The testing monster is coming for our children.

Helge Wasmuth of Mercy College in New York writes here about the full-steam-ahead plan for international testing of five-year-Old children. As he reports, the planning has excluded experts on Early Childhood Education and has been shrouded in secrecy.

This is the latest and most disgusting manifestation of what Pasi Sahlberg dubbed GERM (the Global Education Reform Movement).

Wasmuth predicts that Baby PISA will lead to:

“increased standardization, high-stakes accountability, predetermined learning outcomes, control over teachers, business-based management models, and privatization.

“The goal of the study is to gather information on children’s cognitive and social-emotional skills as well as characteristics of their home and early education environments. Direct assessment, including actual samples of student work, will measure the domains of emerging literacy and numeracy, executive function, and empathy and trust. Children will be expected to do their work on a tablet, devoting approximately 15 minutes to each domain over a period of two days. Indirect assessment—parents’ and staff reports and administrator observations—will focus on cognitive and social-emotional skills. By participating in the study, OECD asserts, member nations will have access to the primary factors that drive or thwart early learning, developing a common framework and benchmarks.

“The study is now underway. A pilot that was originally planned, which would have provided a valuable opportunity for meaningful feedback and fine-tuning, has been scrapped. The organization has moved forward with data collection, to be conducted from the end of 2017 through 2019. This will be followed by so-called “quality control” and analysis, and the release of a report in 2020.

“While the original plan called for participation by three to six countries in the northern and southern hemispheres, a number of early childhood communities have already successfully registered protest, urging their governments to abstain. (Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Norway, New Zealand, Sweden, and Denmark are among them.) The only outliers are England—Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are not taking part—and the United States…

“Critique of the IELS has been fierce, and numerous concerns have been raised. Most egregious is the marginalization of the wider early childhood community. “The entire IELS project has been shrouded in secrecy from day one,” Mathias Urban, director of the Early Childhood Research Centre at the University of Roehampton in London, told me. Respected researchers and scholars in the field were not consulted, their input unwelcome. As has long been the case with early education policy, decades of research have been ignored.

“The OECD values objectivity, universality, predictability and that which can be measured. The organization seems to be oblivious to alternative ideas about educating and caring for young children. Nor have local contexts and traditions for this process been part of the conversation…

“So, why is all of this shrouded in secrecy? Why are we kept in the dark? Why are the experts and the field’s knowledge marginalized? One needs to ask: Who really benefits from such a study? The children? Will it really inform policymaking and improve educational practices in a meaningful way? Or is it another piece to open up public education sectors to corporate interests?

The disregard of the early childhood community is concerning enough. Don’t even get me started on the collection of child-based data on a global scale without the consent of children, parents, or practitioners. Or with assessing five-year-olds on a tablet. How flawed and meaningless are the results. How do you assess trust and empathy, or the complexities of learning and development?

“The impact on our field will be disastrous—maybe not immediately, but soon enough. OECD is a powerful and influential institution. Everyone should be clear about their goals of creating a common framework with benchmarks and assessing learning outcomes. Early childhood education will be reduced to what can be measured: literacy and numeracy.

“Ultimately, the field will fall even deeper into the clutches of GERM. Many countries will feel compelled to do well on the IELS, and the easiest way to do that is to align the curricula to what is measured. Pedagogical compliance will follow, along with teaching to the test—especially in countries, such as the U.S., with many private providers of early education, who will use their outcomes to win new customers. As in the case of the Common Core, a new market will be created, “Aligned to IELS” the new trademark.

“The quest for predictable outcomes leaves no place for the hallmarks of early childhood—for uncertainty, experimentation, surprise, amazement, context, subjective experiences. OECD values and measures what can be measured, but not necessarily what is important.”

Baby PISA opens a Pandora’s box. Out of it flies standardization, conformity, inappropriate pedagogy. Trapped in the box will Be Children, yearning to play.