Michael J. Petrilli drew a lot of criticism a few months ago when he proposed to give NAEP tests to children in kindergarten, arguing that fourth grade was too late to start assessing student skills.

Now he has an even more radical proposal: test the babies, he says.

He writes:

Earlier this year, I took to the pages of Education Next to make the case for NAEP to test starting in kindergarten, stating that, “The rationale for testing academic skills in the early elementary grades is powerful.” Therefore, “Starting NAEP in fourth grade is much too late.”

I was wrong, and I’m sorry.

Kindergarten is much too late. We must begin a program of NAEP testing for newborns. In the hospital. Before parents take them home. Maybe before parents name them.

If we wait until age five to assess students in math and literacy skills, that leaves a half-decade of missing data. How are we to know where our infants fall on a distribution scale of academic achievement? How many of them are already proficient? How can we possibly differentiate preschool playtime with success and rigor?

Some of my critics might point to the difficulty in assessing newborns. Sure, their precious, tiny hands can grip your finger in an act of sublime yet simple affection, but can they grip a pencil? How can they fill in the bubbles on a standardized test when swaddled lovingly in a blanket? How can they deal with a keyboard if they can’t sit up? Do not be swayed by such arguments, which only reinforce the mediocre expectations endemic to America’s nurseries.

Others will assert that newborns are already assessed through the Apgar test. Again, don’t be fooled! The Apgar only measures the ultra-basics, like muscle tone and respiration. Talk about low standards. We’re going to give babies passing marks just for having normal reflexes? Give me a break.

What next? Test the fetuses? Open the link and finish the article. Always good to see people making fun of their own bad ideas on April 1!