Karen R. Effrem, MD – President of Education Liberty Watch and Executive Director of the Florida Stop Common Core Coalition
The Every Child Achieve Act’s (ECAA) Early Learning Alignment and Improvement Grants (Sec. 5o10) offer new federal funds to “assist states” to “more efficiently using existing Federal resources to improve, strengthen, and expand existing high-quality early childhood education, as determined by the State.” Despite the benign and pleasant sounding offer of help and resources to be used as states see fit, these grants greatly expand federal control over preschool as Race to the Top and No Child Left Behind have done for K-12. Here are the problems:
There is no evidence of long-term effectiveness of early childhood programs that justify their great cost, but there is evidence of academic and emotional harm.
Each state applying for a grant must promise to and explain how it will use “existing Federal, State, and local resources and programs that the State will coordinate to meet the purposes of this part, including”… “Head Start” and the “Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG).” [Sec. 5902]
Analogous to the Common Core standards incentivized by Race to the Top and the federal mandates for statewide standards and tests required by the 1994 version of the ESEA, there is a rapid spread of statewide or federal early learning standards and early childhood assessment incentivized by the 2011 and 2014 Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge (ELC) Grants and mandated by the 2007 Head Start and 2014 Child Care and Development Block Grant reauthorizations.
According to the ELC Collaborative analysis of the ELC grants, at least 15 states declared openly that they are aligning their early learning standards to Common Core or admitted that they are aligning to the K-3 standards, which is a de facto admission of Common Core alignment.
Mentioning it eleven times in the legislation, Head Start requires not only every Head Start program, but also every other state pre-k program to fully align to the Head Start Child Outcome Framework, a set of national early childhood standards, which is being correlated to Common Core. Most state standards and the Pearson Work Sampling System (WSS) kindergarten readiness assessment contain similar or identical language to the Head Start framework in its various iterations. Pearson also admits in its advertising video that the WSS is based on “national standards.” The only national preschool standards that are available are the Head Start Child Outcome Framework. This is federal control of academic content that includes the thoughts and attitudes of our youngest children, and should be concerning regardless of one’s views on any particular topic. The K-12 Common Core standards promote social emotional goals as well, but are much less overt than the Head Start Child Outcome Framework.
The CCDBG strongly incentivizes a “tiered quality rating system (QRS),” to rate programs and providers. Though portrayed as “voluntary,” many programs, including private and religious programs, comply in order to be competitive in a bad economy for funding and referrals. In most states, eighty per cent of child care is private. The main requirement for a top rating in the QRS is use of the state early learning standards that are often far more subjective, controversial, and psychosocially based than those in K-12. This is resulting in a state takeover of private and religious childcare, because now these organizations outside of the state system are being bribed or coerced to teach the public program curriculum in order to get a good rating. Minnesota admitted this in its ELC application. The rating systems themselves are subjective and controversial and lack evidence they will improve child outcomes.
Both the Head Start and individual state standards, which are all remarkably similar, are also vague, subjective, and in some cases, controversial, both for academic topics and for the non-cognitive social emotional topics, which are actually required for preschool but not for K-12. Here are some examples:
Approaches to Learning (Head Start): “Child shows interest in and curiosity about the world around them.” Substantially similar language to this extremely subjective standard is also found in multiple state documents and the WSS.
Language and Literacy (Maryland): “Shows beginning understanding of concepts about print.” Similar language is found in multiple states, the WSS and the Head Start Framework.
Mathematics (Illinois): “Count with understanding and recognize “how many” in small sets up to 5.” There is identical language in the WSS, similar language in the 2015 Head Start Framework, and this standard is noted to be correlated to Common Core.
Social Skills (Minnesota): “Displays concern, respect, care, and appreciation for others and the environment” “This very subjective standard on “concern” or “empathy” is found in many state standards, the WSS, and the current Head Start Framework.
Social Studies (Florida): “Make sure your three year-old has access to books and other materials that show diversity in family composition and in careers.” This family structure diversity issue, again, regardless of one’s views, is controversial and difficult enough for adults to navigate and it should be up to each family to decide how to manage the discussion. Although no longer in the 2015 Head Start Framework, it is definitely important to the national organization:
One Head Start document on family engagement said the following: “THE TERM “FAMILY” is used to convey all of the people that may play both a parenting a role in a child’s life and a partnering role with HS/EHS staff. This includes fathers, mothers, grandparents, kith and kin caregivers, LGBT (lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgendered) parents, guardians, expectant parents, teen parents, and families with diverse structures that include multiple relationships with significant others.” The Florida standards define family as “a group of individuals living together.”
An HHS blog recommended using “Inclusive intake and enrollment forms that are not specific about the gender of parents and caregivers” in order to make GLBT families feel more welcome.
The noble sounding prohibitions “in this part [Sec. 5902(g)]” on federal interference with “early learning and development guidelines, standards, or specific assessments, including the standards or measures that States use to develop, implement, or improve such guidelines, standards, or assessments;” or anything to do with what determines the designation of “high quality” is at best worthless and at worst quite disingenuous. This is because this bill already requires the states to comply, align, and coordinate with the major federal programs, Head Start and CCDBG, that mandate or strongly incentivize either federal or state standards and the quality rating system that also requires these very problematic standards. The ELC grants have also had the same effect, because states changed policy regarding the standards, curriculum, and the rating systems to win them. Finally, there is no enforcement mechanism behind the prohibition.
The student data collection and invasions of privacy already occurring with P20W longitudinal data systems are particularly frightening in the early childhood realm because of the greater emphasis on social emotional and developmental issues as well as efforts to integrate this data with prenatal medical data and then integrate it with K-12 data:
“Rhode Island’s proposed early learning data system will be linked to both the state’s K-12 data system and to the state’s universal newborn screening [genetic] and health data system, helping to identify children with high needs, track participation in programs, and track children’s development and learning.” (Emphasis added)
There is also a national effort going on to integrate Head Start data with every other type of preschool data and K-12 data.
This provision is also of dubious value due to cost issues, especially when the national debt level is so high. The authorization for appropriations for this new nanny state program is the extremely vague and always alarming “such sums as may be necessary for each of fiscal years 2016 through 2021 [Sec. 5903].” The income eligibility for participants in this program is absurdly extravagant for median income only requiring that “family assets do not exceed $1,000,000 (as certified by a member of such family) [Section 5901(b)(2)(B)(iii) - Emphasis added].
Due to this unconstitutional, invasive, and expensive expansion of federal control that will further harm states’ rights, parental autonomy, and the innocence and privacy of young children without any benefit, the Early Learning Alignment and Improvement grants within ECAA, as well as the entire underlying bill, should be rejected.
 Effrem, K. Studies on Effectiveness of Early Childhood Programs, Education Liberty Watch, 3/20/2011 http://edlibertywatch.org/2011/03/studies-on-effectiveness-of-early-childhood-programs/ Update 11/16/15: Effrem, K. - Compilation & Analysis of Early Childhood Research Regarding Effect, Fade Out, Academic & Emotional Harm http://edlibertywatch.org/2015/11/compilation-analysis-of-early-childhood-research-regarding-effect-fade-out-academic-emotional-harm
 Compilation of the Head Start Act http://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/hslc/standards/law/HS_Act_2007.pdf
 Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 2014 https://www.congress.gov/113/plaws/publ186/PLAW-113publ186.pdf
 Stepping up to the Challenge: State Profiles of the 2011 Early Learning Challenge Grant Applicants http://ffyf.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Stepping_Up_to_the_Challenge.pdf
 Head Start Act Compilation – Section 642B(a)(2)(A) says that when giving out “collaboration grants,” the national Head Start offices will work with “entities that carry out activities designed to benefit low-income children from birth to school entry, and their families.
 Section 642B(a)(2)(B)(iii), which says, “promote alignment of curricula used in Head Start programs and continuity of services with the Head Start Child Outcomes Framework and, as appropriate, State early learning standards,” is just one example.
 “In January 2012, the latest draft of the Head Start- Common Core Correlation Project was released…”https://www.sourceforlearning.org/news.cfm?newsid=68
 CCDBG – Section 658G(b)(3)
 Minnesota admitted in its ELC application, “Minnesota’s Early Learning and Development Standards (called the Early Childhood Indicators of Progress, or ECIPs-see C1) for children birth to five are at the foundation of [Parent] Aware. Parent Aware Program Standards require that instruction and assessment be aligned with the ECIPs and the ratings are built on the ECIPs, which function like a scaffold. For example, ELD Programs must ensure that their staff members are familiar with the ECIPs before earning 1 star, and to reach 3 or 4 stars requires both familiarity with the ECIPs and also alignment of curriculum and assessment with them.” (Emphasis added) http://unitedfrontmn.org/minnesotaracetothetopapplication/files/B1.pdf pp. 2-3 of PDF
 Effrem, K. – Evidence on Effectiveness of Quality Rating Systems – Education Liberty Watch 3/19/2011 http://edlibertywatch.org/2011/03/evidence-on-effectiveness-of-quality-rating-systems/
 2015 Head Start Child Outcome Framework http://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/hslc/hs/sr/approach/pdf/ohs-framework.pdf
 Maryland Model for School Readiness http://www.mdk12.org/instruction/ensure/MMSR/MMSRpkFrameworkAndStandards.pdf
 Illinois Early Learning Standards 2013 http://www.isbe.state.il.us/%5C/earlychi/pdf/early_learning_standards.pdf
 Latest Draft of Minnesota’s Early Childhood Indicators of Progress, http://education.state.mn.us/mdeprod/groups/educ/documents/basic/mdaw/mdu1/~edisp/055947.pdf p. 12 of PDF
 Florida Early Learning and Developmental Standards, Birth to Five, p. 107 of PDF – may be downloaded at this page – http://www.floridaearlylearning.com/parents/parent_resources/floridas_early_learning_and_development_standards_birth_to_five.aspx or http://bit.ly/1IA48dh
 Stepping up to the Challenge, p. 39 http://ffyf.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Stepping_Up_to_the_Challenge.pdf
 Early Childhood Data Collaborative – Linking Head Start Data with State Early Care and Education Coordinated Data Systems – http://www.childtrends.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/ecdc-head-start-brief.pdf
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