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!

Advocating for Play at School and at Home

YC0514_CoverIn the current edition of Young Child, published by NAEYC, DEY’s Diane E. Levin offers the following advice to parents:

Memo to: All Families of Young Children

From: Diane E. Levin

Date: May 2014

Subject: Advocating for Play at School and at Home

Play is essential for children’s optimal development and learning.  Through play, children use what they already know to help them figure out new things, see how they work, and master skills.  As they do this, children add new social, emotional, and intellectual knowledge and skills to what they already know.  They experience the satisfaction that comes from working things out and solving problems on their own.  They think and sometimes say out loud, “I can do it!”  This is the kind of learning through play that prepares children to feel confident in themselves as learners who see new information and ideas as interesting problems to be solved.

However, all play is not the same and today several forces can endanger quality play.  First, many of today’s toys are linked to what children see in movies and on television.  These media experiences channel children into imitating what they see on screens instead of creating their own play.  Second, the use of electronic media takes young children away from play and can make their child-created play seem boring.  Finally, growing pressure to teach academic skills at younger and younger ages takes time and resources away from the quality, teacher-facilitated play that young children need in preschool and kindergarten.

I encourage you to learn about the ways child-created active play supports learning and to advocate for play and encourage it at home.  Play will give your children a foundation for positive social and emotional health as well as later academic success in school.

ParentsAdvocatingForPlay.YoungCh.Levin- (2)

 

 

 

Common Core and Kindergarten Boys

The Gesell Institute of Child Development is known as the oldest voice in child development on our country and they are deeply concerned about the Common Core’s affect on young children. In fact, this week the Executive Director Marcy Guddemi wrote specifically about young boys:

“Kindergarten is such an important time in the academic career of the child.  In Kindergarten, children first learn what school is all about.  School requires new rules, new expectations, new routines, new materials, and much more independence.  The ratio of adults to children has changed.  The number of children in the classroom has also changed.  A mother told me just recently that her Kindergarten child was in a room with 31 children and one teacher.  Kindergarten, however, teaches the skills which are the foundation for future academic learning.  Kindergarten also shapes the attitude that a child has about school and about him/herself as a learner.

So, with mounting new evidence that girls differ from boys both developmentally and academically at Kindergarten entrance, the fact that the chronological age range of children entering Kindergarten can be anywhere from 4 ½ years to 6, and with what we know about how children learn and development, the Kindergarten Common Core State Standards need to be reexamined—not only or especially for boys but for all children.  Achievable standards empower students and teachers, but developmentally inappropriate ones discriminate against and destroy the social and emotional development of Kindergarten students.”

Read the full post here.

photo 2For parents who are trying to understand what is happening with the Common Core State Standards in early childhood classrooms across the country, we have created What Parents Need to Know (a version of the longer document, Common 6 Reasons to Reject the Common Core for K – Grade 3 and 6 Principles to Guide Policy). We have updated our new DEY Mobilizing Kit to include What Parents Need to Know. Please read and share!

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

6 Reasons to Reject Common Core State Standards for K – Grade 3 and 6 Principles to Guide Policy

With the spring testing season heavily upon us, DEY has a new document which we believe will help teachers and parents understand why the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are inappropriate for Kindergarten – 3rd Grade. It will also help teachers and parents advocate against the CCSS – and for policies and classroom practices that will best meet the needs of young children. Please download and share our *NEW* 6 Reasons to Reject Common Core State Standards for K – Grade 3 and 6 Principles to Guide Policy. (Click here for Common Core color pdf or Common Core black and white pdf.) 

DEYMobilizationKitWe are also very excited to announce our *NEW* DEY Mobilizing Kit which includes ideas for planning and hosting an information meeting – including a DEY Power Point Presentation presentation outlining the issues. The PowerPoint is also here on YouTube. If you are interested in hosting a meeting or other action (such as a letter writing campaign), keep in mind that DEY offers Action Mini Grants to help.

 

6 Reasons to Reject CCSS for K – Grade 3

 

1.  Many of the Kindergarten – 3rd Grade CCSS are developmentally inappropriate, and are not based on well-researched child development knowledge about how young children learn. 1, 2

The CCSS for young children were developed by mapping backwards from what is required at high school graduation to the early years.  This has led to standards that:

  • list discrete skills, facts and knowledge that do not match how young children develop, think or learn;
  • require young children to learn facts and skills for which they are not ready;
  • are often taught by teacher-led, didactic instruction instead of the experiential, play-based activities and learning young children need; 1, 2, 12
  • devalue the whole child and the importance of social-emotional development, play, art, music, science and physical development.

 

An example of a developmentally inappropriate Common Core standard for kindergarten is one that requires children to “read emergent reader texts with purpose and understanding.”  Many young children are not developmentally ready to read in kindergarten and there is no research to support teaching reading in kindergarten. There is no research showing long-term advantages to reading at 5 compared to reading at 6 or 7.6

 

2.  Many of the skills mandated by the CCSS erroneously assume that all children develop and learn skills at the same rate and in the same way.

 

Decades of child development research and theory from many disciplines (cognitive and developmental psychology, neuroscience, medicine and education) show how children progress at different rates and in different ways.

 

For example, the average age that children start walking is 12 months.  Some children begin walking as early as 9 months and others not until 15 months – and all of this falls within a normal range. Early walkers are not better walkers than later walkers. A second example is that the average age at which children learn to read independently is 6.5 years.  Some begin as early as 4 years and some not until age 7 or later – and all of this falls within the normal range.5 Research has shown that children who score well on early intelligence tests have only a 40% correlation with later achievement tests results3 and that one-third of the brightest incoming third graders score below average prior to kindergarten.4

 

The CCSS are measured using frequent and inappropriate assessments – this includes high-stakes tests, standardized tests and computer-administered assessments. States are required to use computer-based tests (such as PARCC) to assess CCSS. This is leading to mandated computer use at an early age and the misallocation of funds to purchase computers and networking systems in school districts that are already underfunded.

 

3.  Early childhood educators did not participate in the development of the standards.

 

The CCSS do not comply with the internationally and nationally recognized protocol for writing professional standards.  They were written without due process, transparency, or participation by knowledgeable parties.  Two committees made up of 135 people wrote the standards – and not one of them was a K-3 classroom teacher or early childhood education professional.  When the CCSS were first released, more than 500 early childhood professionals signed a Joint Statement opposing the standards on the grounds that they would lead to long hours of direct instruction; more standardized testing; and would crowd out highly important active, play-based learning.  All of this has come to pass. Notably, this important Joint Statement was not even reported in the “summary of public feedback” posted on the Core Standards website. 11

 

  1.   There is a lack of research to support the current early childhood CCSS.  The standards were not pilot tested and there is no provision for ongoing research or review of their impact on children and on early childhood education.

 

The CCSS do not build on what is known from earlier long-term studies such as the Perry Preschool Project, the Abecedarian Project, the Abbott Schools of NJ, or Chicago Parent Child Centers which demonstrate what works for young children.7, 10 There is no convincing research showing that certain skills or bits of knowledge such as counting to 100 in kindergarten or being able to “tell and write time in hours and half-hours using analog and digital clocks in first grade” will lead to later success in school.

There was no research on how to effectively train teachers on implementing the CCSS.

 

5.  The standards do not take into account what young children today need when they get to school.  Children need play in school now more than ever. They need teachers who are skilled facilitators of play so the solid foundations can be laid in the early school years for optimal learning in the later years.

 

Many of today’s children are over-exposed to electronics and screens.14 Many of them  are overly scheduled and lack opportunities for sustained, unstructured, free play and especially outdoor/nature play.8, 9, 14  These conditions have led to reduced play opportunities for many children, which has in turn led to deficiencies in many of the essential foundational skills that develop through play: executive functioning, self-control, persistence, creativity, problem-solving, flexibility, attention span, and ability to call on stored knowledge when needed.15, 16, 17

 

6. The adoption of CCSS falsely implies that making children learn these standards will combat the impact of poverty on development and learning, and create equal educational opportunity for all children.

 

The U.S. is the wealthiest nation in the world and has the highest child poverty rate among industrialized nations.18 Corporate-style reformers would have us believe that we can solve the problem of poverty by mandating the teaching of basic skills in our nation’s schools. But schools cannot solve all of the problems created by societal factors that exist outside of school walls. While we do not have all the answers, years of research tell us that schools, while important, cannot solve all the disadvantages created by poverty.19  In fact, during the last decade of “education reform” – increased standards and testing, more accountability and data gathering – the inequalities in our education system have increased24 and the child poverty rate has grown.25

 

6 Principles to Guide Policy

1.  Young children learn through active, direct experiences and play.20

 

Young children learn best through active learning experiences within meaningful contexts.  They need materials that can be used in multiple ways and allow for hands-on exploration and problem solving. They need dynamic, ongoing relationships with teachers who understand child development, can build onto and extend their hands-on activities, and provide well-thought out educational experiences that demonstrate knowledge of and respect for each child. The teachers must be able to create time in the schedule to promote these active experiences between children, as peer interactions play a crucial role in cognitive learning and social-emotional development.

 

2.  Children learn skills and concepts at different times, rates, and paces.  Every child is unique.5, 26

 

Every child possesses a unique personality, temperament, family relationship and cultural background. Each has different interests, experiences and approaches to learning. Each child perceives and approaches the world differently, often taking different routes to reach the same ends. Thus, all children need learning experiences that take into account, support and build onto who they are as individuals.

 

3.  Young children learn best when their cognitive, social, emotional, and physical selves become highly engaged in the learning process. 

 

Active learning experiences and play engage multiple aspects of the child’s capacities simultaneously. A curriculum focused on academic standards and goals compartmentalizes learning in ways that are not natural for young children. Hands-on, play-based, experiential learning engages the whole child and strengthens and supports young children’s intellectual dispositions and their innate thirst for better, fuller, and deeper understanding of their own experiences. 27

 

4.  Assessments of young children should be observational in nature, ongoing, and connected to curriculum and teaching.  They should take into account the broad-based nature of young children’s learning, not isolated skills, and the natural developmental variation in all areas of young children’s growth and development.

 

Assessment methods should be developmentally appropriate, culturally and linguistically responsive, tied to children’s daily activities, supported by professional development, inclusive of families, and connected to specific, beneficial purposes: (1) making sound decisions about teaching and learning, (2) identifying concerns that may require focused intervention for individual children, and (3) helping programs improve their educational and developmental interventions.21

 

Assessments in early childhood should be as infrequent as possible to maintain high program quality.  Standardized tests are highly unreliable for children younger than 3rd grade and should not be used in early childhood settings.10, 13, 28 The linking of test scores to teacher evaluation or to program evaluation leads to an increase in standards and test-based instruction, and less developmentally appropriate play-based, experiential education.  Administrators need to emphasize quality educational experiences and teaching, not test scores in the early years.10

 

5. The problems of inequality and child poverty need to be addressed directly.

 

Almost one quarter of our nation’s children live in poverty.18 We need to do what other developed nations do which is to ensure that all of their children have health care, housing, and basic needs met for economic security and well being. Then we must fund our schools equitably, by giving more money to the schools and students where needs are greatest, which are most commonly schools in low-income neighborhoods. Educational funds should not be distributed to states based on their acceptance of specific education reforms, such as we have seen in the last decade. If we begin to redress some of the profound inequalities that exist for children in the U.S. today, this will be the surest way to genuinely improve schools and overall well-being and success for all of the nation’s children.

 

6.  Quality early childhood education with well-prepared teachers is the best investment a society can make in its future.

 

Research shows that early childhood education enhances the life prospects of children and has a high benefit-cost ratio and rate of return for society’s investment. The Perry Preschool Project, a major longitudinal study of a quality preschool education program, showed that investment in high-quality preschool education improved the lives of those who were in the program and paid handsome returns to society. Building a strong foundation for learning in the early years is especially crucial for disadvantaged children.22

 

The United States ranks twenty-fourth among wealthy nations in providing availability and quality of early childhood education.23 Committing to high quality early childhood education with well-prepared teachers is a crucial first step our nation can take in reducing the achievement gaps between rich and poor children and improving the lives of children.

 

1 Copple, C., & Bredekamp, S. (2009). Developmentally appropriate practice in early childhood programs: Serving children from birth through age 8. Washington, DC: National Association for the Education of Young Children.

2 Miller, E., & Almon, J. (2009). Crisis in the kindergarten: Why children need to play in school. College Park, MD: Alliance for Childhood.

3 Bronson, P. & Merryman, A. (2009). NutureShock. New York City: 12 Book Press. (pp. 99-100.)

4 Bronson, P. & Merryman, A. (2009). (p. 101)

5 Gesell Institute of Child Development. (2012). Gesell developmental observation-revised and Gesell early screener technical report ages 3-6. New Haven, CT: Gesell Institute of Child Development. Retrieved September 17, 2013 from http://www.gesellinstitute.org.

6 Almon, J. (2013, Fall). Reading at five: Why? SEEN Magazine, 24-25.

7 Guddemi, M., & Zigler, E. (2011). Children and schools: We know what to do, now let’s do it! [PDF].Community Early Childhood LEADership E-Kit [CD-ROM]. New Haven, CT: Gesell Institute of Child Development.

8 Frost, J. (2010).  A history of play and play environments.  New York City:  Routledge.

9 Brown, S. (2009).  Play: How it shapes the brain, opens the imagination, and invigorates the soul.   New York City:  Avery.

10 Gesell Institute of Child Development (2011).  Community Early Childhood LEADership E-Kit [CD-ROM]. New Haven, CT: Author.

11 Miller, E and Carlsson-Paige, N. (January 29, 2013).  A tough critique of Common Core on early childhood education. Washington Post. Retrieved from http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/01/29/a-tough-critique-of-common-core-on-early-childhood-education/

12 Hirsch-Pasek, K. & Golinkoff, R. (2003).  Einstein never used flash cards.  New York City:  Rodale.

13 Kim, J., & Suen, H. K. (2003). Predicting children’s academic achievement from early assessment scores: A validity generalization study. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 18(4), 547-566.

14 Levin, D. (2013). Beyond remote controlled childhood. Washington, DC: National Association for the Education of Young Children.

15 Moffitt, T.E.; Arseneault, L.; Belsky, D.; Dickson, N.; Hancox, R.J.; Harrington, H.; Houts, R.; Poulton, R.; Roberts, B.W.; Ross, S.; Sears, M.R.; Thomson, WM.; & Caspi, A. (2011).  A gradient of childhood self-control predicts health, wealth, and public safety.  Proceedings National Academy of Sciences, 108(7), 2693-2698.

16 Leong, D. J., & Bodrova, E. (2012). Assessing and scaffolding: Make-believe play. Young Children, 67(1), 28-34.

17 Tough, P. (2012). How children succeed: Grit, curiosity, and the hidden power of character. New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

18 UNICEF Office of Research (2013). ‘Child Well-being in Rich Countries: A comparative overview’, Innocenti Report Card 11, UNICEF Office of Research, Florence.

19 L. J. Schweinhart, J. Montie, Z. Xiang,W. S. Barnett, C. R. Belfield, & M. Nores. (2004). Lifetime Effects: The High/Scope Perry Preschool Study Through Age 40. Michigan: HighScope Press.

20 Singer, D., Golinkoff, R. & Hirsh – Pasek. (Eds.). (2006). Play=learning: how play motivates and enhances children’s cognitive and social-emotional growth. New York: Oxford University Press.

21 NAEYC & NAECS/SDE. (2003). Early childhood curriculum and program evaluation. Joint Position Statement, 2.

22 Heckman, James. (2008).“Schools, Skills, and Synapses,” NBER working paper 14064, http://www.nber.org/papers/w14064.pdf.

23 Economist Intelligence Unit. (2012). Starting well. Benchmarking early education

across the world. London: The Economist.

24 Karp, S. (January 23, 2013). The coming Common Core meltdown. Washington Post. Retrieved from http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/01/23/the-coming-common-core-meltdown/

25 Gabe, T. (2013). Poverty in the United States: 2012. Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service. Retrieved from https://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/RL33069.pdf

26 Zigler, E., Singer, D., Bishop-Josef, S. (2004).  Children’s play:  The roots of reading.   Washington, DC.:  Zero to Three Press.

27 Katz, L. (2012). Standards of Experience. Retrieved from www.communityplaythings.com/resources/articles/2010/standards-of-experience

28 Duncan, G.J. et al. (2007).  School readiness and later achievement. Developmental Psychology, 43(6), 1428-1446.

Kindergarten teacher resigns over too much testing – and the TODAY show pays attention!

teacherquitsA powerful story got some much-needed attention this week. Susan Sluyter, a veteran kindergarten teacher based in Cambridge, MA, had her resignation letter posted by Valerie Strauss at The Washington Post’s education blog, The Answer Sheet: Kindergarten teacher: My job is now about tests and data — not children. I quit.

In her resignation letter submitted last month, Sluyter wrote,

“I have watched as my job requirements swung away from a focus on the children, their individual learning styles, emotional needs, and their individual families, interests and strengths to a focus on testing, assessing, and scoring young children, thereby ramping up the academic demands and pressures on them. 

“Each year, I have been required to spend more time attending classes and workshops to learn about new academic demands that smack of 1st and 2nd grade, instead of kindergarten and PreK.  I have needed to schedule and attend more and more meetings about increasingly extreme behaviors and emotional needs of children in my classroom; I recognize many of these behaviors as children shouting out to the adults in their world, ‘I can’t do this!  Look at me!  Know me!  Help me!  See me!’ “

Garnering over 500 comments at The Answer Sheet, it is obvious that Sluyter has struck a nerve. And on Wednesday, the TODAY Show invited Sluyter on to tell her story. Interestingly, the TODAY Show, in conjunction with this story, posted a poll on their Facebook page and their Facebook page “exploded”. The question asked was, “Do you think standardized tests are the best way for kids to learn?” The results were clear: 5,692 people answered, “No” and only 41 answered, “Yes”.
TODAY show pollNext time, perhaps TODAY will invite Diane Ravitch instead of Michelle Rhee for the follow up Q & A – though very glad Michelle Rhee got to see those poll results!

Opting out of high-stakes testing in Massachusetts

Massachusetts public school parent Ricardo D. Rosa has publicly opted his child out of high-stakes testing. His letter to the New Bedford school board and superintendent has been posted by Valerie Strauss in her blog “The Answer Sheet” at the Washington Post. Rosa’s letter may inspire others to join him in opting out. Here is a snippet:

“…our continuous focus on scoring well evades more important public dialogue about funding inequities and the root cause of educational disengagement – poverty. Allowing testing corporations to continue reaping billions of dollars in profit from public education only exacerbates the problem. Any administrator, school committee member, or school functionary still standing before students, teachers, and families touting the virtues of high-stakes testing should be ashamed. And, if you know that it’s wrong but remain silent, you’re complicit in educational malpractice.

“Furthermore, subjecting English Language Learners to the MCAS and the PARCC after only having been in the country for one year is immoral. Emergent bilingual students are 9 times more likely to drop out of high school than their peers. These tests are part of the problem. In addition, a high percentage of students with disabilities are not meeting graduation requirements as a result of these tests.”

Rosa encourages everyone to “read the Massachusetts Statement Against High-Stakes Testing  endorsed by countless professors in the state, myself included. As MCAS is imposed on our schools next week and the rest of the school year, I encourage parents to write letters opting students out and requesting an in-school alternative to high-stakes testing. If we’re truly interested in ending bullying in schools, let’s end the bullying of high stakes testing. If families really have a ‘choice,’ they must be allowed to exercise the choice to opt-out.”

We urge you to read the entire letter here.

Rosa invites parents to join him for a forum and community dialogue on high-stakes testing and opting-out at 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday, April 9 at Whaling National Historical Park Museum, 33 Williams St., New Bedford, MA. And he invites you to join the S.E. MA and RI Coalition to Save Our Schools to continue the dialogue and organization to reclaim public education in the interest of all families.

For more information you can write to ricardorosa1973@yahoo.com or cheoso@verizon.net or visit Facebook.com/SouthEastMARIOptOut.

NPE Conference will livestream from Austin, TX this weekend!

NPElogoNPEconferenceThis Saturday and Sunday (March 1st and 2nd) hundreds of teachers, parents, students and activists will gather in Austin, Texas for the first-ever conference by the Network for Public Education. The Network for Public Education, founded by Diane Ravitch and Anthony Cody, is “an advocacy group whose goal is to fight to protect, preserve and strengthen our public school system, an essential institution in a democratic society. Our mission is to protect, preserve, promote, and strengthen public schools and the education of current and future generations of students.” (quoted from the NPE website)

This national event will be an amazing opportunity to hear and learn from activists from around the country. Registration is full, however the keynote addresses and select panels/workshops will be livestreamed!  Livestreamed sessions will include Deborah Meier (DEY National Advisory Board member) and Geralyn Bywater McLaughlin (DEY Director). You can also follow the conference on Twitter with the hashtag #npeconference.

The conference will begin at 8:30 am Austin time, which is 9:30 am Eastern. NPE hopes to livestream from the start, but some portions of the conference may be delayed, because of their location.

These are the sessions NPE plans to livestream:

Saturday, Mar. 1

1. 9:15 to 10:30 am
Educators Organizing Resistance: Deb Meier, Jesse Hagopian, Karen Lewis, Katie Osgood and Bob Peterson.

2. 10:45 am to 12:00 pm
Student Organizing: Moderator: Jose Vilson; Panelists: Hannah Nguyen, Israel Munoz, Stephanie Rivera, Bryan Varela, Mayra Mostafa

3. 1:00 to 2:15 pm: Keynotes by John Kuhn and Karen Lewis

4. 2:30 to 3:45 pm: Research and Activism: Moderator: Julian Vasquez Heilig; Panelists: Kevin Welner, Tina Trujillo, Kevin Foster, Sonya Horford

5. 4:00 to 5:15 pm: Opting Out
Panelists: Peggy Robertson, Jesse Hagopian, Dora Taylor

Sunday, Mar. 2

1. 9:00 to 10:30 am:  Common Core Panel:  Paul Horton, Geralyn McLaughlin, Mercedes Schneider, Jose Luis Vilson, Randi Weingarten

2. 10:30 am to Noon: Keynote by Diane Ravitch.

3. 1:00 to 2:15 pm:  TFA
Moderator: Julian Vasquez Heilig; Panelists: Sarah Ishmael, Kerry Kretchmar, Camika Royal, Beth Sondel, Chad Sommer