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Volume 21, Number 2
March/April 2005

Testing Goes to Preschool

Will state and federal testing programs advance the goal of school readiness for all children?


Since the fall of 2003, teachers in Head Start preschool programs around the country have been sitting down with their students and having conversations like this:

I want you to look at some pictures with me. I'm going to say some words. For each word I say, point to the picture that best shows what the word means.

Let's try one. Put your finger on "ball."

Good! Let's try another one. Put your finger on "dog."

Using exercises like the one above, Head Start teachers across the country have been asking their students to demonstrate their understanding of certain words, to identify letters, to recognize geometric shapes, and to solve simple addition and subtraction problems as part of the National Reporting System (NRS), a standardized assessment for Head Start instituted by the federal government. The NRS reflects a nationwide movement toward testing in preschools that is gathering force state by state.

This article is part of an ongoing series on the education of children from preK through grade 3, made possible through the support of the Foundation for Child Development.

This is an excerpt from the Harvard Education Letter. Subscribers can click here to continue reading this article.


For Further Information

For Further Information

Education Commission of the States, 700 Broadway, Ste. 1200, Denver, CO 80203-3460; tel: 303-299-3600.

W.F. Horn. "Improving Head Start: A Common Cause." Head Start Bulletin 76, 2003.

C. Horton and B.T. Bowman. Child Assessment at the Preprimary Level: Expert Opinion and State Trends. Chicago: Erikson Institute, 2002.

National Association for the Education of Young Children and the National Association of Early Childhood Specialists in State Departments of Education. Early Childhood Curriculum, Assessment, and Program Evaluation: Joint Position Statement, November 2003. NAEYC, 1509 16th St. NW, Washington, DC 20036; tel: 202-232-8777.

R. Rothstein. "Too Young to Test: Why We Need a Better Means of Evaluating Our Nation.s Youngest Children." The American Prospect 15, no. 11 (2004): A12-A13.