Early Childhood Experts Express ‘Grave Concern’ about Core Standards

K-12 Testing

FairTest Examiner, May 2010

A group of early childhood health and education experts has issued a strong critique of proposed common national standards for the youngest students, in part because of a fear they will drive more inappropriate and harmful testing. The statement, initiated by the Alliance for Childhood, is one of a number of thoughtful critiques of the proposed standards, which nonetheless have widespread support from political powerbrokers and elites. The statement has been endorsed by more than 400 individuals, including respected educators and early childhood experts such as Pedro Noguera, Deborah Meier, David Elkind, Howard Gardner, Diane Levin, and Nell Noddings.

It begins, “We have grave concerns about the core standards for young children now being written by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers.” Among the concerns are that “they will lead to inappropriate standardized testing” and “didactic instruction and testing will crowd out other important areas of learning.” Other concerns are that they will “lead to long hours of instruction in literacy and math” detracting from the active, hands-on learning that is most appropriate and effective for young children.

Ed Miller, senior researcher for the Alliance for Childhood, said the statement has generated an outpouring of support from early childhood experts. “We were completely overwhelmed with messages from people wanting to sign it and adding their own often heartfelt comments. The reaction of the people in charge of the Core Standards Initiative has varied from polite interest to outright hostility,” Miller said. He added that the group is looking into potential conflict of interest issues with the committees writing the standards and the legality of tying eligibility for federal funds (such as Title I) to states' adopting standards “created by private organizations, in a secret process, with no provision for true public comment.”

A revised draft of common standards was released on May 19 for final proofing, with the final version expected June 2. The final version will be available at: http://www.corestandards.org/.

The Alliance for Childhood statement and list of signers are available at: http://www.allianceforchildhood.org/.