Students at J. Fred Sparke Elementary School in Levittown, for...

Students at J. Fred Sparke Elementary School in Levittown, for kindergarten and first grade (Oct. 18, 2011) Credit: Newsday/Karen Wiles Stabile

There's been a lot written on the state's attempts to garner a $100-million federal grant by implementing a more uniform child-assessment system for kindergartners. It's a hot topic because it feeds into the concern of educators and parents over high-stakes testing and what the results of such tests mean, to the kids and the teachers.

The larger story, though, is that assessing kindergartners is a fairly small part of what this grant's about; it already happens, and done right, it's an essential tool.

What the state's actually applying for is a grant to strengthen early childhood education. Uniform assessments of kindergartners to assure they get the teaching they need is a requirement of the application, but it's not the focus. The focus is improving preschools, Head Start centers and other early learning agencies.

Also proposed is a quality rating system of these providers of early education, a tool that could be very useful to parents navigating a hard-to-understand system.

Getting this grant would be all positive in our state. Early education initiatives are so much more effective than later ones that we should put every dollar we can into our youngest kids.

Young students must be evaluated in a way that enables their education, rather than stunting it. No one wants otherwise. In this case, that becomes clear if we listen to the whole initiative, rather than just reacting to the words "test" and "assessment."


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