Friday, December 16, 2011

Washington State Wins RTTT for Early Childhood Learning

 From the Times:
Washington has won a major federal education competition and will receive up to $60 million during the next four years to improve private preschool programs across the state.

In Washington, the money will go to support two initiatives: free training for preschool providers, and a standardized assessment that kindergarten teachers will use at the beginning of the school year to determine the skill level of the incoming class.

About 175,000 children are served by 7,400 private child-care programs throughout the state, said Betty Hyde, director of the state's Department of Early Learning, an agency created five years ago by Gov. Chris Gregoire and the Legislature to improve early education. Another 8,000 children attend ECEAP, and about 14,000 are in the federally-funded Head Start program.

The grant will pay for the providers in those programs to get the latest training in early learning.

The other major initiative, the kindergarten assessment, will give kindergarten teachers the training and the time in class they need to get a sense of how ready their students are for kindergarten. The assessment is observational — no testing is involved. But teachers who have piloted the program say they have a much better understanding of what their students know after doing the assessment, said Bonnie Beukema, assistant director of the Department of Early Learning.

The money will allow the state to assess all incoming kindergartners by 2014.


seattle citizen said...

I didn't know they had a MAP test for preschool!

dan dempsey said...


Looks like it must be a move for Value Added Testing to evaluate the teachers of tiny tots.

Soon the Duncan administration will be moving for prenatal testing for a base line for Value Added Testing of parents. Gotta have that data to evaluate birth to year 1 academic gains.

WV is "rizin" use that VAM to figure who is "rizin" acceptably.

Jan said...

SC and Dan -- on this one, I would want to see the test. I once had a job where I had the opportunity to do some good one-on-one testing of four and five year olds who had been identified as having possible speech/language risks. The test was obviously only one part of a complex analysis -- but by the time I had run it on 50 of 60 kids, it was fascinating to see how the test identified potential issues in a number of areas. Done right, a good kindergarten readiness screening device (which is NOT high stakes by definition) could be a really valuable tool, especially with 2E kids and others who have learned really good coping skills to mask underlying weaknesses. It is particularly important, when teaching reading using phonics, etc., that you know if you have kids with insufficient phonemic awareness (i.e. -- they don't hear the differences in the sounds), or who cannot make the connection of using symbols to represent sounds -- BEFORE you try to teach them that way. Done right, kindergarten screening is good stuff. Question is -- can these guys ever "do anything right?"

dan dempsey said...


You are 100% on top of this. Great comment.
Given the nature of what has come forth from many grants of this type... I am not optimistic about a high quality extremely useful testing battery.

seattle citizen said...

Jan, yes, good tests administered by knowledgable people who are also interacting with the student so as to get a better picture...helpful.

But as Dan points out, look who's asking for them: Our friend Arne Duncan, who brought us RTTT. As was discussed on another thread, tests can be good - it's the uses to which they are put that can be bad. Test to help the student? Great. Test to feed data to Big Ed to spin as they see fit, use student scores as fodder for edu-business reforms, use student data to drive switch to "warm-body" model of educator..."TFT (Teach for Toddlers) gives its data-driven instructors FIVE weeks of preparation before placing them with your three-year olds! These very smart people are shown to be 1.6 times more data-driven than those over-trained union dinosaurs, and come at half the price!"

Tests can be good. But the purposes to which the data are put can be very, very bad.

In fact, it's ironic that this comes just as pre-k teachers are starting to get organized and realize they are doing very difficult work that should demand a high recompense...perhaps the "data" derived from the tests administered to our children will be used to keep pre-k teachers from gaining any economic voice, just as it has been used to tear down the economic voice of K-12 teachers....

Jan said...

seattle citizen: I acknowledge that the source of this funding raises serious concerns, based upon their past inability to pretty much get anything right, or keep any motives pure.

Nonetheless, we have it (the money). And we are also way less naive than we were (or at least I am, maybe you were never taken in) back in the days where we thought these guys were giving us money because they actually wanted to help -- rather than help themselves to public money. I guess all we can do now is watchdog what is done with the money -- and the test results.

seattle citizen said...

While I am (and have been for awhile) suspicious of the money-making aspects of Big Ed, I think I have a deeper concern:
I have been trying to reconcile the facts that it DOES appear that Big Ed has what I consider a bad agenda, but many, many people, good people, seem to believe whole-heartedly in it.

How can this be?

My bigger concern, beyond the money, is that many, many people these days believe education is job training. We see it in the language, we see it in the goals, we see it in the insistence on technocratic data-munching...

My fear is that Big Ed, while interested in cash flow, is also merely an extension of the modern hopes and dreams of parents and community members: Move yourself (and your kids) up the data ladder in order to "score" a bigger piece of the pie.

THAT is a fear of mine, that education is becoming a mere training ground for labor.

This also makes it easier to sell Big Ed to the masses, who, of course, need jobs desperately. This is why I am so flummoxed by things like STEM: A good thing, yes, a modern world needs electrical engineers, but it is oversold: There are only so many tech jobs around, many, many jobs don't need tech at all (or have a quick learning curve where a company itself can train) so why is STEM sold as the be-all and end all? Perhaps because it is emblematic of what people believe is the only way to get ahead - manage data.

So lots of people will be just fine with metricizing their three-year-olds because they will see it as a leg up onto the digital platform of "the future!" while forgetting all those other things in life that some of us think education should have a hand in 0 arts, civics, environment...

Anonymous said...

Seattle Citizen, Dan Dempsey,

Please, check out the Dept of Early Learning and learn more about the wonderful work of Dr. Betty Hyde. I think you will be pleasantly reassured.

This work in part grew out of Dr. Hyde's work in Bremerton with the dyslexia pilot. Amazing success with helping kids. (Similar also to work in Kennewick done decades ago.)

WaKids is about helping educators and parents understand where their child is developmentally so that they can best support them.

It is whole child assessment in four domains:
Physical Well-Being, Health and Motor Development; Social and Emotional Development; Cognition and General Knowledge; and Language, Communication and Literacy.

You do a real disservice to children, parents and educators, as well as to researchers in early childhood development, by dismissing out of hand the inventory of skills this grant will take statewide. Here is a link to WaKids. It is NOT a MAP test, any more than screening for hearing or eyesight is a MAP test.

The inventory has been piloted, and a state passed a bill last session to phase it in at high-poverty schools (including Southshore PreK-8). This grant will take it statewide.

A lot of wonderful parents and teachers from Seattle trekked down to Olympia repeatedly last session to testify to get this funded.

- Ramona Hattendorf

Dorothy Neville said...

Ramona, I hope the new funding for WAKIDS is appropriate for the job. I believe there are some deep concerns at the pilot schools in Seattle with respect to the implementation thus far.

uxolo said...

I found this link to Gold Assessment Systems.
If this is what we're spending $42 million on - uh oh - very fuzzy objectives, nearly impossible to measure.

seattle citizen said...

Seattle PTSA President Hattendorf,

Indeed, screening for eyesight and hearing uses veryu basic and indisputable, quantifiable metrics (which is what MAP tries to suggest it does, but does not); any sort of assessment of brain development is necessarily subjective and qualitative - it relies on observation and notation...."best guessing"...rather than the mechanical measurements of eyes or ears. So when I first looked at the material relating to WaKid its Gold assessment machine, I was concerned...

The first thing that caught my eye about WaKids, from the link you posted, was that the Gates Foundation is one of the prime sponsors and funders. This, of course, was an immediate red flag.

I looked at the material about WaKid; the assessment purchased by WaKid and Gates from Teaching Strategies called Gold , and linked to the Gold Research Paper...

I was struck by a) how much the Gold Assessment system (computerized, natch)is indeed like the MAP test - it requires someone (student or teacher) to check little boxes and make assumptions about learning and grwoth from those little boxes. In other words, the assessment of little, growing brains by data turned into numbers (levels "1" through "5", for instance). This is, of course, subjective - teacher makes the marks - student is a "3, for instance, regarding their ability to follow rules....

WaKid and Gold go out of their way to say that this isn't a tracking device, that it is merely to help students. educators and parent/guardians understand the student....But look, this system is now REQUIRED for any state-funded pre-school - They have to use it, it's a data-gathering tool designed by some tech-assessment company (see NWEA, Scholastic, etc for other examples fo companies selling "products" very similar to this - "dashboards" aggregate information, place child in some numerical matrix of "success."

While this system COULD be used to help students, educators etc learn more about students, it coulod also be used for nefarious purposes: To further quantify teh unquantifiable and turn students into data bits to be assessed as such, and to turn educators into data inputers. The Gold test IS required, now, so any pre-school teacher funded publicly will have to use, their job depends on it, so how long before pre-schools are measured by how "successful" their students are, and how long before pre-school teachers are exited (those ol' dinosaurs) because their students' scores aren't rising high enough?

And this thing goes up into the 3rd grade level? I guess it will replace MAP at those grades in Seattle, so it IS like MAP, eh?

Yes, the system (and it is a system, with all the bells and whistles and catchy names for its components) might generate some reliable data (IF that data is triangulated...using something besides another Teaching Strategies product like Creative Curriculum (tm) for instance...

Ms. Hattendorf, your link and information about WaKids has made me even more suspicious, yes, paranoid, about the pernicious expansion of "data-driven" systems such as these. They are developed by corporations eager to make a buck. They have shiny catch-phrases in them. They purport to fully assess such crucial aspects of childhood as "getting along" and "thinking critically" but merely skim the surdace and generate numbers, numbers that easily distract from what's below and, further, will most likely be used to ill-effect on educators everywhere. And, most onerously, these numbers might well indeed attach to students and become tags, trackers, pre-determining identifiers that determine very important aspects of child's growth.

seattle citizen said...

These are
"WaKIDS Objectives and Dimensions:
1. Regulates own emotions and behaviors
b. Follows limits and expectations
c. Takes care of own needs appropriately
2. Establishes and sustains positive relationships
c. Interacts with peers
d.Makes friends

4. Demonstrates traveling skills
5. Demonstrates balancing skills
6. Demonstrates gross-motor manipulative
7. Demonstrates fine-motor strength
a. Uses fingersand hands
b. Uses writing and drawingtools

9. Uses language to express thoughts and needs
a. Uses an expanding expressive
b. Speaks clearly
c. Uses conventional grammar
d. Tells about another time or place
other communication skills
a.Engages in conversation
b. Usessocial rules of language

11. Demonstrates positive approaches to
c. Solvesproblems
d. Shows curiosity and motivation
e. Shows flexibility and inventiveness
in thinking
12. Remembers and connects experience
a. Recognizes and recalls
13. Uses classification skills
(Note that WaKIDS requires 19 of the 38
GOLD objectives and does not use all of the

15. Demonstrates phonological awareness
a. Notices and discriminates rhyme
b. Notices and discriminates alliteration
c. Notices and discriminates smaller and
smaller units of sound
16. Demonstrates knowledge of the alphabet
a. Identifiesand names letters
b. Uses letter-sound knowledge
17. Demonstrates knowledge of print and its uses
b. Uses print concepts
18. Comprehends and responds to books and
other texts
a. Interacts during read-aloudsand book
b. Uses emergent reading skills
c. Retells stories
19. Demonstrates emerging writing skills
a. Writes name
b. Writes to convey meaning
20. Uses number concepts and operations
a. Counts
b. Quantifies
c. Connects numeralswith their
22. Compares and measures
23. Demonstrates knowledgeof patterns

seattle citizen said...

As noted above, there is a set of metrics that are assessed by WaKid's Gold assessment system (with "dashboard," like with MAP)

There are many fine things on this list. But not all fine things, nor are all of these fine things.

Lastly, to what use will the data be put? To assist students? To evaluate teachers? To evaluate schools?


seattle citizen said...

oh, and this is handy:
"Teaching Strategies GOLD is also aligned with Common Core State Standards"

From Teaching Stratgies' "Guide to Early Childhood Funding", where they help you get grants etc to buy their product. You might also visit the bookstore, which sells lots of things...

dan dempsey said...


You wrote:
You do a real disservice to children, parents and educators, as well as to researchers in early childhood development, by dismissing out of hand the inventory of skills this grant will take statewide.

Well I sure did not mean to do that ... but I am always skeptical when the OSPI sausage maker springs into action.

I took a quick look at those Associated with the Math input and found... some of the usual suspects and others I do not know.

OSPI, DEL and Thrive by Five Washington Staff

Greta Bornemann, Director of Mathematics, OSPI - who neglected to mention that Discovering had been rated mathematically unsound when addressing the Board just before the 4-3 vote.

Shannon Edwards, Director of Mathematics Instruction, Assessment and Intervention – District and School Improvement and Accountability, OSPI

Shannon came from Chief Leschi where she taught math and testified before the Legislature that Algebra II was a reasonable graduation requirement. Only once could even 20% of Chief Leschi kids pass the 10th grade WASL in Math.

No problem just tell folks what they would like to believe might be reality in support of the SBE and OSPI line of nonsense.

10th Grade Math pass rates at Cheif Leschi

Year School
1999-00 WASL 6.70%
2000-01 WASL 0.00%
2002-03 WASL 0.00%
2003-04 WASL 10.30%
2004-05 WASL 5.30%
2005-06 WASL 8.90%
2006-07 WASL 11.50%
2007-08 WASL 22.40%
2008-09 WASL 13.00%
2009-10 HSPE 9.10%

No results or truth required to get a job in Math at OSPI .... just pledging allegiance to crap math ideas will do.

And Now for Chief Leschi results on EoC math ... Algebra I

54 students took Algebra in 2010-2011 and the pass rate was .... 20.4%

3 - Level 4 - 5.6%
8 - Level 3 - 14.8%
9 - Level 2 - 16.7%
34 - Level 1 - 63.0%
0 - No Score

So let us see how it is going at Lummi Nation School west of Bellingham on the Lummi Rez.

51 students took Algebra in 2010-2011 and the pass rate was .... 7.8% that is 4 kids out of 51

1 - Level 4 - 2.0%
2 - Level 3 - 3.9%
1 - basic met standard - 2.0%
6 - Level 2 - 11.8%
41 - Level 1 - 80.4%
0 - No Score

I do not believe I want Shannon making decisions on much.


Mary Holmberg, Mathematics Assessment Specialist, OSPI

Julie Wagner, Elementary Math Specialist, OSPI

Stacy Yarbrough, Administrative Assistant Mathematics, OSPI

I do hope this turns out well.

Jan said...

Dorothy -- can you tell us what some of the issues are? Is it that not enough money/resources have been committed to effectivly do the assessments? Or (more troubling) is it problems with the substance of the assessment (I must say -- the categories below don't exactly make my heart sing -- they seem too vague to be useful - but maybe it is because I don't understand exactly how "data" is generted to measure each listed item.

Dorothy Neville said...

Jan, I spoke with someone from one of the pilot schools several months ago, so don't want to mis-remember and report. I believe at the very least the issue was that the teachers taking on this new burden were told (and reimbursed for) it to take something like 20 minutes a child. That's for doing the assessment AND inputting all the data into a computer, which as you can see from descriptions above is about 20 different strands. Obviously it has taken quite a bit longer and been very disruptive. Oh, and another issue is that while the state wants the assessment done once, for some reason the district pilot wants it repeated in the Spring. (Hmm.) Or I could have that backwards or something. Perhaps the folks who created the assessment said do it once and whoever at state level is running the pilot wants it twice? Really, don't take the details of what I say here as gospel. This is the gist of it though, that they are expected to repeat this disruption in the Spring. The person I spoke to was very frustrated and said that the teachers involved were very frustrated to the point of filing grievances. Did they? Was the person I spoke to accurate? I cannot say. All I know is that on multiple levels it appeared to be something that took lots of time and cost both the teachers and the school in unintended consequences. (Perhaps because the funding budgeted a sub for one day to help the teachers but they ended up requiring more than that, in addition to extra unpaid time to finish.)

seattle citizen said...

It's not merely the extra cost and burden on teachers that I'm concerned about (and really, I don't know a lot about WaKid Gold, so someone feel free to chime in and inform me...)

It's the same old, same old, narrowing of scope. Education reduced to some few metrics (which are, surprise, "aligned to Common Core, and for which there is, suprise, a curriculum for

Yes, data can be helpful, but if it becomes THE driver, if these few metrics become THE new, limited WASL/HSPE/EOC, then isn't entirely possible that the data thus generated will become driver's of policy, evaluations, curriculum, salary, school "restructuring," et al?

In other words, the data might help a teacher (if they pay him or her for the extra time, along with all the other things they're piling on the plate...Can you say "Fusion"?) but more likely, in my opinion, is being derived to drive systemic change of a massive scale (partly already enacted with state tests, NCLB, RTTT, etc) and now, potentially, being used to direct preschool education for, perhaps, nefarious purposes.