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Public Statements

School Readiness Act of 2005

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC


SCHOOL READINESS ACT OF 2005 -- (House of Representatives - September 22, 2005)

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Mr. KIND. Mr. Chairman, the evidence of financial mismanagement is real, and I believe the committee has taken steps in this bill to try to address that, and this authorization bill goes a long way to do that. But as a member of the Committee on Education and the Workforce, I have had the chance to visit all of my Head Start centers in western Wisconsin. You cannot help but walk away from that with an overwhelming feeling of pride and sense of security that those kids are receiving very professional, caring treatment in those Head Start centers.

Head Start has been one of the most successful anti-poverty programs ever created. It is also the most poked, prodded, picked, analyzed, and surveyed program in the Federal Government; and for the last 40 years it has withstood the test of time. It consistently ranks at the top of participant satisfaction surveys compared to any other Federal program.

I commend the leadership of the committee, the chairman, the gentleman from Ohio (Mr. Boehner); and the subcommittee chairman, the gentleman from Delaware (Mr. Castle); and the ranking members, the gentleman from California (Mr. George Miller) and the gentlewoman from California (Ms. Woolsey), for putting together a good bipartisan bill that we were able to report out 48 to zero in committee, because there is a right and a wrong way to reauthorize this important program.

The right way is to enhance integrated services, increase accountability, tighten up the financial oversight, and require highly qualified teachers. A wrong way is to continue to leave behind over 400,000 students who currently qualify, but cannot go to Head Start because of inadequate resources. A wrong way is to allow the legal discrimination against an individual based on religion.

Later this afternoon, I will be offering my own amendment that would allow the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences to establish proper standards and assessments so we can properly measure the progress of these kids. The current national reporting system is not working well, and we need to make sure that we get the measurements and the testing of these children done correctly at this very early age so we do not do any harm. I will ask my colleagues to support my amendment when it comes up later.

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Mr. Chairman, I join educators, parents, and Head Start staff from Wisconsin as well as many of my colleagues here today in support. of reauthorizing Head Start. This program has helped millions of high-risk children from impoverished families achieve academic success.

Since the creation of Head Start 40 years ago, there has always been bipartisan consensus to continue this program that serves more than 13,000 children in Wisconsin and 2,000 in the Third Congressional District. As a member of the House Education and Workforce Committee, I am pleased to have had the opportunity to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to produce the best possible bill. I would like to thank Chairman BOEHNER, Representative CASTLE, Ranking Member MILLER, and Representative WOOLSEY for their leadership and commitment to our children in crafting this legislation.

I also would like to thank those people in western Wisconsin who have advised me throughout reauthorization. They include: Lori Dilley, director of Southwest Wisconsin Head Start; Dan Stickler, director of Western Dairyland, Paula Wainscott, director of Head Start in Eau Claire Area School District; Tim Hathaway, director of Renewal Unlited, Sue Schultz, and Barbara Wehman at CESA 11; and James Vermeul, director of Child & Family Development Centers.

Since the reauthorization process began in the spring of 2003, we have made tremendous progress to reach consensus on the bill before us. However, I remain concerned with the implementation of the National Reporting System for Head Start children. The NRS is an assessment instrument developed under HHS's guidance in 2003 and used to test half a million children in Head Start twice yearly.

Unfortunately, HHS implemented NRS--at the cost of $25 million so far--despite protests by early child education experts who question the validity, reliability, and appropriateness of the assessment. While we support ongoing assessments of Head Start children to help ensure their school readiness, these specific tests were developed behind closed doors and with very little input from child development experts, Congress, or Head Start centers.

The GAG validates many of these concerns. In May, they released a report stating: ``If the test is to be used as a measure of program performance or to assess changes in child outcomes, it is important to ensure that it is sensitive to the range of development typically demonstrated in Head Start. Based on our analysis and that of the Technical Working Group and independent experts, we continue to believe that further study is necessary to ensure that the NRS results are reliable and valid and the results are appropriate for the intended purposes.''

I authored language in H.R. 2123 to commission a study by the National Academy of Sciences to report on appropriate standards and benchmarks for school readiness and valid measures of assessment. Today, I will offer an amendment to suspend the National Reporting System until the National Academy of Sciences completes its review, and I urge all my colleagues to support my amendment.

Reauthorization provides Congress with an opportunity to evaluate appropriate standards and benchmarks for school readiness, as well as valid measures of assessments for Head Start students. Until child development and early education experts can agree about the appropriateness of the NRS, we should not be spending millions of dollars on its implementation and subjecting 500,000 children to it every year.

In addition to promoting development of the mind, I also believe that we must promote good physical development for all children. I am pleased that an amendment I offered in committee to promote physical development, including outdoor activity to support children's motor development and overall health and nutrition, was accepted.

The requirement for physical activity and nutrition for pre-schoolers is increasingly important as childhood obesity rates have doubled for young children in the past 20 years. Studies show that healthy eating habits help to prevent childhood obesity and other nutrition-related diseases. Given the epidemic rate of child obesity, dramatic changes need to take place in school nutrition environment.

The Society for Nutrition Education, SNE, reports that child nutrition programs present opportunities for positive role modeling of healthy and nutritious meals, from the formative years of early childhood through the teen years. Additionally, implementation of educational programs that guide and motivate parents and children to improve the nutritional quality of their dietary choices and to increase their physical activity levels is extremely important. Physical activity, particularly for youth, help to improve school performance, establish positive health habits, and possibly prevent the onset of adult diseases.

Mr. Chairman, again, I am pleased to have worked on this bipartisan bill to reauthorize the Head Start Act. The consensus we have reached on H.R. 2123 reflects positively on how well Head Start is working. Numerous studies indicate that every dollar spent on Head Start saves taxpayers $4 to $7 in the future due to savings in education and welfare expenses. Therefore, it is my belief that the bill before us today will continue to provide the best Head Start program for all of our children.

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AMENDMENT NO. 6 OFFERED BY MR. KIND

Mr. KIND. Mr. Chairman, I offer an amendment.

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Mr. KIND. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Chairman, my amendment is very simple and straightforward. It would suspend the use and implementation of the National Reporting Service until the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences has an opportunity to conduct their study to determine what would be the proper measurements, standards, and assessments to be used with children at this age with different developmental stages in their life.

Mr. Chairman, I believe this is a very important issue because there has been a lot of outside expertise devoted to early childhood learning, and we are going to be taking measurements that they are done appropriately so we do not do any harm to them; and that is why I believe that what is in the bill right now calling for a National Academy study to be conducted so that the National Reporting System can use those recommendations for measurements and standards as we move forward will improve the quality of Head Start.

It was not so long ago, Mr. Chairman, when the National Research Council of the academy published a book called ``Eager to Learn, Educating Our Preschoolers.'' And in that publication they indicated why it is important for us to take the time and the energy to make sure that we get the measurements done correctly rather than wrongly.

In that book I quote their summary: ``All assessments, and particularly assessments for accountability, must be used carefully and appropriately if they are to resolve and not create educational problems. Assessments of young children pose greater challenges than people generally realize. The first five years of life are a time of incredible growth and learning. But the course of development is uneven and sporadic. The status of a child's development, as of any given day, can change very rapidly. Consequently, assessment results, in particular, standardized test scores that reflect a given point in time, can easily misrepresent children's learning.''

Now, when the National Reporting System was created, it was done internally. I do not believe that there was any consultation with us members of the committee, nor were any outside experts brought in for advice or consent or what standards and assessments should be used.

Shortly after the National Reporting System was implemented, the President then appointed his technical working group for the NRS. This was a group of outside experts. Even the technical working group trying to work with the National Reporting System has highlighted a lot of problems and deficiencies with the current system and is recommending changes to it.

That advice from the technical working group was recently backed up and supported by a May GAO report which found, among other things: ``If the test is to be used as a measure of program performance or assess changes in child outcomes, it is important to ensure that it is sensitive to the range of development typically demonstrated in Head Start. Based on our analysis and that of the technical working group and independent experts, we continue to believe that further study is necessary to ensure that the NRS results are reliable and valid and the results are appropriate for intended purposes.''

Mr. Chairman, we have had a lot of discussions in this committee. We have had a discussion during the hearings and markup of this bill. I have enjoyed working with the chairman of the committee and the ranking members of the appropriate committees in trying to resolve this issue. I think we can resolve it. I think it is the right direction to go with the amendment that I am offering. I hope my colleagues will support it.

Mr. Chairman, I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. KIND. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Chairman, I want to thank the chairman of the committee for his support of the amendment and for working with us in order to get this accomplished. I also want to thank the gentleman from Rhode Island (Mr. Kennedy), my good friend, for helping to elevate this issue and educate other Members in this place about the importance of the measurements and the assessments that are being used, especially for these children at this early age.

Mr. Chairman, I yield for the purpose of making a unanimous consent request to the gentlewoman from California (Ms. Woolsey), the ranking member of the subcommittee, and thank her for her support.

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