Browsing articles in "Early Education/Nanny State"
Mar 26, 2011

Testimony on the MN House Education Spending Bill

This is the written testimony prepared for the MN House Education Finance Committee’s consideration of the omnibus education finance bill (HF 934 – Audio of what was actually presented is available here by following the link for the March 21st hearing beginning at 6:37:35).

Good evening Mr. Chairman and members of the committee.  My name is Karen Effrem, and I am here on behalf of Education Liberty Watch.

We want to thank and commend you for your efforts to do a very difficult job given the fiscal crisis this state and our nation are facing.  There are some good reforms in here.  Those include Rep. Bills’  early graduation scholarship bill and Rep. Erickson’s mandate relief bill, particularly the mandate on school psychologists and social workers as well as the requirement for legislative approval of the new standards. Given what came out with the draft social studies standards, that is very important. We also appreciate the language to remove the negotiation deadline, and the teacher evaluation, and given that salaries and benefits are the biggest cost drivers of public education, we also appreciate the other reforms that you are considering in that direction.  We also appreciate the intent of Rep. Woodard’s bill to help children trapped in under performing schools.  Finally, we appreciate that there is no new funding for all-day kindergarten when the research that I have seen shows no improvement in the achievement gap and longer term problems with math and behavioral issues in the fifth grade in students that had all day kindergarten versus those that had the traditional half-day program.

Unfortunately, we need to mention several areas of grave concern:

1.       The overall levels of spending in this bill are way too high.  According to data presented at a congressional hearing, the federal taxpayers have spent 2 trillion dollars over the last 30 years with a huge increase in spending over the last 10 or so that has yielded flat or declining achievement scores and no real change in the achievement gap.  State spending has skyrocketed as well.  The private economy has taken huge losses in salaries and benefits as well as home and portfolio values.  Individuals and businesses have had to make very significant cuts in their own budgets.  There is no reason that government, including K-12 education that encompasses 40% of the budget, should not have to do the same, especially given that achievement results are so stagnant to poor. There was a Gallup poll just released today showing that spending and the economy is the number one issue in the minds of voters. Continue reading »

Mar 24, 2011

Early Childhood Testimony

  • 2/16/11 – Dr. Effrem testified before the MN House Education Finance Committee on the lack of effectiveness of early childhood programs followed by vigorous Q and A with legislators.  (Audio available here by following the link for February 16th hearing at 1:00:40)
  • 3/7/11 – Dr. Effrem testified against SF 331. the early childhood bill that increases government control over private childcare and imposes state approved highly subjective and controversial curriculum and assessments over young children via an ineffective and invasive quality rating system.(Audio available here by following March 7th Education hearing starting at 1:06:35)
  • 3/11/11 –  Dr. Effrem testified against House version (HF 669) of SF 331, the early childhood quality rating system bill described above.(Audio is available here by following link for March 11th hearing starting at 43:35)
  • 3/16 – Dr. Effrem renewed her concerns about HF 669 and adds others that increases government control over private childcare and imposes state approved highly subjective and controversial curriculum and assessments over young children. (Audio is available here by following link for March 16th hearing starting at 1:11:55.  Dr. Effrem follows private citizen and businessman Bill Reichert who also opposed the legislation.)
Mar 20, 2011

Myths and Facts About Early Childhood Education & Quality Rating Systems (QRSs)

1.       Myth:  50% of Minnesota children enter school not ready to learn.

FACTS:  The studies done by the Department of Education show that only 3-10% of children are not showing the outcome being measured at all.  The rest are proficient or in process.  The Department also said that purpose of the kindergarten readiness scores are to be a snapshot in time and should not be used as composite ready or not ready score and that doing so can have negative consequences. The assessment also tests the arts and social, emotional issue, which are subjective and not assessed in K-12 students.  (See Quotes and References Regarding the Kindergarten Readiness Assessment for details).

“Spending money on advertising that attempts to scare the public and brand children as failures before the age of 5 does a disservice to families and to the good work of those in the field of school readiness.” – Commissioner Alice Seagren, Pioneer Press, February 5, 2006, emphasis added

2.       Myth:  Quality rating systems like Parent Aware in Minnesota provide accountability and improve childcare program quality and childhood outcomes like closing the achievement gap.

FACT:  Evaluations of Parent Aware in Minnesota, other QRSs and national research all admit that QRSs do none of these things (See Evidence on Effectiveness of Quality Rating Systems for details and more quotes):

“The design does not permit us to determine if Parent Aware causes outcomes for programs, parents, or children. We can look at patterns of associations, but causation cannot be determined.” (Parent Aware Third Year Review, MELF, November 2010, PowerPoint, p. 9, emphasis added)

3.       Myth:  QRSs like Parent Aware are popular with providers and parents and are easily and fairly implemented.

FACTS: According to the Parent Aware third year evaluation, only 14% of the eligible programs in the pilot project participated.  It was skewed heavily toward large center providers making small family programs have to compete against large corporate centers.  Two thirds of the programs received the highest 4 star rating automatically, a free pass.  Providers complained that the rules of the system shifted.  (See Evidence on Effectiveness of Quality Rating Systems for details).  This automatic 4-star rating is especially problematic for Head Start Programs, which have been found to be both ineffective in general, harmful to the math skills of three year olds and fraudulent in national and federal government evaluations.  During the third year evaluation of the Parent Aware pilot project, the number of parents with children in Parent Aware rated programs who had even heard of Parent Aware had increased only from 20% to 25%.

4.       Myth:  Parent Aware is voluntary for providers and not an expansion of government.

FACTS: Given the terrible economy, providers will be pressured to accept all of the hoops and mandates required in Parent Aware to get funding and referrals to stay competitive in the marketplace.  It will be voluntary just as Minnesota accepting the common core national standards was voluntary to receive a Race to the Top grant or passing a mandatory seatbelt law was voluntary for federal transportation funding.  Parent Aware requires state approved curriculum and assessments and sets up government controlled regions that correspond to the governor’s workforce development regions. This is an enormous expansion of government.

5.       Myth:  Early childhood programs have a high return on investment and help to close the achievement gap.

FACTS: If early childhood programs provided the 700-1800% returns that proponents claimed, every venture capitalist in the nation would be flocking to invest in them, instead of them continuing to be heavily subsidized by government and bringing us this increasing effort for government to control them.  In addition, whatever gains these programs produce in kindergarten readiness, however nebulously that is defined; there is no evidence that they produce long-term gains in academic achievement.  In fact, there is significant evidence that they are associated with significant academic and emotional harm. (See Studies on Effectiveness of Early Childhood Programs and Preschool Actually Harms Reading Achievement for more details).

Mar 20, 2011

Studies on Effectiveness of Early Childhood Programs


“Institutionalized messages surrounding ECE claim that it has the potential to promote children’s life-long success, especially among low-income children. I examine the legitimacy of these claims by reviewing empirical evidence that bears on them and find that most are based on results of a small set of impressive but outdated studies. More recent literature reveals positive, short-term effects of ECE programs on children’s development that weaken over time.”  – Lowenstein, Journal of Educational Policy, January 2011 – Emphasis added

“As with the 4-year-old cohort, there was no strong evidence of impacts on children’s language, literacy, or math measures at the end of kindergarten or at the end of 1st grade.” (Head Start Impact Study, Executive Summary, January 15, 2010, p. 21)

“…the achievement impact of preschool appears to diminish during the first four years of school…preschool alone may have limited use as a long-term strategy for improving the achievement gap…”  – Rumberger, et. al, UCSB, 1/06, pp. 79-80

Using data from the (ELCS), researchers concluded that preschool has a positive impact on reading and mathematics scores in the short term and a negative effect on behavior. While the positive academic impacts mostly fade away by the spring of the first grade, the negative effects persist into the later grades.  (Katherine A. Magnuson, Christopher J. Ruhm, Jane Waldfogel, “Does Prekindergarten Improve School Preparation and Performance?” National Bureau of Economic Research, April 2004)

Also using the ECLS data, Lisa Hickman at Ohio University, compared children in center care with children who were taught at home. She found that center care children had higher math and reading skills and poorer social skills prior to kindergarten entry. In first grade, however, preschool participants’ cognitive advantage disappeared and their social skills deteriorated.  (Lisa N. Hickman, “Who Should Care for Our Children? The Effects of Home Versus Center Care on Child Cognition and Social Adjustment,” Journal of Family Issues 27 (May 2006: 652-684)

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