The Assessment Of Your Kindergartener

Common Core has been consuming a lot of my time lately on the blog, but a reader dropped something in my inbox I had not looked into before: The North Carolina Read To Achieve Kindergarten Entry Process. It is also known as the KEA, or Kindergarten Entry Assessment.

It would appear from my research that the North Carolina’s Department of Public Instruction’s (NC DPI) planned to fully implement the KEA in the 2014-2015 school year. That has been altered by HB 230’s changes to the Read To Achieve testing. It is now 2016-2017.

  • View the KEA document at NC DPI here or on my Scribd repository here.
  • Visit the NC DPI Read to Achieve page  here.

This program stems from the Race To The Top – Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC) grant. This grant, like the Race to The Top grant tied to Common Core, was also funded by the Obama administration’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), otherwise known as the ‘Stimulus’.  North Carolina won $69.9 million from this grant in 2011:

Awards in Race to the Top will go to States that are leading the way with ambitious yet achievable plans for implementing coherent, compelling, and comprehensive early learning education reform. –US DOE, Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge

You can view the North Carolina RTT-ELC application here.

There are apparently 18 projects associated with this money. See some of the players at the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute at UNC Chapel Hill.

The purpose behind RTT-ELC is to ‘spur learning’ in kids up to five years of age and develop a profile of the child from as early an age as possible – the application statement of purpose actually uses the term ‘from birth through age 5’.  I can’t speak for other parents, but I find that incredibly creepy.

Closing the achievement gap for kids with high needs and ensuring Kindergarten readiness are stated goals. A top priority of this initiative was to measure progress  and outcomes of said ‘spurred learning’.  There appeared to be two options for this measurement, the KEA or by using early learning data systems. Those states applying could choose to do both.

Administration of Children and Families has a list of 5 main goals or reforms:

RTT-ELC focuses on five key areas of reform:

  1. Establishing Successful State Systems by building on the State’s existing strengths, ambitiously moving forward the State’s early learning and development agenda, and carefully coordinating programs across agencies to ensure consistency and sustainability beyond the grant;
  2. Defining High-Quality, Accountable Programs by creating a common tiered quality rating and improvement system that is used across the State to evaluate and improve program performance and to inform families about program quality;
  3. Promoting Early Learning and Development Outcomes for Children to develop common standards within the State and assessments that measure child outcomes, address behavioral and health needs,  and inform, engage and support families;
  4. Supporting a Great Early Childhood Education Workforce by providing professional development, career advancement opportunities, appropriate compensation, and a common set of standards for workforce knowledge and competencies; and
  5. Measuring Outcomes and Progress so that data can be used to inform early learning instruction and services and to assess whether children are entering kindergarten ready to succeed in elementary school.

This last one, number 5,  is where the Read To Achieve KEA document comes in.  Please take a moment to review section E – Measuring Outcomes and Progress of the RTT-ELC application. That section expands on this a bit and encourages states to collect “comprehensive data”.  Parents with Kindergarteners should be asking the questions like, What kinds of data? Who collects it? How invasive is it? Can I view what is collected? Where is it stored? Who gets to see it?

This RTT-ELC grant is part of the Early Learning Challenge Collaborative.  The Early Learning Challenge Collaborative describes itself on their about page:

The Early Learning Challenge Collaborative (ELCC) is a partnership between the BUILD Initiative and the First Five Years Fund. BUILD is the leading early childhood systems building organization. FFYF’s federal advocacy and education frame has strengthened the connection between early childhood and the K-12 community. The collaborative, funded by private foundation dollars, is working with and supporting states as they plan, apply for, and implement Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge grants. This includes Rounds 1, 2 and now 3. 

The collaborative is also promoting state systems-building by shaping and informing state and federal policy on early childhood systems. Additionally, we are working to sustain the Early Learning Challenge and federal investments for young children and state systems that support them.

Scroll down the about page to see the ELCC funding partners which includes the main Common Core financier, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation:

ELCC has partnerships with three main groups: BUILD Initiative, First Five Years Fund and the Birth To Five Policy Alliance. All of three of these groups claim to receive Gates foundation funding or be partnered with them. BUILD is actually an offshoot of ELCC.

What’s odd is if you search the Bill and Melinda Gates grant site, ELCC does not come up at all. Neither does The Build Initiative.  So how are they being given their funding? I checked on the funding for ELCC’s other partners. For ‘First Five Years Fund’, you get results for An Ounce Of Prevention. For Birth to Five Alliance, the only hit pulled up NCSL Foundation for State Legislatures. The Birth To Five Alliance, however, is actually Alliance for Early Success. Alliance for Early Success is found in the Gates grant database.

It occurs to me as I finish this article up for now, that the amount of money poured into these partnerships, collaboratives, board and staff salaries and other private-public partnership style outfits really represent a middle man situation. Their existence is contingent upon the existence of a crisis and to continue to perpetuate a problem, during which the money that flows through them could have real impact had it gone directly to the state or school in question.

My reaction to the Read To Achieve KEA is this:

It is well meaning, but ultimately invasive and will glean little to no real actionable items. Why? Well, the KEA document itself reads like stereo instructions with no real indication of just what the heck these assessments are nor does it point parents to examples or more information. For another, kids are kids, they are not data sets. No two kids are alike, no two families are alike, no two teachers are alike… the variables are to many and too deep. Many of those variables are no one’s business but the family as well.

Good intentions aside, the mapping a child’s every move in school by the the state or government from the time they are born until they go to work is flatly Orwellian.

My advice to parents: You can no longer assume everything and anything labeled ‘education’ has your child’s best interests in mind. Open your mouth and ask questions. Do not stop until you have the answer.




About A.P. Dillon

A.P. Dillon is a reporter currently writing at The North State Journal. She resides in the Triangle area of North Carolina. Find her on Twitter: @APDillon_ Tips:
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