Day: <span>April 9, 2014</span>

Would Abbott really forbid testing for 4-year-olds?


For the record, folks, Greg Abbott’s spokesperson is now saying the Republican gubernatorial candidate is not so out of touch with parents that he actually wants 4-year-old kids to be subjected to standardized testing. Of course, it was easy for parents or anyone else to make that assumption after Abbott announced his half-baked pre-kindergarten proposal last week.

I say half-baked because it isn’t an expansion of pre-K to thousands of children who really need it and could benefit from it, but instead is a way to avoid a commitment of significant state support.

Abbott proposes an additional $1,500 in state funding for each student enrolled in a half-day, pre-K program, provided the program meets “gold standard” performance criteria to be set by the state. To assure that the programs are properly evaluated, they would be submitted to state “assessments” at the beginning and end of each school year. Although there are various ways to perform educational “assessments,” the default for Texas government for many years now has been standardized testing.

Abbott compounded what his campaign claims is now a misperception by including “norm referenced standardized tests” among a short list of pre-K assessment options. Now, his spokesman says, Abbott didn’t really mean that.

Or did he?

The spokesman, Matt Hirsch, said the suggested assessment options were “there for informational purposes only,” according to the Texas Tribune story linked below. He said the Texas Education Agency would have to come up with an assessment plan.

But asked if Abbott would require TEA to exclude standardized testing as an assessment, Hirsch hedged. He said only that Abbott “would discourage the use of standardized testing for pre-K students.”
That is not the same thing as promising to use the powers of the governor’s office to forbid it.

Keep in mind, though, that this is the same Greg Abbott whose office continues to defend the $5.4 billion that the legislative majority cut from public school budgets three years ago. Those cuts included about $200 million for pre-K. So, his commitment to pre-K remains iffy, at best.

Research has documented the strong positive differences that pre-K and other early childhood education programs make in preparing children for success in later grades. This is especially true for underprivileged children and those who are still learning English, which are the majority of children in Texas public schools.

Abbott has suggested some of those programs are a “waste,” when, in fact, they are vital to thousands of children.

Gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis, who truly appreciates the value of early education, is calling for increased access to full-day pre-K programs and an expansion of early-childhood reading programs – no standardized testing attached.