliable, invalid assessments based on vague, non-academic outcomes – Here are some examples of items on the assessment (p. 16 of this Pdf) that are direct quotes from the Minnesota Early Childhood Indicators of Progress (see pages 58-60 of this Pdf document):
  • “Shows beginning understanding of numbers and quantity”
  • “Shows an appreciation for books and reading
  • “Shows eagerness and curiosity as a learner.”
  • “Shows empathy and caring for others.”

How does one accurately, objectively or fairly assess any of these things in a three or four year old child?  One of the lead trainers from the Dept. of Education that teaches teachers and providers to use this assessment even said in committee testimony:

  • “So, with work sampling or with other kinds of observational assessments, you might wonder about the quality of the observation that the teacher did.  And we might wonder about the conclusions that the teacher inferred from the observations.  Are they accurate?  Is that child really demonstrating a proficient or is it really in process?  We wonder about those kinds of things with performance based assessments.”
What does a rating of “Proficient,” “In Process,” or “Not Yet” really mean in regard to these and the other equally vague items on this assessment?  Even the Department of Education that developed the outcomes and assessment admits in their 2006 assessment report:
  • “Because children develop and grow along a continuum with great variability, the goal of these studies is to assess children s proficiency within and across these developmental domains and not establish whether or not children are ready for school with the use of a composite ready or not ready score. Young children develop rapidly and at varying rates across the domains, and an early, definitive determination of readiness can have unintended negative consequences”

2. Need to measure long-term academic performance, not “kindergarten readiness” – Ultimately it is not important whether a child is deemed “ready for kindergarten” by some unreliable, subjective, invalid assessment, but rather whether a child does well in school.  There are no studies showing long-term academic benefit to early childhood programs beyond the third or fourth grade.  There is evidence that many other factors improve academic achievement without preschool, such as intact families, parental involvement, and direct instruction of academic fundamentals.  There are also numerous studies to show academic and emotional harm from preschool education.  It is unnecessary to impose a massive, bureaucratic preschool education system on every childcare program in Minnesota

3. Complete government takeover of private and religious childcare – Eighty percent of childcare in Minnesota is private.  By imposing this QRS system, the state will force these independent programs to teach and assess the young children in their care according to a bureaucratically determined, one-size-fits-all set of controversial outcomes instead of allowing them to play and develop at their own pace.  This is analogous to requiring all private K-12 schools to adopt the Profile of Learning or the current state academic standards.

4. No data to justify high cost and intrusiveness – The MELF pilot QRS was only passed two years ago.  Given time for development and implementation in the pilot areas, it has likely been in effect for significantly less time than that.  Even if the assessments and outcomes were valid, where is the evidence that having a QRS in place has improved the academic performance of any of the children enrolled in the childcare programs covered by this pilot project before expanding it to the entire state?

5. Parents are not asking for this kind of rating system – The highest priorities listed by parents in several Department of Human Services studies on childcare quality are caregiver experience and training, safety, caregiver-family communication, cultural responsiveness, and comfort with the caregiver and program philosophy.  No study cited mentioned curriculum/academics as the top concern of parents in finding a quality childcare program.

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