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Will RTT-ELC Raise Test Pressure on Preschoolers?

Debate is already buzzing about whether the new guidelines for the Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge competition will increase pressure to test preschoolers.

Though the Department of Education has taken pains to insist its requirement that winning states develop and administer a kindergarten-readiness assessment means kindergartners will be screened in developmentally appropriate ways to identify their strengths and weaknesses, that's not the message people are hearing.

Last week in Salon, journalist David Sirota panned the new effort as "aiming to subject 4-year-olds to high-stakes testing."

In yesterday's Huffington Post, Rae Pica gave a more measured perspective, correctly pointing out that kindergarten-readiness assessments are given when students enter kindergarten, not before, and are supposed to help teachers meet kindergartners' needs, not serve as an entrance exam that kids pass or fail.

However, Pica rightly noted that what's supposed to happen and what actually happens are not always the same thing, pointing to the Bush administration's effort to assess 4-year-olds in Head Start. That effort was quickly scrapped after criticism that the tests were not developmentally appropriate.

In a discussion on the BAM Radio Network, early childhood expert Sharon Lynn Kagan acknowledged that "premature and inappropriate assessment" could drive curriculum inappropriately or be used improperly in teacher evaluation. (Full disclosure: I was also a panelist in the discussion.)

I'm looking to hear from states where kindergarten-readiness assessments are already in place about their impact. So far, I've heard Colorado and Minnesota are among the state leaders in this direction. If your state uses a kindergarten-readiness assessment, please comment on the blog about what the test is, how it is used, and whether you have observed any unintended consequences since the assessment rolled out.

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