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‘Baby PISA’ Is in the Nursery—But Hold Off on Sending the Cigars and Flowers

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

Baby PISA has arrived. Are you ready, folks in the neighborhood? Do you have any earthly idea what this newborn may presage for child rearing and society in general?

You might want to hold your welcomes for now.

Baby PISA is an international assessment of 5-year-olds meant to gauge their cognitive and social-emotional capacities, as well as the quality of their home environments. Yeah, this is serious testing of kids who’ve barely learned to tie their shoes. It is due to start this year.

An eminent early-childhood scholar, Dr. Helge Wasmuth of New York’s Mercy College, has echoed the outrage of many of his academic peers worldwide in decrying the lack of openness and marginalizing of early-childhood expertise by globalists directing this new project. Then he made this broader assertion in a December 5, 2017, journal article: “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 5-year-olds on a tablet. How flawed and meaningless [will] the results [be]?

“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 …”

So, what is really going down?

“Baby” is a nickname critics invented, because the tested kids, after all, will be little more than babes. PISA is the acronym for the Program for International Student Assessment, the outfit that has been measuring the math, reading, and science competence of 15-year-olds in participating nations every third year since 2000.

In 2012, the 35-nation Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), PISA’s papa, decided that its triennial assessment of 15-year-olds (which recently added a trendy but dubious section on “collaborative problem-solving”) would be incomplete without diving into early childhood to gather data on what supposedly guides young’uns’ first steps into formal learning.

OECD’s methodology indicates the initial sampling of kids will be small: 3,000 children, aged 5 to 5.5, in 200 settings per nation, with as many as 15 kids per setting. Assessment of four early-learning domains (by both direct and indirect means): “Emerging literacy skills, emerging numeracy skills, self-regulation, and social and emotional skills.”  

That certainly leaves plenty of room for psychosocial evaluation.

The original plan anticipated participation by three to six nations in the northern and southern hemispheres; however, vigorous protests by childhood specialists have kept several governments on the sidelines—at least for now. The U.S. Department of Education (USED), on the other hand, evidently is committed to Baby PISA, judging from a $7 million contract with Westat, Inc. it executed in July 2017 for participation in the International Early Learning Study (iELS), the official name of latest lurch into the standardization of childhood.

A statement from USED’s statistical bureaucracy states iELS evaluators will be checking kiddies’ social-emotional development in the realms of “empathy and trust.” That is mind-boggling, as Wasmuth suggested, and indeed nothing short of chilling.

Given President Donald Trump and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’ stated support of local control and parental choice, it is curious the current administration would sign off on a globalist scheme to test preschoolers and amass personal data on them without any apparent accountability. Perhaps that has to do with the fact that the main opposition so far comes from intellectuals (many no doubt with a progressive bent), rather from grassroots parents.

In that regard, Denis Ian has posted a strongly worded article on the indispensable website Truth in American Education lamenting that with Baby PISA’s arrival “just a handful of parents have any clue what [it’s] all about … because most don’t care. And when some do find out … they’ll have endless excuses as to why they can’t care.”

Personally, I believe that judgment is too harsh. It took families a couple of years to realize how powerful elites had collaborated to foist Common Core standards and assessments on their children and schools without obtaining informed parental consent. Few are saying anything about Baby PISA because few are aware what the hell it is. As it proceeds, and the intrusion on family life becomes more evident, they will make their views known.

In the meantime, parents ought to be on the alert for any and all privacy-invading assessment schemes and be ready to assert their right to remove their children from them.

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