...I'm okay with being REALITY-based.

Friday, December 05, 2003
      ( 12:51 PM )
Just In Case You Thought Kids Were Getting It Easy...

Bush is hacking away at Head Start again. Early Head Start is a program that has benefitted hundreds of thousands of children who otherwise would never have had a chance to get that kind of start in life. It is NOT just preschool. It is a full-service program for these kids and their families. It provides medical services, feeds the children and brings the children into safe environments where they can develop their social skills, make friends, learn some things and generally be kids who are ready to start preschool and kindergarten when they get old enough.

But to George W. Bush they are just another bunch of kids who should be tested. And if they fail, their program should be trashed. That's what it's come down to now. We are going to give standardized tests to 4-year olds. Yes, you heard me right.

Education leaders in the Bush administration
believe that many Head Start programs -- part
of the 38-year-old national program that tries
to prepare preschool children from poor families
for kindergarten -- don't do their jobs well
enough. So, this fall, they are mandating
standardized tests of the 450,000 4-year-olds
in the nation's more than 2,500 Head Start


But many Head Start officials, including some at the
three Head Start programs in Portland, say the tests
are useless, at best, and could end up threatening
the good work that Head Start programs do.

"It's totally inappropriate to test 4-year-olds," said
Susan Brady, executive director of the Mt. Hood
Community College Head Start, where Joe attends
classes. Four-year-olds don't reveal most of their
knowledge or their learning abilities through such
rigid formulaic tests, she said.

This is so disgusting I don't know where to start. Of course what this will turn into is a situation where all 3-year olds do in Head Start is "study" for their 4-year old exams. And if not enough of them pass...yep, their teachers go away and the program is de-funded.

This is child abuse. The Bush administration is mandating the abuse of children by putting unrealistic requirements on their teachers to force these wee children to be what they are not and to be accountable and responsible for a federally funded program that was supposed to be there to help them!! It makes me want to scream. And then weep. It seems to me that all this administration wants to do is pretend that anyone who isn't white, over 40, a millionaire and offended by free speech simply doesn't exist. And if they don't exist, then why should there be money going to them? But I also blame Democrats too. There is no one making a noise about this! The Head Start folks are screaming foul but no one is listening - even the party that is supposedly supposed to advocate for them!

Meanwhile, little kids who have never been outside the limits of an inner city life are forced to sit down and take written exams that ask them to look at a group of pictures and circle the picture of a farmhouse. Something they probably have never seen in their lives. Skewed? Unfair? Oh, that isn't the start of it. The test wants 4 year olds to do math and vocabulary!

Joe ... sits in a tiny chair across a small table from
Head Start test proctor Tina Williams, his short legs
swinging free, not quite reaching the floor. He's
able to name many of the letters of the alphabet
that Williams shows him. For another question,
he counts 13 blocks on a page before his counting
gets confused.

But then Williams asks him to point to a drawing of
a nostril, and Joe hesitates, before pointing a tiny
finger to the drawing of an ear on the same page.
Williams makes a little mark on her score sheet.

And Joe sighs.

Questions meant to test his vocabulary and math
skills sometimes bewilder him. When he's shown a
page with four drawings and is asked to point at
the "farm," he points instead to what looks to be
a drawing of the surface of the moon. When he's
shown a page with six frogs and is asked how many
would be left if three hopped away, he simply
counts the frogs: "1-2-3-4-5-6."

A drawing of the surface of the moon? Are they crazy? Critics of the test have pointed out that the questions are far too difficult and convoluted for a four year old, not to mention trying to get a four year old to sit down and TAKE a written exam. And of course it puts limits on a child's most valuable resource, his imagination:

And, said Mt. Hood Head Start's Dieker, some
questions require one answer -- a cup is used
for drinking, for instance -- even though a child
could come up with several creative ways to
use a cup.

It is a crime what Bush and his "Secretary of Education" are doing to the children of this country. That they have now become predators of four year olds is beyond explanation. There is absolutely no reason on earth why this is a good idea. There are a thousand other ways to see how a program is progressing or doing. Its success or failure should not depend on whether a child passes a test. In fact, it's my personal opinion that the litmus test used for Head Start AND public schools should be to see what they need and give them MORE.

Children are capable of so much. Their potential is immeasurable. Children who are most at risk in this country should get more help, not less. More attention, not less. More leeway to learn at their own pace, not less. And their teachers, who give so much to them should be paid MUCH more, not less than other public school teachers. This is where the gold of our society can be found. Yet we are allowing our govenrment to dismantle the very vehicle that brings this potential to fruition. Our government has no qualms about simply destroying everything that these kids need and are. These kids are the future of our country.

Oh wait, I forgot - our future doesn't seem to exist anymore...

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