The Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development, which oversees the international tests called PISA, plans to start testing five-year-olds.

Early childhood education experts at DEY (Defending the Early Years) Are appalled. They have heard that several states have volunteered to participate in pilot testing, but secrecy is so tight that they don’t know which states they are. If you work in a state education department, please let us know if your state is one of them.

Reader Laura Chapman decided to research how this monstrous idea got off the ground. Here is her Research:

“The new International Early Learning and Child Well-being study (IELS)- dubbed “Baby PISA” will focus on testing 5 year-olds on narrow academic skills achievement. But…

If you go to the links beyond this headline, you will see a more complete description of the tests and surveys that are part of the package. This is not to say that I endorse the internationalization of tests for five-year olds and related surveys of parents and staff. I do not. The computer interface is a bummer. These tests and surveys will end with international stack rankings, just like everything else from OECD. Here is more information about the tests in the International Early Learning Study (IELS), officially administered in the US by the National Center of Education Statistics

Because this blog post indicates there was no consultation with experts from the US, I have spent the afternoon poking around to find more information. The short story is this: Around 2001, OECD enlisted high profile US experts in the early stages of work on early childhood, but for research not clearly related to test development. By 2015, only two US experts were listed as contributors to the project and the tests were being field tested–a fact announced in one session of an OECD conference titled: “Data Development for Measuring Quality in Early Childhood and Education and Care: International ECEC Staff Survey and International Survey of Early Child Outcomes” (p. 29).

In 2015, the contact person for the tests was Arno Engel, a consultant for OECD’s Directorate for Education and Skills. Engel was also an Associate Lecturer with the University of Bayreuth, Germany. At that time six other scholars, were also working for OCED on early childhood research and assessments. Brief bios are here, none based in the US.

This OECD project seems to have originated in 1998-99 with a series of commissioned papers under the title, Starting Strong, with the first publication in 2001. That publication summarized “themes” in papers from 12 OECD countries—Australia, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States

I found the 2001 “Starting Strong” report from the United States, with “themes” that suggest the authors could not have imagined the current computer-based tests. Here are the topics (themes) and contributors.

Introduction and Definitions, Policy and Program Context, Overview of Current Provision—Sheila B. Kamerman: Compton Foundation Centennial Professor for the Prevention of Children, Youth, and Family Problems at the Columbia University School of Social Work, Co-Director of the Cross-National Studies Research Program at the School, and Director of the Columbia University Institute for Child and Family Policy and Shirley Gatenio a PhD candidate and Adjunct Lecturer at the Columbia University School of Social Work

Quality—Debby Cryer: Frank Porter Graham Child Development Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Access to ECEC Programs—Edna Ranck: Director of public policy and research for National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies, early education historian and independent consultant for early childhood

Regulatory Policy and Staffing—Gwen G. Morgan: Coordinator of the Advanced Management seminars for Day Care Directors, Chair of the Social Policy Committee of the Day Care Council of America.

Program Content and Implementation—Lilian Katz: Professor of Early Childhood Education, Director of ERIC Clearinghouse on Elementary and Early Childhood Education, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Family Engagement and Support—Barbara T. Bowman: Erikson Institute (a graduate school based in Chicago specializing in studies of child development, named for Erik Erikson developmental psychologist).

Funding Issues—Steve Barnett & Len Masse: Both from the Center for Early Education at Rutgers, Graduate School of Education, Rutgers—The State University of New Jersey.

Evaluation and Research—Kristin Moore: Social psychologist with Child Trends and
Jerry West, National Center for Education Statistics

Noteworthy innovations—Victoria Fu: Professor of human development, College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, Virginia Tech; co-author Teaching as Inquiry: Rethinking Curriculum in Early Childhood Education


General shifts in ECEC policy—Richard M. Clifford: Senior scientist emeritus at the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. (No bio in original report).

Future trends Moncrieff Cochran—Professor Emeritus in Human Development in the College of Human Ecology at Cornell University. (No bio in original report).

Issues for further investigation—Sharon Llynn Kagan, Virginia and Leonard Marx Professor of Early Childhood and Family Policy, Co-Director of the National Center for Children and Families at Teachers College, Columbia University, and Professor Adjunct at Yale University’s Child Study Center

Click to access 27856788.pdf

In the 2015 paper, Starting Strong IV: Monitoring Quality in Early Childhood Education and Care, I found only two contributors from the United States. They were Sharon Lynn Kagen: who contributed to the first report and Mr. Steven Hicks: a Nationally Board Certified Teacher in Early Childhood and former Senior Policy Advisor in the Office of Early Learning in the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education at the U.S. Department of Education (Obama Administration). He is now Assistant State Superintendent for the Division of Early Childhood Development at the Maryland State Department of Education.

In the most recent report, Starting Strong 2017: Key OECD Indicators on Early Childhood Education and Care (189 pages), I found not a single contributor from the United States. The absence of any contributor was conspicuous.

By 2017, NCES had outsourced the US testing contract to Westat, an employee-owned statistical services corporation in Rockville, Maryland. The NCES description of this IELS project says: “ an international consortium was contracted to develop the study measures and fine tune the study design…” but there is no information about that “consortium.”

I am trying to get a list of the members of that international consortium and the names of the experts who were enlisted to “fine tune the study design.” Perhaps someone reading this blog knows who these unpublicized members are. It is no wonder that the test looks as if it came from nowhere known to current workers in early childhood education. The test will produce national rankings and these will make headlines even if the sample sizes are small (and they are).