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.

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NAEYC’s Annual Conference Update

Back now from Washington, DC and beginning to reflect on all that happened. Here are just a few initial thoughts — and more soon.

Diane lets everyone in the packed hall know about DEY's efforts!

Diane lets everyone in the packed hall know about DEY’s efforts!

There were some encouraging indicators. Quite exciting was the turnout for DEY Senior Adviser Diane Levin’s featured session Beyond Remote-Controlled Childhood: Teaching Young Children in the Media Age. The massive room was filled – the estimate was at least 1,000 people in attendance.  Diane explained the many ways in which young children are affected by popular culture and exposure to media. She shared successful strategies for working with children and families. In her speech Diane called for creating schools that take into account who today’s children are – and to much applause she questioned current misguided school reform.

Many thanks to Community Playthings for sponsoring this important session! If you missed the session and want to know more, Diane’s book is available through the NAEYC online bookstore.

Many thanks also to the early childhood teacher activists who joined us at our session Finding Your Voice: Becoming A Teacher Activist, and for our evening meeting at The Henley Park Hotel. You shared your stories and your ideas – and we learned as much from you as you (hopefully!) learned from us. It was encouraging to finally meet many of you in person, after having met only online until now. DEY will be working to follow up on the ideas shared, and so please stay tuned.

In the opening session it was heartening to hear NAEYC’s new executive director Rhian Evans Allvin encourage attendees to go out and vote.  Democrats, Republicans, Independents, Green Party…whatever your political inclination is: vote! Voting is one way for early childhood educators to use their voices. As this new bill, the Strong Start for America’s Children Act gains traction, it will be our voices that help to keep what is best for children at the center.

Finally, although I wasn’t able to attend the session, I heard great things about a reflection on advocacy from folks who have been working for high-quality early childhood education for decades – folks like Joan Lombardi and Marcy Whitebook.

Those are a few initial reflections…more will be forthcoming. Please feel free to add your own reflections and/or questions…

DEY at NAEYC’s Annual Conference

Look for Defending the Early Years at NAEYC’s Annual Conference!
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On November 13th Diane Levin published the piece Media Literacy for Young Children: Essential for School Success in Today’s World in her education blog with 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.
The issues Levin addresses speak directly to DEY’s concerns about the loss of play as well as the increase in scripted curricula and testing in early childhood classrooms.  Please join us for Diane Levin’s featured session!
Friday afternoon 11/22: Constance Kamii, member of DEY’s National Advisory Board, presents Direct versus indirect ways of teaching number concepts to children, ages 4-6, 1:00 – 2:30 pm in West Salon I.
Friday afternoon: Finding Your Voice: Becoming a Teacher-Activist, 3:00 – 4:30 pm in Room 101 at the Convention Center. Thanks to the CEASE Interest Forum for sponsoring this session.

Friday evening: DEY will be hosting a gathering for teacher-activists 6:00 – 7:30 pm at the Henley Park Hotel, 926 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, DC – just one block from the convention center. See flier here. Please RSVP to geralynbywater@gmail.com.

In the exhibit hall: Booth #935 with Hugh Hanley Circle of Song and TRUCE (Teachers Resisting Unhealthy Children’s Entertainment). Stop by and introduce yourself. Check out DEY materials, TRUCE materials, and with great songs for young children from our dear friend Hugh Hanley!

Diane Levin writes – and testifies – in support of media literacy for young children

dianeEarlier 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.”

and

“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.”

Click here to read Levin’s entire blog post at The Huffington Post.

Diane Levin’s new book now available!

BRCCHow 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

(See more reviews at the NAEYC website)

Diane Levin writes “Detroit Riots of 1967: Lessons for Today”

“It is time to face the realities of poverty in America today. Let the declaration of bankruptcy of Detroit sound the alarm for us all. Building more prisons will not solve the problems of poverty. Nor will they contribute to the well being of America.”

These are words from  DEY’s senior adviser Diane Levin in  today’s Huffington Post, Detroit Riots of 1967: Lessons for Today is a powerful piece on poverty and a reflection on Detroit’s story…please read it and share it.