June 9, 2005
NCLB for Minnesota Preschoolers
Julie M. Quist
education conference committee took up the Nanny state issues again last
Thursday, June 2nd.
Stumpf opened the meeting by bringing in Senator Hottinger (DFL - St.
Peter) for comments. Hottinger chairs the Senate Early Childhood
Committee. He is chief author of the Senate language that EdWatch opposes
in the Senate omnibus bill. In conference committee, however, Senator
Steve Kelley is the point man for the Nanny State. Kelley's manner is
intimidating and abusive, and he becomes angry at any opposition to
the curriculum standards, their implementation, and their screening. (See
Learning Indicators," as the lynch pin of the Nanny
Nanny State takes money from K-12
defended this major new spending proposal against criticism he is
apparently receiving that Minnesota should first be fully funding
K-12 before creating expansive new education entitlements for toddlers.
He insisted that "Early Learning" is separate, and it should
not be linked to K-12. Members of the committee were too polite to remind
Hottinger that all state spending is linked. Increases in any program
requires either shifting money away from other program or increasing
taxes. Hottinger, the conference members, and the Governor should
continue to be reminded that the Nanny State -- curriculum standards,
screening based on those curriculum standards, grants to child care
programs to implement those curriculum standards, and a child care rating
system based on those curriculum standards -- is a major, long term
spending commitment with limitless spending growth potential. All
money for the early learning system could be used instead for the K-12
per pupil formula.
OBE for toddlers
Senate members had numerous problems with the House bill. One was that
the House limits the purpose of the early learning programs to preparing
kids academically and physically for kindergarten and teaching them
"self-discipline." The public thinks this is the meaning of
being ready for kindergarten. Senator Linda Scheid (DFL- Brooklyn Park),
however, considered that far too narrow and limiting. She wants the state
to define and measure everything -- what children think and how they act.
The Senate, in contrast to the House, wants no limits at all on how the
state can define and screen all kids on their "readiness" for
kindergarten. In other words, they insist on the old values, attitudes
and beliefs of out-come based education (OBE) and the Profile of
Learning. Their plan is a throw-back to the same old system parents have
battled since the 80's, but this time it's for toddlers.
Denise Dittrich (DFL-Champlin) volunteered that she wanted to include
"social and emotional skills" as part of what the state should
define and measure. Even her DFL colleagues shied away from that
language, however, since "social and emotional" has been
undeniably defined as "mental health screening." Mental health
screening for toddlers is integrated into the Senate bill, but, thanks to
the public outcry, it has become too controversial to push for the
Universal Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) for
problem for the Senate was the House proposal to measure the success of
preschool programs by comparisons between the K-3 performance of students
from various types of preschool experiences. The House bill attempts to
identify whether the "ready for kindergarten" programs actually
improve student performance. The Senate objected. One has to wonder why
the state shouldn't verify whether the Nanny State system works.
the Senators propose universal assessments that mirror No Child
Left Behind's (NCLB) most controversial mandate, the Adequate Yearly
Progress (AYP). The Senate plan sets goals for the number of preschoolers
"reaching proficiency on all measures of the assessment." Each
year, the goal would increase: 6,000 in 2006; 18.000 in 2007; 30,000 in
2008; 45,000 in 2009; and 60,000 in 2010. The Department would report on
progress toward these goals on a school by school basis. This AYP is
straight out of NCLB. AYP has been the primary target of NCLB critics.
All of the preschool assessments would be based on each child's
compliance with the controversial curriculum standards, just as most
states' K-12 standards are based on controversial and radical national
Erickson (R-Princeton) asked why the state would assess increasingly more
children, just to get comparison data. The Senators let Ready4K Director
Todd Otis answer that question, indicating Ready4K wrote the plan. This
assessment initiative, Otis said, is a transition to universal screening.
All children will be screened. The initiative is intended to
"phase in an expansion of the assessment."
language also actually states that "the kindergarten assessment
initiative must be implemented in all school districts in
Minnesota on a voluntary basis over a five-year period,"
and that "results of the assessment must be included in the
annual school performance report cards under Minnesota
Statutes." This does not sound voluntary. If this
misleading language sounds eerily familiar, it's because it is straight
out of federal Goals 2000 and No Child Left Behind. Voluntary is a joke,
but the joke is on parents with young children.
Senate language that references these controversial, non-academic, OBE,
and Profile-like curriculum standards, although not discussed on
Thursday, refer to them as what babies and toddlers "should know and
be able to do." This definition of standards is also a direct
quote out of No Child Left Behind.
Kelley has been chief public critic of NCLB in Minnesota. He has now lost
all credibility, since he wants to extend that very system to
distinction between the Senate Nanny State proposal and NCLB is that the
Nanny State will affect all Minnesota children, not just those attending
public schools -- all children in child care, all children in early
learning programs, all children identified vaguely as "at
risk," and the assessments are set up to eventually extend
universally to all children.
All issues are on the table
the Nanny State issues are on the table. (To see the differences between
the House Early Childhood bill and the Senate Early Childhood bill,
see our update.).
We urge the Governor, the Speaker, and the Senate Majority leader
to reject the Nanny State as part of a final, last-minute deal.
Opposition to the Senate bill is non-negotiable!
the Governor for proposing no new funding for early childhood in his
budget and for staying neutral on it in his latest budget proposal. We
urge him to support the House conferees by refusing to trade away our
kids in the end-of-session budget horse-trading. Put the Nanny State
money in the K-12 formula instead. Keep out:
- the curriculum standards for all children in Minnesota,
- the mental health screening for toddlers,
- the rating system for child care centers based on the curriculum
- grants to child care programs to implement those curriculum
- the unaccountable foundation to implement the new system.
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