Do young kids need to learn a lot of facts?

At the Washington Post yesterday Valerie Strauss published Do young kids need to learn a lot of facts? This essay by Ed Miller and Nancy Carlsson-Piage is a follow-up to their recently published column which criticized the process of the development of the Common Core State Standards for early childhood (PreK to 3rd grade) – a process that did not involve early childhood educators. Strauss then published a response to Miller and Carlsson-Paige, A Common Core Standards defense written by E.D. Hirsch Jr.

Yesterday, Strauss published Miller and Carlsson-Paige’s response to Hirsch. Here is an excerpt:

We’re grateful for Professor Hirsch’s response to our critique of the K-3 Common Core Standards because it confirms our main point: that people without experience in child development or early education (like Hirsch, an English professor) are the ones prescribing what is best for young children and their teachers. Meanwhile, those teachers and others who study children’s development and learning were left out when the standards were written.

Many Common Core advocates favor the corporate education agenda: privatizing public schools through charters, vouchers, and online learning, and judging teachers and schools by standardized test scores. Hirsch believes, along with these “reformers,” that children’s heads need to be filled up with facts. …

Read the entire essay here at The Washington Post.

A tough critique of Common Core

In today’s Washington Post, Valerie Strauss posted a much-needed critique of the Common Core State Standards for early childhood education on her blog The Answer Sheet. Written by Nancy Carlsson-Paige and Ed Miller, this article shines a spotlight on the faulty process surrounding the development of the early childhood (Pre-K through 3rd grade) section of the Common Core State Standards.

Here is a snippet…

Recent critiques of the Common Core Standards by Marion Brady and John T. Spencer have noted that the process for creating the new K-12 standards involved too little research, public dialogue, or input from educators.

Nowhere was this more startlingly true than in the case of the early childhood standards—those imposed on kindergarten through grade 3. We reviewed the makeup of the committees that wrote and reviewed the Common Core Standards. In all, there were 135 people on those panels. Not a single one of them was a K-3 classroom teacher or early childhood professional.

Not only were early childhood educators excluded from committees developing the standards, their feedback was not included as well. This includes feedback from some of the most prominent leaders in the field. Could you see that happening in any other profession? Read the full article here at The Washington Post.

Courageous in Seattle

There is a bit of a standardized testing revolt brewing in Seattle! About a week ago, the teachers at Garfield High School voted unanimously to boycott the MAP (Measures of Academic Progress) test. Soon after, the teachers at Ballard High School joined them. Will more follow? DEY shares this story in an effort to inspire other educators to stand up against policies that are harmful to children.

You can read about the MAP boycott in the words of teacher Jessie Hagopian, who writes,

WALKING the same halls once trod by Jimi Hendrix, Quincy Jones, Bruce Lee, Brandon Roy and Macklemore makes teaching at Garfield High School exhilarating.

When I look at the students in my history classes, I see young people who may be the next to turn the world inside out. Garfield has a long tradition of cultivating abstract thinking, lyrical innovation, trenchant debate, civic leadership, moral courage and myriad other qualities for which our society is desperate, yet which cannot be measured, or inspired, by bubbling answer choice “E.”

Garfield teachers voted last week, without a single “no” vote, to refuse to administer the Measures of Academic Progress, or MAP, test on ethical and professional grounds. Our student government and PTSA both voted to support us.

Why did we take this stand, now, against this test?

I graduated from Garfield in 1997, went to college, did Teach for America in Washington, D.C., came home, got my masters in teaching at the University of Washington and returned to teach in the “Dog House.”

The standardized tests I took as a student at Garfield were moments of great misery, because they made me feel unintelligent. I had talents, but there were no test questions on whether I could play piano, coach my little sister in pitching, or identify a problem in my community that needed action and write a letter to the editor about it.

Read the entire piece here, in The Seattle Times.

Take a few moments to the comments posted after Hagopian’s piece.  A number of them are from elementary teachers who are also unimpressed with the MAP test for their grade level.

For example:

As an elementary school teacher in SPS, I applaud the staff at Garfield for doing what most of us would have loved to do several years ago. There are other flaws that impact students at the elementary level and I haven’t read them much in comments on the blogs and sites that offer stories this week and last to this boycott. I would love to share.
The test is stressful to little children. High readers in intermediate grades (3-5) will be asked questions that really throw them for a loop. Once a student of mine got irritated with the test and started writing everything down that the test was asking her that she didn’t know. There were 11 items. They included alliteration, iambic pentameter, and personification. These are not things that enrich the life of a 9 year old.

and

Elementary aged children have their reading assessed via the DRA. This assessment is done one to one between student and teacher. I’ve found the results to be more reliable than placing a 5 or 6 year old child in front of a self administered computer exam (MAP). Elementary aged children are also given MAP three times a year to assess math and reading. At the end of the year, one week after MAP testing, students in grades 3-5 take the MSP for reading and math.

As Hagopian sums up:

Garfield’s teachers are preparing students for the real-life tests they will face, and reject the computer multiple-choice rituals that fail to measure grade-level content — not to mention character, commitment, courage or talent.

The boycotts in Seattle are important, as Race to TheTop and the Common Core State Standards are bringing even more computer-administered standardized tests to our classrooms. DEY’s Nancy Carlsson-Paige has published a personal message of support (along with her son, Matt Damon) to the teachers of Garfield High. To show support to the Garfield teachers, DEY encourages you to write to their school board and the superintendent. (Thanks to Susan Ohanian for the contact information listed below.)

superintendent@seattleschools.org

schoolboard@seattleschools.org

You can also write to the teachers whose names have appeared in the news.

Kit McCormick (English teacher)
Jesse Hagopian (History teacher)
Mario Shaunette (Math teacher)

Garfield High School
400 23rd Ave.
Seattle, WA 98122

Does Common Core Affect Pre-K?

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Today on Diane Ravitch’s blog, DEY’s Senior Adviser Nancy Carlsson-Paige weighs in on the Common Core as it relates to preschool.

Hi Diane,

 It’s hard to put your finger on the pulse of what is really going on in early childhood right now, and for good reason.  There are big differences among states, school systems, and individual programs.  But there are also trends that are affecting the early childhood field as a whole, and they are most strongly felt in programs that are State and Federally funded.

There is an increasing pushdown of academic skills into Kindergartens and Pre-K’s.  The Alliance for Childhood first identified the disappearance of play in Kindergartens a few years ago.  Wrongly, the erosion of play-based learning in Kindergartens has now become the norm and is currently filtering into Pre-K’s around the country. This academic focus for young kids is driven by RTTT priorities and the Common Core Standards.  The Common Core extends to kindergarten and requires children to learn specific facts and skills in literacy and numeracy at specified ages.  For RTTT early childhood money, states have to agree to “align with the Common Core”.  These mandates are not based on the knowledge base of the early childhood field, on what is known about how young children learn best.  Those who wrote them are out of touch with young children and what quality programs should offer.

For the full text of Nancy’s post, click here.