Reading Instruction in Kindergarten: What Will it Cost in the Long Haul?

Reading Instruction in KindergartenThe good news is, Reading Instruction in Kindergarten: Little to Gain and Much to Lose has been getting some positive attention. Our YouTube video outlining our new report has reached almost 30, 000 views. DEY co-authored this piece with the Alliance for Childhood. It has been written about in The Washington Post here, here and here. Our website has had more hits in the last few weeks than we had all last year.

We are thankful that word of our report is spreading – and beginning to make an impact on the current conversation. Below, is an excerpt from DEY’s Senior Adviser Diane Levin’s blog at the Huffington Post, as she reflects on the potential long-term costs of the current misguided focus on early reading instruction:

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Reading Instruction in Kindergarten: What Will it Cost in the Long Haul?

“The young children in today’s early childhood classrooms deserve a chance to develop all of the skills necessary to succeed in school and in life. By focusing so narrowly on developmentally inappropriate academic skills, children are being deprived of the experiences they need to hone self-regulation skills, critical thinking skills, and the love of learning that will truly inspire them to work hard in school for the long haul.”

– Public School Teacher & Parent, Washington, DC

Every time I hear or think about the immediate impact of the mandated Common Core State Standards on the young children of today, I get deeply concerned. Last month, Defending the Early Years and the Alliance for Childhood released the report “Reading Instruction in Kindergarten: Little to Gain and Much to Lose” which provides a research-based case for why teaching reading in kindergarten, as outlined by the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), is inappropriate for young children. And it describes what a developmentally appropriate, play-based kindergarten that lays the foundations for learning to read looks like.

The kinds of issues raised in this report lead to me having a constant voice in my head asking and trying to answer a myriad of questions over and over again about where these misguided school reforms will lead our children, in both the short and the long term. I am also led to ask many questions about what the impact of the current mandates will be for teachers, families and the wider society in the long haul, if policymakers fail to heed a key recommendation of the “Reading Instruction in Kindergarten” report namely, to “withdraw kindergarten standards from the Common Core so that they can be rethought along developmental lines.”

Click here to read the full essay at the Huffington Post.

Our New Report! Reading Instruction in Kindergarten: Little to Gain and Much to Lose

Today, in conjunction with the Alliance foReading Instruction in Kindergartenr Childhood,  we are thrilled to release our new report Reading Instruction in Kindergarten: Little to Gain and Much to Lose. In the report we concluded that Common Core reading requirements for kindergarten are inappropriate and not well-grounded in research. Under Common Core, students are expected to be able to read before entering first grade.

The report maintains that the pressure of implementing the reading standard is leading many kindergarten teachers to resort to inappropriate drilling on specific skills and excessive testing. Teacher-led instruction in kindergartens has almost entirely replaced the active, play-based experiential learning that children need based on decades of research in cognitive and developmental psychology and neuroscience.

In an effort to shift back to a developmentally appropriate, child-centered curriculum, Defending the Early Years and Alliance for Childhood call for the withdrawal of the kindergarten standards from the Common Core so they can be rethought along developmental lines.

Please check out our video for more information! 

 

Follow on Twitter and join the movement: @DEY_Project @4Childhood #2Much2Soon

Help us spread the word via social media. Here are some sample tweets:

1) #EarlyEd experts @dey_project @4childhood conclude #CCSS Kinder reading requirement is #2much2soon  http://youtu.be/DVVln1WMz0g

2) Why @dey_project @4childhood call for withdrawal of kinder standards from #CCSS http://wp.me/p2bgV6-gl

Happy New Year!

Screenshot 2014-08-31 09.26.14This year DEY has been working hard to mobilize the early childhood community to speak out with well-reasoned arguments against inappropriate standards, assessments, and classroom practices.  We created our on-line resources including our Early Childhood Activist Toolkit, Mobilization Kit and Action Mini Grants. Our article The Common Core State Standards, Are They Failing Our Kids? was featured as the cover story in the back-to-school edition of Boston Parents Magazine. And we gathered early childhood activists in Dallas, TX for our second annual organizing meeting to share resources and build connections nationwide.

As 2014 comes to a close, please consider making a tax-deductible donation to DEY. Your generosity will help us continue our work in 2015, including the January release of our advocacy report Reading Instruction in Kindergarten: Little to Gain and Much to Lose. Please remember, you can now show your support to DEY through online donations. Check out our donation page . Thank you so much!

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The Rise of Kindergarten-Readiness Testing

We know that a big topic in the new year will be kindergarten readiness assessments. These time-consuming and often computer-based assessments are raising concerns with teachers across the country. This fall we began hearing stories of resistance building. In Maryland, where 9 out of 10 kindergarten teachers surveyed said the lengthy assessments would not help improve instruction, the Maryland State Education Association is calling for a suspension of the Kindergarten Readiness Assessments. At DEY we are offering support however and wherever we can – updating our online resources,offering Action Mini Grants, attending and speaking at organizing events and more. Experiences vary from state to state, district to district, even school to school. If you are a kindergarten teacher or administrator, let us know how the rise of kindergarten-readiness testing is affecting you, your work and your students. For more on this topic you can watch a recent EdWeek webinar featuring DEY’s Stephanie Feeney.

Parents and Teachers say “NO!” ~ Testing Resistance Continues to Grow

Resistance to over-testing and high stakes testing continues to mount across the country. Here are some inspiring examples:

Karen Hendren and Nikki Jones are two first-grade teachers from Tulsa, Oklahoma. These brave teachers have written an open letter to parents explaining why they are refusing to administer the MAP (Measures of Academic Progress) test to their students. Here is an excerpt from the letter that illustrates one child’s experience:
Student 1: This is one of the sweetest students a teacher could ask for. This student is gentle, calm, and collected. This student is learning English, but does not yet have any academic English. The student sat in front of the computer screen and tried his very best.  We watched his eyes well up with tears. We watched the student nervously pull at his hair.  Eventually, the student scratched red marks down his face in distress over the test.  He is the oldest of the siblings. He can cook, clean, and take care of a baby better than some adults. The student knows all of his alphabet and the letter sounds in English now. This student loves writing books and can dance like no other. He is now comfortable enough to get up in front of the class and perform a talent or recite a poem. This student scored in the 1% range.

Read more about their story in Valerie Strauss’ recent column Your children deserve better than this, first-grade teachers tell parents and read their full letter here.

In other news, our friends at FairTest shared these recent actions:

More than a ScoreAnd there is the just released More Than a Score edited by teacher and activist Jessie Hagopian:

More Than a Score is a collection of essays, poems, speeches, and interviews—accounts of personal courage and trenchant insights—from frontline fighters who are defying the corporate education reformers, often at great personal and professional risk, and fueling a national movement to reclaim and transform public education.

Along with the voices of students, parents, teachers, administrators, and grassroots education activists, the book features renowned education researchers and advocates, including Diane Ravitch, Alfie Kohn, Wayne Au, Nancy Carlsson-Paige, Karen Lewis, Carol Burris, and Mark Naison. (from the website)

DEY’s Nancy Carlsson-Paige will be joining Hagopian and some fellow contributors at the upcoming event on December 4th (see details below).

Thursday, December 4, 2014 – 7:00pm

First Parish Church at Harvard Square

1446 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02138

Join us for an exciting evening of discussion with . . .

Monty Neill, FairTest Executive Director
Alfie Kohn, Author/Activist
Nancy Carlsson-Paige, Early Childhood Education Expert
Barbara Madeloni, Massachusetts Teachers Association President

and editor Jesse Hagopian, a leader of the successful Seattle Teacher Test Boycott

Sponsored by Citizens for Public Schools

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!