Here is another excellent example of a teacher pushing back against corporate ed reform! Please check out the blog “Peg with Pen” – written by Peg Robinson, an early childhood teacher and activist in Colorado. In her post Do Not Go for the GOLD (Teaching Strategies GOLD) for Early Childhood Classrooms, Peg expertly describes all the problems around this newly-mandated assessment system: the thousands of minute data points she is required to enter in to the system; the uploading of personal information on each child that has the potential of being shared; the time and cost; the way GOLD transforms the teacher into a data manager; and more. Here are a few snippets, to get you started (and I urge you to read the post in its entirety):
Have you heard about the “National Day of Action to Reclaim the Promise of Public Education” on December 9th? Here in Boston, there will be a town hall meeting hosted by students, families, educators, labor and community members. This is part of a national event and is evidence of the growing voice of resistance to the current trends of corporate-driven education reform. From the press release:
“On December 9th parents, students, educators and community leaders across the country will raise their hands and demand more for America’s children. On the National Day of Action: Raise Your Hand for our Schools and our Solutions communities will demand that those who know students best devise and implement community-driven solutions to tackle the opportunity gaps in American education.
The day of action is an outgrowth of ongoing collaboration among the National Education Association, the American Federation of Teachers, and several key community partners to mobilize support for public education, pushing back against the corporate takeover of our public schools and lifting up the voices of practitioners and communities about what is best for our students.
Together, the groups have developed “The Principles that Unite Us” ( PDF, 898 KB, 4 pgs.)—a common vision for public education. It stands in sharp contrast to the corporate agenda for public schools, market driven reform that attempts to impose a system of winners and losers. More than 100 community groups and unions ( PDF, 23 KB, 1 pg.) have already endorsed the principles.
The National Day of Action—coordinated public actions organized by community and union partners in cities across the country— will be followed by multicity and multistate campaigns and larger actions in the spring.”
On the Education Votes website, there is a toolkit for organizing, and many other resources. This day of action is just a week away – and an excellent chance to join in local actions that are connected to a national movement. Education Votes says:
- We are saying YES to teaching kids to be critical thinkers; NO to teaching them to fill bubble tests.
- We are saying YES to reducing class sizes; NO to cutting school budgets and allowing kids to fall through the cracks.
- We are saying YES to investing in our children’s future; NO to corporate tax breaks and underfunded schools.
- We are saying YES to ensuring every child has a quality teacher; NO to replacing teachers with computer screens and ESPs with private companies.
Find out how you can get involved – and for more information about the Day of Action check out Education Votes.
In New York City parents made this compelling and heart-felt video to tell Mayor-Elect Bill de Balsio their ideas about education and the choosing of the new school chancellor.
Will de Blasio listen?
Back now from Washington, DC and beginning to reflect on all that happened. Here are just a few initial thoughts — and more soon.
There were some encouraging indicators. Quite exciting was the turnout for DEY Senior Adviser Diane Levin’s featured session Beyond Remote-Controlled Childhood: Teaching Young Children in the Media Age. The massive room was filled – the estimate was at least 1,000 people in attendance. Diane explained the many ways in which young children are affected by popular culture and exposure to media. She shared successful strategies for working with children and families. In her speech Diane called for creating schools that take into account who today’s children are – and to much applause she questioned current misguided school reform.
Many thanks to Community Playthings for sponsoring this important session! If you missed the session and want to know more, Diane’s book is available through the NAEYC online bookstore.
Many thanks also to the early childhood teacher activists who joined us at our session Finding Your Voice: Becoming A Teacher Activist, and for our evening meeting at The Henley Park Hotel. You shared your stories and your ideas – and we learned as much from you as you (hopefully!) learned from us. It was encouraging to finally meet many of you in person, after having met only online until now. DEY will be working to follow up on the ideas shared, and so please stay tuned.
In the opening session it was heartening to hear NAEYC’s new executive director Rhian Evans Allvin encourage attendees to go out and vote. Democrats, Republicans, Independents, Green Party…whatever your political inclination is: vote! Voting is one way for early childhood educators to use their voices. As this new bill, the Strong Start for America’s Children Act gains traction, it will be our voices that help to keep what is best for children at the center.
Finally, although I wasn’t able to attend the session, I heard great things about a reflection on advocacy from folks who have been working for high-quality early childhood education for decades – folks like Joan Lombardi and Marcy Whitebook.
Those are a few initial reflections…more will be forthcoming. Please feel free to add your own reflections and/or questions…
Friday evening: DEY will be hosting a gathering for teacher-activists 6:00 – 7:30 pm at the Henley Park Hotel, 926 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, DC – just one block from the convention center. See flier here. Please RSVP to email@example.com.
In the exhibit hall: Booth #935 with Hugh Hanley Circle of Song and TRUCE (Teachers Resisting Unhealthy Children’s Entertainment). Stop by and introduce yourself. Check out DEY materials, TRUCE materials, and with great songs for young children from our dear friend Hugh Hanley!
The momentum of resistance to the Common Core State Standards and high-stakes testing is growing, as we highlighted in a recent DEY blog post. We urge you to share Early Learning: This is Not a Test far and wide as resistance continues to build.
Earlier this week DEY’s Senior Adviser Diane Levin published the piece Media Literacy for Young Children: Essential for School Success in Today’s World in her education blog at the Huffington Post. Levin describes why she testified before the Massachusetts Legislature’s House-Senate Joint Committee on Education in favor of media education for all children in the state. Levin has been looking closely for decades at media’s impact on children’s lives. Her writings and research on the topic are extensive. Her new book Beyond Remote Controlled Childhood: Teaching Young Children in the Media Age (NAEYC, 2013) is a much-needed resource for teachers who are seeking ways to support children (and families) whose lives and learning have been impacted by today’s media-saturated world.
This issue speaks directly to DEY’s concerns about the loss of play as well as the increase in scripted curricula and testing in early childhood classrooms. Levin writes:
“If passed, Massachusetts will become the first state in the country with the wisdom and foresight to remove the blinders that most of today’s policymakers and educators are wearing as they fail to take into account the impact of media and technology on children’s optimal development and learning in their more and more narrowly-scripted educational mandates in schools.”
“Technology is affecting most aspects of children’s lives. I have used the term Remote-Controlled Childhood to capture the fact that more and more of children’s time, ideas and behavior are controlled and conditioned by what they see and do on screens–by following programs created by someone else. The more educators understand and work to counteract the resulting remote-controlled learning and behavior, the more successful they will be at promoting optimal learning in children.”
Today we share more examples of resistance to the current education “reform” movement…
In New York City, parents at the Castle Bridge School organized a successful boycott of a new standardized test for the K – 2 students at their school. Principal Julie Zuckerman supported the parents and cancelled the test when 90% of the parents opted out. Learn more here from this video from The Real News.
Award-winning principal Carol Burris of New York has written an eloquent piece in Valerie Strauss’ The Answer Sheet: A ridiculous Common Core test for first graders. Burris reports that NYSUT (New York State United Teachers) has called for a three year moratorium on high-stakes consequences of testing.
Activists and the Media Mobilizing Project TV in Philadelphia, PA have produced the video Our Schools Are Not For Sale. “This is the story of Philadelphia’s teachers, parents, students, and communities who are fighting for public schools that are well-resourced, high-quality and available to all. Watch how local communities are responding to a year of unprecedented attacks, including the closing of 24 schools, layoffs of hundreds of teachers and counselors, and the elimination of school libraries, art, music, and sports programs.”
The Badass Teacher Association (BATs) – which formed just a few months ago – already has almost 32,000 members on Facebook. “MISSION: Badass Teachers Association was created to give voice to every teacher who refuses to be blamed for the failure of our society to erase poverty and inequality through education. BAT members refuse to accept assessments, tests and evaluations created and imposed by corporate driven entities that have contempt for authentic teaching and learning. GOALS: BATs aim to reduce or eliminate the use of high stakes testing, increase teacher autonomy in the classroom and work to include teacher and family voices in legislative decision-making processes that affect students.”
What other examples of resistance are happening in your area?! Please share.
Are you concerned about the current direction of early childhood education policy in our country?
Are you worried about the lasting negative effects that come from the loss of child-directed, hands-on play?
We are, too!
We are working to identify, connect and strengthen our coalition of early childhood activists.
DEY will be hosting a gathering for early childhood teacher-activists on Friday, November 22nd, 6:00 pm – 7:30 pm at the Henley Park Hotel, 926 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, DC. The gathering will be a follow-up to DEY’s session Finding Your Voice: Becoming a Teacher-Activist (Friday, 11/22/13, 3:00 – 4:30 pm in Room 101 at the Convention Center) at NAEYC’s Annual Conference.
Our goal is to connect teachers who are looking to promote quality early childhood policies in their school, local community, state and nationwide. We will have a structured conversation aimed at defining ways to strengthen our network of early childhood teacher-activists and developing a shared voice. If you are attending NAEYC’s Annual Conference, or will be in the area, please join us. Please RSVP to me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please share this flier with anyone who might be interested!
This piece was written by our colleague Blakely Bundy. Bundy is the Outgoing Executive Director of The Alliance for Early Childhood, based on the North Shore of Chicago. We share her story here as an illustration of what is happening in too many kindergarten classrooms across our country.
A Grandmother’s Story about the Impact of Today’s Kindergarten on One Little Boy
I wanted to relate my “tale of woe” about my grandson’s experience in kindergarten this fall. I will call him William. I know that it’s a common story now, but this is a first for me on a personal level. Aside from being William’s grandmother, I am a former teacher and have been involved as an early childhood professional in several different capacities for my entire career.
Over the summer, my daughter and her family moved from Winnetka, IL, a progressive school district on the North Shore of Chicago, to a town on the East Coast. They chose that town after doing quite a bit of research on the schools and I even accompanied them and talked to teachers and administrators in three of the communities that they were considering. We thought that the town they chose was the most similar to the school system they had just left.
William, a third child with two older sisters, had had a happy, fulfilling experience at Willow Wood Preschool in Winnetka , a half-day (afternoon), play-based, NAEYC accredited program (where I had actually taught for 10 years in the 80s and early 90s). He had eagerly looked forward to going to kindergarten at Hubbard Woods School, his sisters’ beloved elementary school, which has a half-day, play-based kindergarten, with a long history of a progressive, child-centered philosophy that has survived since it was put in place in the 1920s. In our area, under the umbrella of The Alliance for Early Childhood, there are articulation meetings between the preschools and the area kindergartens each year and the message is loud and clear that the kindergartens have no academic expectations for their incoming students but hope for some social and emotional indications that children are ready for kindergarten (sitting still to hear a story, love of books, ability to wait and take turns, etc.).
The first clue that the new school was going to be different was when we learned that the first day of kindergarten would be a full day, 9 am to 3:15 pm, with no time or plans for transition beyond a reception for families in the kindergarten room two days before. The second indication was the set-up of the classroom and, while there were blocks and a small housekeeping corner, there were also a lot of folders with the kids’ names of them for “reading,” “math,” and other academic indications and posted class schedules that indicated a lot of “work” and not much play.
My daughter expressed concern to the kindergarten teacher about the lack of a transition plan and the long first day (and the teacher completely agreed, but could do nothing about it). William went off like a trooper. After a long six and a quarter hours of waiting to see how it had gone, William and his classmates marched out to the pick-up spot at the front of the school (no parents allowed into the school) or, I should say, “dragged” out. I’ve never seen so many exhausted kindergartners in my life (and all with the required large backpacks on their backs)! The next two days, William went off to school somewhat reluctantly. Though teary, the teacher emailed my daughter that he had recovered enough to participate in some of the activities, including some table work. By the fourth day, William wasn’t sure that he wanted to go back to school. There were emails from his teacher and the social worker and the social worker met us at the front door and escorted William to class. (Again, no parents allowed in).
Later that day, my daughter and I met with William’s teacher and the school social worker to brainstorm how to proceed. Calling on my many years as a teacher and early childhood professional, I suggested going back to transition procedures you might use with younger children, i.e., mom in the classroom and engaged with her child the first day; mom in the classroom but “busy” with a book or helping the teacher the second day; mom in and out of the classroom the 3rd day, etc. Alas, both because of school procedures and the fact that they already knew that it was a challenging class with many crying children who would all want their mothers, that plan was vetoed, although, again, William’s teacher was sympathetic and truly wanted to do what was best for William. We also learned that they had done an “informal” evaluation of William’s academic abilities and that he was “low.” William reported that he hated the table tasks and said to us that he “couldn’t do them” and that they were “hard.”
By the way, this is a little boy who can spend hours creating elaborate block and Lego structures, inventing scenarios for his cars and trucks, which all have names and personalities. Also, his fine motor skills are ahead of many five year old boys, as he observes and copies his sisters’ drawings. On the other hand, he is not as interested in spending a great deal of time on art projects and drawing and has not indicated an interest in learning letters and numbers yet, although he adores being read to and has a long attention span for some fairly sophisticated books, including those of his sisters.
On the fifth day of kindergarten, William locked himself in his room and refused to go to school. I raced over to their house to help my daughter. I was able to get into William’s room, but, by then, he was hiding under his bed and refused to come out. I tried to talk him out, but he wouldn’t budge. The school’s social worker arrived downstairs but my daughter wisely decided that she needed to keep “school” out of William’s safe home and the social worker departed. It’s then that we decided that we needed to find a different school for William. We knew that this was not going to work!
My daughter had asked other moms and had learned that people have dealt with the highly academic kindergarten in this town in two ways. Those who can afford it, send their children to an extra year of preschool. Those who can’t send them to two years of (free) kindergarten. At the open house that we attended, many of the boys were a head taller than William and, of course, had been “redshirted.”
We asked around and got some wise advice from a helpful early childhood colleague who happened to live in the town. She knew all about the highly academic kindergarten and mentioned that she had stopped teaching kindergarten in a neighboring town for just that reason. We eventually found a nearby preschool program with a young 5s class, which would help William with transition and also had room for him. Although that school is play-based and child-centered in their philosophy, it introduces some more academic tasks during the school year to prepare children for what’s ahead when they enter the public kindergarten.
I often say that schools in Winnetka and surrounding communities are like an “island” in a “sea” of over-tested, push-down academics and this story certainly illustrates that fact. I wanted to tell this story as one more indication of what is happening in kindergartens throughout the country. We must keep fighting and educating and working on making changes! And I understand more than ever– now on a personal level– how vitally important this work is and how many hundreds of thousands of “Williams” there are who are impacted by what’s going on in our nation’s too academic kindergartens –and who may not have families able advocate for them.