Illustration: Roxanna Bikadoroff
Last fall and again in the spring, the government administered a standardized literacy and math test to all children in the Head Start program. It's being given again this year. Four-year-olds are asked to count objects, name alphabet letters and simple geometrical shapes, understand directions, characterize facial expressions, and identify animals, body parts, and other objects in pictures.
It is hard to discern why the Bush administration insisted on the test over the objections of most leading early-childhood experts and even members of its own Head Start advisory panel.
Perhaps it is nothing more than a reflexive decision of administration ideologues who see tests and more tests as the solution to every conceivable educational problem—or worse, a way to expose the academic failures they fundamentally believe to plague the public school system in America.
There are certainly some legitimate issues to address. One is that the government spends nearly $7 billion annually on Head Start, and we should know what we're getting for our money.