A Victory: Head Start Reauthorization Drops Flawed Testing

K-12 Testing

FairTest Examiner - January 2008

In a significant victory for low-income preschool children, the 2007 reauthorization of the federal Head Start program suspends the controversial use of “National Reporting System” (NRS) testing. President Bush signed the new Head Start bill in early December, despite his objection to the elimination of the tests. The NRS was a large-scale accountability effort in which all children aged four and older were tested twice a year (see Examiner, Spring 2005).

The exam relied primarily on multiple-choice items. Early childhood experts, including Samuel Meisels, president of the Erikson Institute and a professor at the University of Michigan, had charged that the NRS was developmentally inappropriate and harmful to children. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) also found that the test data were suspect and its use produced potentially harmful consequences.

Meisels said he was thrilled about the outcome:“I view the decision by the Senate and House to suspend the NRS as a very hopeful sign. Congress recognized that the test was flawed and that it was without scientific or practical merit. Moreover, they understood that high stakes testing is inappropriate for young children,” This shows, Meisels added, “that strong arguments and clear data can effect change at the highest levels.”