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.”
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: email@example.com.
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.
” I have a dream. And I hope it is the American Dream that every child deserves a safe and healthy childhood. That every child deserves an equal opportunity for a great education. And I thank all of you for helping to keep this dream alive.”
As we announced earlier this year, Nancy Carlsson-Paige has been honored with a lifetime achievement Bammy award from the Academy of Education Arts and Sciences. The award ceremony was this past Saturday in Washington D.C. “celebrates what is right in American Education”. We are incredibly proud of Nancy, all that she has accomplished, and the powerful words she shared in her acceptance speech. Below you will find a link to video of the awards ceremony and the transcript of the award presentation.
ANNOUNCER: . . . And with that, we’re going to close this evening’s festivities by presenting our three final Bammy awards. Presenting our first Lifetime Achievement Award for the evening is my colleague, my good friend from the early education, and the physical education communities, and co-founder of the BAM Radio Network. A wonderful educator – a terrific person – Rae Pica.
PICA: I have long been a fan of this next honoree – and as someone who has been entrenched in early childhood education for more than 30 years, I am delighted at ECE is so well represented here tonight, and that this special honor is going to this person who is such a fierce defender of early childhood education.
To give you a brief overview of Nancy Carlsson-Paige’s work, I’d like to read you some titles. Her most recent book is called Taking Back Childhood. Her TED talk is called “When Education Goes Wrong: Taking Creativity and Play Out of Learning.” Some of her articles include: “How education policy is harming early childhood education” ; “How corporate education reforms are harming children” ; and “Academic skills- important only if they make us more human”.
When Mitt Romney and Barack Obama were running for president, she urged them to please start over, if they wanted to get early childhood education right.
Did I mention that she’s fierce?
When it comes to fighting back against education reforms that promote standardized testing – and the fight to keep early childhood a sacred time – Nancy does not back down.
But Nancy is also a promoter of peace, at Lesley University where she taught for more than 30 years – where she taught teachers for more than 30 years. She was the founder of the university’s Center for Peaceable Schools. She writes and speaks widely on peace education, conflict resolution, and education policies and practices that promote social justice and children’s well-being.
Nancy is the recipient of many awards, including Peace Educator of The Year; Outstanding Educator of The Year; Family Advocate of The Year. But she’s also famous for turning down an award, based on her principles. I’m delighted that she chose to accept this one, and I am most honored to be the one who presents a Bammy Award for Lifetime Achievement to Nancy Carlsson-Paige.
[applause – Nancy comes to front of stage]
CARLSSON-PAIGE: That was such a beautiful, beautiful appreciation . . . [aside] You hold it [award] for me.
[to audience] I think I didn’t quite take in what it means to get a Lifetime Achievement Award until this moment. Typical of me, actually. But they gave me a minute, instead of two sentences. And I wrote it, and timed it. Ready?
Um – it’s – it’s a great honor. Thank you so much, Rae, for that beautiful description. And thank you, to the Academy of Education, Arts and Sciences, for celebrating educators – and honoring the amazing work that you all do – and all the people who work in our field do.
The good will of this nine-pound award – can I feel it? – I lift weights, but that’s heavy. The good will of this award goes out to all teachers, especially early childhood teachers – too frequently underpaid, undervalued – but you do such important work.
Things are not that good in early childhood education right now. Almost a quarter of our nation’s children suffer the stresses of poverty. We’re the richest country in the world, and we have the highest child poverty rate among advanced nations. That bears repeating. We’re the richest nation in the world, and we have the highest child poverty rate among advanced nations.
Too few children have education at all in the early years. And even fewer have quality education. The standards and the testing and the accountability pressures that have been coming down and imposing on the upper grades have pushed down now to second grade, to first grade, to kindergarten, and even to pre-K.
I’m feeling so bad, because we’re talking about what’s right in education tonight and I’m – I’m not doing that, but – hey – it’s me. We have a much more scripted curriculum in the early years. Much more teacher directed instruction. We are seeing much less active, hands-on, meaningful learning and almost no play. We are seeing a phenomenal disappearance of play in early childhood classrooms. For those of you who know education and child development you I am sure you understand that play is really the cornerstone of understanding in the early years.
My inbox has more and more messages every day from mothers, father, teachers. Just the other day, this is what I saw…
“They’ve eliminated play and recess for first graders and kindergarteners in my child’s school. In kindergarten they are completely scheduled. They have no time to play. My 5-year-old has to eat snack while working at her desk.”
So I have a dream. And I hope it is the American Dream that every child deserves a safe and healthy childhood. That every child deserves an equal opportunity for a great education. And I thank all of you for helping to keep this dream alive. Thank you.
We want to let you know about an exciting project that has just been completed. DEY has collaborated with United Opt Out to produce a fantastic new resource – A Guide for Parents: Advocating for Your Child in the Early Years.
United Opt Out is a nonprofit registered in Florida. It is a group of parents, educators, students and social activists who are dedicated to the elimination of high stakes testing in public education. The guide we collaborated on is part of their “Back-to-School Protest Pack” and is specifically geared to parents of young children who are just entering the public school system.
The guide includes many ideas for what parents can do to advocate for their child in the midst of our current testing mania. Click here to see the guide. Please share it far and wide!
How can teachers protect and promote children’s positive development in today’s media-saturated world? Our own Diane Levin has some powerful ideas on this topic – which she shares in her new book, Beyond Remote-Controlled Childhood: Teaching Young Children in the Media Age. Published by NAEYC (National Association for the Education of Young Children), it is featured as the current Comprehensive Membership book. That means NAEYC is sending the book to over 20,000 members. This is excellent news for our early childhood field.
With the explosion of technology in young children’s lives – both in school and out of school – this book comes at a critical time. As the NAEYC website explains, it aims to help teachers:
- Adapt classroom practice to take into account the realities of remote-controlled childhood- the experiences of today’s connected children
- Counteract the potentially harmful impact media can have on both the process and content of children’s development and learning
- Help children and their families make informed decisions about screen time and media in children’s lives
- Work with families to address the impact of screen media
Here are some reviews:
“Never has it been more urgent for all who are responsible for the care, development, and education of young children, as well as for those involved in creating relevant legislation and regulations, to learn from Diane Levin’s extensive experience and research on media-related issues. This book includes recommendations and suggestions for how teachers and parents can best protect and promote the well-being of all our young children.”
— Lilian Katz, Professor Emerita, University of Illinois
“Diane Levin offers wise and timely advice to early childhood teachers about how to help children get beyond the powerful and pervasive media messages that can lead to remote-controlled childhood. “
— Stephanie Feeney, Professor Emerita, University of Hawaii at Manoa
“As one of the world’s premier experts on children and the media, Diane Levin understands how today’s media culture is impacting children. This book analyzes how all types of media—TV programs, videos, video games, websites, music, advertisements, apps—are affecting children’s lives, including what and how they learn from these experiences, and offers realistic suggestions to teachers and parents for what to do about it.”
—Blakely Bundy, Executive Director, The Alliance for Early Childhood
Many early childhood teachers across the nation are gearing up for the new school year just a few weeks away (even sooner in some parts of the country!). If you are looking for inspiration, there is a great book by Patricia M. Cooper called The Classrooms All Young Children Need: Lessons in Teaching from Vivian Paley (University of Chicago Press, 2011).
Vivian Paley is arguably the best known early childhood educator alive today. The quintessential observer of children, she is reflective and prolific. Paley has written over a dozen books reflecting on her journey as an educator and the craft of teaching young children. Here, Cooper takes a look at the work of Paley, and what we can learn from her experiences. Notably, Cooper also expertly describes the misguided shift in our country from early childhood education to early literacy education.
With The Classrooms All Young Children Need, Cooper inspires (or re-inspires) early childhood educators with what we know is good practice – capturing the stories of young children and bringing these stories to life in the classroom. Literacy begins with language, and imaginative play is where real learning takes place. This book reminds us that not only is it okay, it is in fact essential to stop and listen to young children at play; to take time to observe them closely; to ask questions to extend their thinking. In the current climate of education reform pushing direct instruction at younger and younger ages, The Classrooms All Young Children Need is like oxygen to the suffocating early childhood educator.
This morning, Valerie Strauss posted a DEY op ed on her education blog “The Answer Sheet” at The Washington Post. Our op ed, The disturbing shift underway in early childhood classrooms, takes a close look at the results of our survey of Pre-K to 3rd grade teachers. We are hoping to help spread the word about current education policies and how they are having a negative impact on young children and the teachers who work with them. Please take a few minutes to read the op ed, and then share it far and wide. Thank you!
“The data from this online survey of early childhood educators reveals that teachers of young children in general do not feel that current education policy mandates are benefiting children. Public school teachers expressed concerns in greater numbers than did private school teachers, whose programs are not dependent on federal and state funds that mandate standards, testing, and accountability.”
To read the entire op ed click here.
On Sunday evening, Nancy Carlsson-Paige was the guest on the internet radio show At The Chalk Face talking about assessments, accountability, poverty, play and more. This show was in response to the recent article, Testing 3- and 4- year olds is newest front in Louisiana school accountability. Carlsson-Paige spoke with hosts Tim Skelar and Shaun Johnson, sharing her early childhood expertise and perspective on these critical issues.
During the show, Carlsson-Paige reminds us research has shown that tests on children under the age of eight are unreliable. Also, that assessments are not “inherently bad”. Rather, we need to pay attention to how and why the assessments are being used, who has control over them, whether or not the teachers have had any input on what is being used, and how the results are being used.
“We should start our assessments with what children are interested in - because if we actually want to get a view of what they can do and who they are we really need to tune into them – rather than make them adjust to our narrow little scripts.”
To hear the show in its entirety, click here.