DEYs’ 2nd Annual Organizing Meeting – Friday 11/7 in Dallas, TX

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Calling all early childhood activists!!

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! Come learn about our Action Mini Grants, Mobilization Kit and more!

Join us for our 2nd Annual 

Organizing Meeting!

We are working to identify, connect and strengthen our coalition of early childhood activists.

FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 7th, 6 -7:30 pm at the Aloft Hotel, 1033 Young Street, Dallas TX

Light refreshments will be served. 

Click here to register!

Guest Post and Action Mini Grant update – Play is the thing!

Thanks to play advocate Sarah Lahm for this guest post! Sarah joined other pay advocates in Minneapolis to advocate for playful learning and recess in school. Read their story here…

Play is the thing.

This little adaptation of the old Shakespeare quote from Hamlet—“…the play’s the thing/wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the King”—has been popping up in my mind for months now, ever since my Minneapolis-based organization, ACT for Education, was lucky enough to receive a mini-grant from Defending the Early Years.

In Shakespeare’s famous play, Hamlet decides to use the structure of a play, through some carefully placed lines, to prove that his uncle, King Claudius, murdered his father. Can we, as co-defenders of the early years, steal Hamlet’s idea, and modify it a bit? Can we use play itself to “catch the conscience” of those who create and implement current education policy, and remind them that children, and especially young children, learn best through play?
playflyerThat was the hope of ACT for Education when, with the help of our DEY grant, we planned a community event around the idea that “early play=later academic success.” While I initiated the DEY grant application, I must say that my friend and fellow play advocate Kori Hennessey planned most of the actual event. She was instrumental in naming our event, so that it would clearly connect play to academic success, and in inviting an excellent panel of early childhood and primary teachers to share their wisdom and experience about the importance of play.

We held the event at a neighborhood community center and spread the word through a flyer, word of mouth, and Facebook. We had four teachers on our panel—three preschool and one early primary—and we also had a local parent and play expert, Seniz Yargici Lennes, who made the night interactive by offering games and play activities for all the grown-ups, while the children were in another room doing their own active play.

Many people who came seemed to really appreciate being able to play, through the games Play-based 2we did and the homemade playdough Kori made and set out on every table. Participants also enjoyed the way one of our panelists demonstrated the value of an inquiry and discovery-based science environment for young children by having lots of natural materials on a table. While she outlined early child standards, two of Kori’s children played with the rocks, pine cones, and other items, oblivious to the learning objectives they were meeting.

For many of us, this hands-on display showed that children naturally learn while they are playing. This lesson complimented the work of another panelist, who described the changes she was seeing in the early childhood classrooms she works in, where explicit learning targets are being tacked up on every wall and written in to every teacher’s daily objectives.

The overt insistence on meeting certain targets or goals was shown to be impeding what the teachers, and many parents in the room, felt was best: classrooms full of noisy, messy, discovery-based play that was developmentally appropriate.

We were able to attract about 20 people to our evening event, which was less than we had hoped, but something wonderful and unexpected happened that drew many more people to our cause. Just before our event, I created an ACT for Education online petition calling for Thirty Minutes of Recess for Every Child (pre-K-6) in the Minneapolis Public Schools, and it was as popular as recess itself! In just 24 hours, the petition had over 400 signatures; when we delivered it to the Minneapolis school board on October 14, it had almost 800 signatures. This is significant, because, while some students in the district have one hour, total, for lunch and recess, many have a half an hour for both.

recess petition 1With the momentum of the petition behind us, we have a diverse and organized group of parents and community members ready to help push for a recess-based policy change in Minneapolis. Also, because of the resources we pulled together for our “early play” event, we have been able to get people talking about what a developmentally appropriate early childhood education setting should look like.

Now, we are planning a larger play-based learning event for 2015. Hopefully, by then, we will have an assurance from the Minneapolis Public Schools that every child, in every school, will have a guaranteed minimum of thirty minutes of recess every day. Together, I think we can show our policymakers that play—guided but unstructured—is the thing our children need as they carve their own paths forward.

Reminder from DEY – our Action Mini Grants are still available – now is a great to to apply for events in the new year! Find more information and the application in our  Early Childhood Activist Tool Kit.

Countdown to NAEYC’s Annual Conference

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DEY will be presenting and exhibiting at NAEYC’s Annual Conference in Dallas, TX on November 5-8th!  If you are attending, here are some sessions we recommend:

1. Defending the Early Years’ toolkit:  Resources to help you advocate for appropriate practices for young children.  Thursday, 11/6, 10:00 – 11:30 am, Omni Dallas Hotel

2.  Diane Levin’s Beyond Remote-Controlled Teaching & Learning: Reclaiming Early Education from Misguided Academic Mandates, Friday, 11/7, 3:00-4:30 pm, Kay Bailey Hutchinson Convention Center

3. Play, Policy and Practice Panel: The Play Imperative: Why Do All Children Need to Play for Learning and for Success in School?  Friday, 11/7, 8:00-9:30 am, Kay Bailey Hutchinson Convention Center, Room D166, with Jim Johnson, Susan Linn, Joan Almon and Diane Levin

4. DEY’s National Advisory Board Member Constance Kamii will also be presenting on Friday, 11/7, 3:00-4:30 pm at the Kay Bailey Hutchinson Center, Room D162/164

 

And our 2nd Annual Organizing Meeting for Early Childhood Activists! 

Please join us!

During the NAEYC Conference we will be hosting our 2nd annual organizing meeting for early childhood activists on Friday, 11/7, 6:00-7:30 pm at the Aloft Dallas Hotel, 1033 Young Street.  Join some of DEY’s  National Advisory Board in a conversation as we hear about successful Action Mini-Grants and plan next steps.  Light refreshments will be served.  See attached flyer for details.

And…In the exhibit hall – find us at #333 in the booth we share with our friend Hugh Hanley and his Circle of Song. We will be sharing DEY resources for you to take home.

Looking forward to seeing many of you!

NYS Parents Fight to Reclaim Student Education from Excessive Testing and Data Collection

Please see the exciting press release below. Here at DEY we are happy to help spread this news from  New York!

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  September 17, 2014

More information contact:

Eric Mihelbergel (716) 553-1123; nys.allies@gmail.com

Jeanette Deutermann (516) 902-9228; nysallies@gmail.com

NYS Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE) – www.nysape.org

 

NYS Parents Fight to Reclaim Student Education from Excessive Testing and Data Collection:

250,000 High-Stakes Test Boycotts Planned Statewide

Parents throughout the Empire State demand valuable student classroom learning time be returned to their children and that elected state and federal representatives rein in Education Departments obsessed with vast expansion of testing and unauthorized data collection.  New York parents have had enough and declare “No More!”

“In 2014 roughly 60,000 parents boycotted NYS testing.  We believe strongly in appropriate assessment of our children, but the high-stakes nature of testing and unauthorized data collection must stop.  Our children are subjected to a one-size-fits-all system that focuses more on test scores and data collection than on student learning and overall growth.  Parents are committed to a plan for 250,000 students to boycott NYS tests,” says Eric Mihelbergel, Erie County Public School parent and founding member of NYSAPE.

Accelerating dramatically over the past five years, public education is being stripped of quality student-centered learning in order to devote excessive time, money and focus on high-stakes tests that feed corporate and political interests.

NYS parents demand that U.S. Congress, New York State Legislators, and President Obama act immediately to do the following:

  1. Roll-Back Federal/State Annual Testing Requirements from 9 Hours to 3 Hours for Grades 3-8:  Evaluation of a third-grader’s test taking ability can readily be done with 90 minutes of tests in English and Math.  Requiring more testing is simply a mandate to drive profits for technology and data storage companies.
  2. Pass Student Data Privacy Legislation that Requires Parental Consent:  If elite private schools do not educate children through speculative collection of large volumes of student profile data into statewide and national databases shared with multiple government agencies, public school parents don’t want it either.
  3. Remove Student Test Scores From Teacher Evaluations:  There is no evidence that massive student testing and data collection does anything to improve student learning.  Student-score based teacher evaluations are merely a flawed attempt to make shoddy firing practices stand up in court while meaningful student learning time is discarded.
  4. Stop Assaulting Students with Special Needs:  The U.S. Department of Education must be put in its rightful place and stop bullying states into educational practices that are inflexible and do not allow states to address the needs of Special Education students in an appropriate and challenging way meeting their individual needs.
  5. Cease and Desist from All Punitive Actions Against Parent Test Refusals:  Schools should not be punished for supporting the fundamental right of parents to support their child’s education.

“Parent permissions slips are required for a school trip to the police station next door, yet the government collects personal data on children and shares it with private companies and other government agencies without a parent’s knowledge or sign off?  Collection of the most personal student data in national and statewide databases without Parental Consent is an affront to all Americans and our liberty.  Our representatives in Congress need to stand up for parents and strike back against government agencies far too cozy with business interests and profiteers,”   said Lisa Rudley, Westchester County public school parent and founding member of NYSAPE.

“NYS Commissioner of Education John King’s failure to comply with the recent NYS privacy legislation passed in April is unacceptable. In August, NYSAPE along with Class Size Matters sent a letter (http://www.nysape.org/letter-to-king-and-regents-nysed-failed-to-implement-state-law.html) to the Commissioner, the Board of Regents, and elected officials demanding that the New York State Education Department comply with the law. John King’s casual and dismissive attitude towards the law in NY only reinforces the need for strict parental consent legislation,” said Anna Shah, Dutchess County public school parent.

“Parent commitment to restoring quality education in our schools by removing the high-stakes nature of testing is never ending,” says Jeanette Deutermann, Nassau County public school parent and founder of Long Island Opt Out. “We won’t stop until our children’s education system returns to a focus on learning rather than test scores and data collection, and we have a plan to accomplish this.”

On its website, NYSAPE details actions that parents everywhere can participate in to help reach 250,000 boycotts.  These include:  1. Educating the public through continuous informational forums across New York State.  2. Coordinating regional parent liaisons in each school district across the state to lead parents in boycotts in that district.  3. Spreading the word through flyers, PTA groups, lawn signs, bumper stickers, book covers, and local events.

Chris Cerrone, Erie County public school parent, middle school educator, and Springville-Griffith Institute CSD Board Member, says, “We intend to reach out to both state and federal legislators through a tactical campaign.  While we already have many legislators supporting us, we have a plan to help parents across the New York State reach out to legislators specifically asking for their assistance in removing the destructive high-stakes nature of testing from our classrooms.  As state and federal legislators see a substantial increase in test refusals, they will be forced to act or be voted out.”

NYS Allies for Public Education consists of over 50 parent and educator advocacy groups across New York State.  More details about our education positions and advocacy can be found at www.nysape.org.

 

Are the Common Core State Standards failing our kids?

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Please read and share DEY’s feature article, Are the Common Core State Standards failing our kids? in the current issue of Boston Parent’s Paper.

Here is a snippet of our article – which outlines our concerns as well as action steps that parents can take at home and at school:

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Are the Common Core State Standards failing our kids?

by Geralyn McLaughlin, Diane Levin & Nancy Carlsson-Paige

If you are the parent of a young child, chances are you have seen firsthand that kindergarten has changed dramatically since you were young. There has been a well-documented, though highly controversial, push-down of academics into the earlier years. If your child is just now entering school, you may not have experienced this change – though you may have heard much debate about the Common Core State Standards.

Even comedian Louis C.K. added his ideas to the debate when he tweeted, “My kids used to love math. Now it makes them cry. Thanks standardized testing and Common Core!”

Our organization, Defending the Early Years, is deeply concerned about the current direction of early education in the United States. We hear stories all the time from teachers who are struggling to balance the reform mandates with what they know is best for young children. One teacher told us with regret, “I am being forced to shove academics down the throats of 4-, 5- and 6-year-old children. I used to be proud of my teaching – now I feel that I am being forced to do wrong by my students every day.”

Click here to read the full article on the Boston Parents Paper website.

Our article noted some local parent actions that are happening – and we are wondering what actions parents have been taking in your community. We would love to be able to pitch the article to other Parents Papers around the country – with your local examples included. Leave a comment here or contact us at deydirector@gmail.com if you have thoughts about this and want to help us spread the word through the Parents Paper in your community. Thanks!

Peter Gray: The Decline of Play and the Rise of Mental Disorders

GrayScreenshotWe encourage you to take 15 minutes to view this powerful Tedx talk from Dr. Peter Gray. “Dr. Peter Gray compellingly brings attention to the reality that over the past 60 years in the United States there has been a gradual but, overall dramatic decline in children’s freedom to play with other children, without adult direction. Over this same period, there has been a gradual but overall dramatic increase in anxiety, depression, feelings of helplessness, suicide, and narcissism in children and adolescents. Based on his own and others’ research, Dr. Gray documents why free play is essential for children’s healthy social and emotional development and outlines steps through which we can bring free play back to children’s lives.” Be sure to stick through to the end where he offers excellent advice on how to counteract the current trend, including: “We need to be brave enough to stand up against the continuous clamor for more schooling.”

DEY’s Nancy Carlsson-Paige interviewed: Common Core is it ‘Developmentally Inappropriate’?

Yesterday, North Carolina’s public radio station WUNC aired a story by reporter Reema Khrais. In the story Common Core is it ‘Developmentally Inappropriate’? Khrais takes time to dig a little deeper into this current debate.  Khrais interviewed DEY’s Nancy Carlsson-Paige, along with child development expert Sam Meisels and Jere Confrey, a math education professor at NC State who worked on the math Common Core State Standards. Here is a snippet:

“You wouldn’t want to require children to count to 100, which is what one of the standards does, it’s actually ridiculous,” says Nancy Carlsson-Paige, an early education expert at Lesley University.

Carlsson-Paige is referring to a kindergarten math standard requiring children to count to 100 by ones and tens. She says it’s a good example of how the standards for young children are developmentally inappropriate. 

“Counting is something you could memorize. You could just say names, right? But it doesn’t mean you understand numbers,” she says.

Carlsson-Paige argues that some of the standards in the early grades are just too rigid.

“You could say almost silly in the sense that they’re de-contextualized from children and even from understanding child development.”

Without that understanding, she says kids are expected to know things they simply aren’t ready for, which can make them feel “confused, scared or stupid.”

You can hear the whole story on WUNC’s website.  We are thankful to Khrais for digging deeper than other reporters have about the ideas behind the stance that the Common Core State Standards are inappropriate for young children. However there is much more to the debate than can be captured in five minutes. Here are some links to further resources on the subject from DEY’s blog:

Common Core Pushes Abstract Topics Too Early

Common Core and Kindergarten Boys

6 Reasons to Reject the Common Core State Standards for K- Grade 3

And on a related note:

A tough critique of Common Core

Early Learning: This is Not a Test – printed in today’s NY Times!