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March 24, 2006

Testimony before the
House Education Policy Committee
HF  3623
Julie M. Quist
EdWatch Board of Directors
Thank you, Mr. Chairman and committee members, for the opportunity to testify in opposition to HF 3623. EdWatch has many objections to this bill that will cost taxpayers like myself over $10 million in annual new spending that will continue into the foreseeable future.

Section 7, Educate Parents Partnership, sets up the state, health care providers, and special interest groups as the parenting instructors of mothers of newborns before they leave the hospital. We believe that this program is overreaching, paternalistic, and offensive to families. The state is imposing itself and its chosen organizations on mothers at a most vulnerable time for women. Few mothers who just delivered their babies are up to fending off outsiders telling them what to do. Mr. Chairman, parenting is the domain of parents and families, not of the legislature. You are not the parents of our children. Given the governments dismal track record on K-12 education, the last thing new parents need is the state acting as experts in how to parent their children from birth.

A young mother in my neighborhood, for example, related to me the difficulty she had at the hospital refusing the public health nurse trying to advise her on parenting her children with each of her four deliveries. She and her husband are smart, educated, independent, well-read and committed to their family. Yet our taxes were being used to hound her with their unwanted advice. HF 3623 will expand that intrusion to include other organizations.
Section 10 will have ECFE provide state educational curriculum and developmental assessments in private and family child care settings, including family, friends, and neighbors arrangements. The ECFE curriculum and its assessments are all based on the state-defined Early Childhood Indicators of Progress. In addition, the non-partisan legislative auditor said of ECFE, Studies of two-generation programs [like ECFE] have generally found small or no effects on child development, although many have reported some positive impact on parenting skills.
The state Indicators of Progress are highly objectionable. They will become objectionable to many more as the public becomes familiar with them, especially when they see that this curricular framework represents a resurrection of the Profile of Learning for our youngest children. The Indicators do not primarily deal in the cognitive and physical domains, as the name suggests. Rather, they are filled with emotional outcomes for preschoolers, also called mental health outcomes. They require children to show vague, non-academic traits, such as empathy to their peers and eagerness and curiosity as a learner.  Not only are these traits impossible to measure accurately, but also they occur to different degrees in different, but normally developing children and there are gender differences that would penalize boys compared to girls. We were repeatedly assured for the last year that the Indicators would be rewritten and limited to strictly cognitive and academic topics, but they still sit on the Department website as recently as yesterday in the very form that we began illustrating to legislators in the last session.
Many of the social outcomes include very controversial social issues that are covered in the Indicators referenced documents, most notably the National Association for the Education of Young Childrens Anti-bias Curriculum.  They include teachers teaching the children about their gender identities. They are extraordinarily vague and subjective. They essentially impose a particular set of attitudes and beliefs on our children. The Indicators are consistent with a worldview of diversity training, group consciousness, consensus morality, environmentalism, oppressor/oppressed mentality, and social activism.  

When Mark Kindt, a Democrat and former assistant attorney general in Ohio, was asked to audit a similar scheme in Virginia, he said, Most citizens would recognize the anti-bias curriculum as a highly politicized curriculum which seeks to impose a particular ideological world-view upon children. Most taxpayers would simply be astounded that tax dollars are routinely being spent toward the state-by-state implementation of these apparently politicized standards.  [Improper Special Interest Influence in Key Contracts: An Analysis with Preliminary Observations on the Politicized Agenda in Child Day Care]

Section 11 resurrects the Kindergarten Readiness Assessment that was defeated in last years session. This is a bogus assessment for determining readiness for school.

In the assessment, teachers rate children as proficient, in process, or not ready in five areas: Personal and Social Development, Language and Literacy, Mathematical Thinking, Physical Development and Health, and The Arts.  These rating criteria quote word for word the subjective, non-academic, psychosocially indoctrinating Early Childhood Indicators of Progress. Those Indicators are the basis of this ridiculous assessment. As many professionals have testified at various times in this committee, young children who are developing rapidly and who acquire academic skills at widely varied but completely normal rates cannot possibly be accurately, objectively, and fairly evaluated with this instrument. These are Profile of Learning style content and assessments for our youngest children. For example These are not specific, objective, or valid measurements of our children. Requiring this assessment also inserts the early childhood mental health screening that the Greiling/Hottinger bill (HF 3599/SF 2841) would add to early childhood screening, against which Dr. Effrem testified in the Senate on March 9th. (I have passed out her testimony for your review.) The mental health screening in this case it is more dangerous and insidious, because it would require teachers, untrained in mental health, to assess childrens socioemotional performance when experts in the field call their own criteria highly subjective, impressionistic, social constructions, and value judgments that vary across cultures. Here are some examples from the assessment EdWatch believes, as Dr. Effrem testified, that it is never EVER the role of government to set up norms for, assess, or intervene in the minds and emotions of free citizens, especially young children.  How would a group of legislators rate on these categories?
Even the proposed remediation for reading and math is a problem. While it may sound terribly academic and focused, the money will be wasted, because the criteria are useless. They are so subjective and broad as to be meaningless. In place of asking specific information, such as whether the child knows a part or the entire alphabet, children are evaluated on whether they begin to develop knowledge about letters.  Instead of counting to some specific number, preschoolers are to show beginning understanding of number and quantity. This expensive intervention is at best, worthless. At worst, it will harm children academically by mislabeling them at a very early age. This could lead to unnecessary special education involvement or unnecessary drugging with medications that study after study is showing to be dangerous and ineffective.

In fact, it appears that according to one study published in 2005 from the University of California at Berkley, hardly a conservative institution, expansion of early childhood programs is causing the very problems that they are purported to remedy.  That study said, attendance in preschool centers, even for short periods of time each week, hinders the rate at which young children develop social skills and display the motivation to engage classroom tasks, as reported by their kindergarten teachers...Our findings are consistent with the negative effect of non-parental care on the single dimension of social development first detected by the NICHD research team.  [That earlier study found that children who spend more hours per week in non-parental childcare have more behavior problems, including aggressive, defiant and disobedient behavior in kindergarten.]

Section 12 pays private, religious childcare and family settings to set up a preschool curriculum that uses the states school readiness program. The state is in essence saying that its wisdom in caring for and educating young children is superior to the knowledge and experience of grandmothers, aunts and other family members. We vehemently disagree and we think it is not the role of the state to be inserting itself into family interactions by promoting an individual curriculum or set of beliefs. Once again, the states school readiness program is based on the same vague, subjective, socioemotional and controversial Early Childhood Indicators of Progress.  It even violates current law in 124D.15 that the readiness program must provide comprehensive program content based on early  childhood research and professional practice that is focused on children's cognitive skills and development and prepares children for the transition to kindergarten  In fact, all of HF 3623 is implementing this particular set of attitudes and beliefs on our children in one way and another. We used to call it Outcome Based Education, or OBE. OBE was expensive, completely ineffective and became highly unpopular in K-12, and it will be even more dangerous and promises to become even more unpopular in preschool. 

Finally, HF 3623 would state-certify those child care settings that implement the states school readiness plan, the Indicators. The state must publicize those compliant centers and use them for referrals, in effect giving a business advantage to those programs that comply, while driving those that do not, for reasons of conscience, out of the market. Mr. Chairman,  HF 3623 is a massive and expensive expansion and intrusion of government into the private lives of our families and preschool children. We urge you to oppose it.  At the very least, any assessments, remediation and programs must be strictly limited to the cognitive and academic domains of math and reading. Thank you for allowing me to testify.

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