Assessment

Administration Addresses Concerns About Head Start Testing Plan

By Michelle R. Davis — January 22, 2003 2 min read

At a national Head Start meeting last week, Bush administration officials attempted to reassure hundreds of program leaders that a new accountability system would not harm their schools.

Wade F. Horn, the Department of Health and Human Services’ assistant secretary for children and families, repeatedly praised Head Start programs for their efforts to prepare disadvantaged preschool children for kindergarten. And he tried to assure them that new testing and standards would not be used to penalize programs.

“Some view this proposal as a burden,” he said. “Others may be worried about upsetting the status quo.”

Mr. Horn said President Bush’s “Good Start, Grow Smart” initiative, unveiled nine months ago, would not create an entrance exam for kindergarten; would not be used as a basis for taking money away from Head Start programs; and would not replace locally developed assessment programs.

“We shouldn’t be afraid of this,” he said. “We should embrace this.”

To begin with, he said, the assessment would allow Head Start programs to showcase the significant help they’re giving to preschoolers.

Some community-level Head Start leaders who attended the Washington meeting said they were not resisting the Bush program, which heavily emphasizes promoting literacy, but were concerned about what it would bring.

Robert D. Williamson, the executive director of the Economic Opportunity Committee of Clark County in Vancouver, Wash., which serves families with children participating in Head Start, said there’s much more to Head Start than literacy.

“This emphasis on literacy is distracting,” he said. “It’s only one part of [child] development.”

Under the administration’s early-childhood initiative, Mr. Horn said, there will be a test for Head Start children heading for kindergarten, but it will not determine whether youngsters are held back. Rather, he said, it will help teachers develop learning plans and track how much pupils benefited from Head Start.

Testing Plan

The federal plan calls for assessing the skills of every 4-year-old in Head Start instead of just taking a random sample, as is currently the practice. (“White House Plan for Head Start Test Draws Critics,” Jan. 15, 2003.)

Head Start serves more than 900,000 children ages 3 and 4 nationwide. It provides education, health and dental care, nutrition, and other social services to those children and their families.

The testing will also identify Head Start programs that need more guidance in certain areas, Mr. Horn said. Those programs will receive additional resources and training, he said.

Mr. Horn also said that assessment areas would be based on the 13 skills mandated by the 1998 reauthorization of Head Start. However, he said, only measures scientifically researched to be valid and reliable for preschool children will be used.

But Mr. Williamson said he was worried that Head Start programs’ distinctive local approaches to preschoolers’ needs could be damaged by federal mandates, such as those planned by the Bush administration. He is concerned about increased testing, he said, and is disappointed that, so far, Head Start officials “haven’t had a seat at the table” in developing tests.

"[Preschool] teachers say they’re no longer educating children,” Mr. Williamson said. “They say they’re just preparing them for the tests.”

Related Tags:

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Culturally Relevant Pedagogy to Advance Educational Equity
Schools are welcoming students back into buildings for full-time in-person instruction in a few short weeks and now is the perfect time to take a hard look at both our practices and systems to build
Content provided by PowerMyLearning
Classroom Technology Webinar Making Big Technology Decisions: Advice for District Leaders, Principals, and Teachers
Educators at all levels make decisions that can have a huge impact on students. That’s especially true when it comes to the use of technology, which was activated like never before to help students learn
Professional Development Webinar Expand Digital Learning by Expanding Teacher Training
This discussion will examine how things have changed and offer guidance on smart, cost-effective ways to expand digital learning efforts and train teachers to maximize the use of new technologies for learning.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Assessment How Can Teachers Better Understand Students? A New Breed of Assessment Will Try to Help
Researchers will work to create formative assessments that can give teachers a window into students’ emerging identities and strengths
4 min read
In this Nov. 19, 2020, file photo, sixth-grade students listen to instruction in class at Cape Cod Lighthouse Charter School in East Harwich, Mass.
Researchers hope to create new assessments to help teachers gain deeper insights into the identities and strengths of their students, like these 6th graders at Cape Cod Lighthouse Charter School in East Harwich, Mass.
Elise Amendola/AP
Assessment Opinion It's Time We Begin Using Assessments to Look Forward, Instead of Back
Schools do not get much value from high-stakes tests. Many are now allowing schools to use better assessments to guide student learning.
Seth Feldman
5 min read
shutterstock 19525837
Shutterstock
Assessment Opinion Grading Has Always Been an Imperfect Exercise. COVID-19 Made It Worse
It’s hard reducing the complexity of each student’s social, emotional, and academic learning to a letter grade. Maybe we’re doing it wrong.
Lory Walker Peroff
4 min read
A student's grades are unknown
Robert Neubecker for Education Week
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Assessment Whitepaper
Facing the Future Together: Digital Innovative Solutions
Join us to discuss how digital innovative solutions can enrich the educational experience in the K-12 environment. We’ll share how these ...
Content provided by Pearson