Not only has NCLB not gone away or been “reformed,” it has given birth to a demon spawn named Race to the Top (RTTT), with Obama and Arne Duncan as co-fathers. The basic idea is to dangle a few million bucks in front of states desperate for cash to bail out their sinking education systems and get them to beat themselves up to win the money. The states that go the farthest in opening up their public education systems to private profit, weakening teachers unions and stifling students’ curiosity and creativity through excessive testing and test preparation, win the limited funds.
Now RTTT is offering grants to early childhood education programs and preschools. Since the achievement gap starts well before kids start school (see here, here and here), it makes sense to improve learning at the pre-K level, and these programs are in desperate need of money. However, as Education Week reports, in order to win a grant, states will have to develop assessment systems for their programs and develop appropriate standards and tests for young children.
That’s right, states will start mandating testing and test preparation at the pre-school level, as if it wasn’t already terrible enough to do this to k-3rd graders, let alone any child. But it is even worse when one considers how little states will gain for selling out toddlers to the test publishers and corporate education raiders. Arne Duncan only is offering $500 million, which is chump change when divvied up among five or more states. (Actual state grants will range from $50-100 million). The money might barely cover the tests the little tykes will be forced to endure. After paying for consultants, assessors, new curricula and training, pre-K schools certainly won’t have anything extra left to hire more staff, offer good wages, expand enrollment, or invest in manipulatives, picture books and learning games. In the end, very young kids will learn very early to hate school. Their schools will gain nothing but a lot more bureaucracy and headaches. Only the test and curriculum publishers really stand to gain directly.