Resistance continues to grow

Today we share more examples of resistance to the current education “reform” movement…

In New York City, parents at the Castle Bridge School organized a successful boycott of a new standardized test for the K – 2 students at their school. Principal Julie Zuckerman supported the parents and cancelled the test when 90% of the parents opted out. Learn more here from this video from The Real News.

Award-winning principal Carol Burris of New York has written an eloquent piece in Valerie Strauss’ The Answer Sheet:  A ridiculous Common Core test for first graders. Burris reports that NYSUT (New York State United Teachers) has called for a three year moratorium on high-stakes consequences of testing.

Activists and the Media Mobilizing Project TV in Philadelphia, PA have produced the video Our Schools Are Not For Sale. “This is the story of Philadelphia’s teachers, parents, students, and communities who are fighting for public schools that are well-resourced, high-quality and available to all. Watch how local communities are responding to a year of unprecedented attacks, including the closing of 24 schools, layoffs of hundreds of teachers and counselors, and the elimination of school libraries, art, music, and sports programs.”

The Badass Teacher Association (BATs) – which formed just a few months ago – already has almost 32,000 members on Facebook. “MISSION: Badass Teachers Association was created to give voice to every teacher who refuses to be blamed for the failure of our society to erase poverty and inequality through education. BAT members refuse to accept assessments, tests and evaluations created and imposed by corporate driven entities that have contempt for authentic teaching and learning. GOALS: BATs aim to reduce or eliminate the use of high stakes testing, increase teacher autonomy in the classroom and work to include teacher and family voices in legislative decision-making processes that affect students.”

What other examples of resistance are happening in your area?! Please share.

DEY op ed featured in Valerie Strauss’ blog today…

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.

Will Obama’s plan lead to what is best for children?

Much has been happening in the early childhood world. On February 14, President Obama released details of his new Plan for Early Education for all Americans. Although this focus on early childhood education might be viewed as positive, we have deep concerns about aspects of the plan, such as the call for “a rigorous curriculum” and the “plan to implement comprehensive data and assessment systems”.

Valerie Strauss, from the Washington Post, raises the same concerns in her post Why is Obama calling for a ‘rigorous curriculum’ for 3-year-olds? She writes:
 “Young children need to have multiple, varied, challenging, hands-on and open-ended sensory experiences, not worksheets. Children should be encouraged to interact with their environment and build relationships with each other in order to develop critical thinking skills and empathy.” 

and

“There’s nothing wrong with rigorous curriculum, of course, but “rigorous” is not exactly the word you think of when little kids come to mind. How about a creative curriculum? How about a curriculum based on social emotional development?

If the program winds up forcing very young children into learning situations that are not developmentally appropriate and that are test obsessed, an initiative that sounds great will be just the opposite.” Read Strauss’ entire piece here at The Washington Post.

Similar questions are raised by Erika Christakis who wrote the piece The Catch-22 of Obama’s Preschool Plan for Time Magazine. She writes:

“Kindergarten classrooms today have been scrubbed of many of the essential ingredients including freedom for dramatic play, creativity, and conversation. Gone are blocks and dress-up corners and dedicated play time. Artwork has been replaced with word walls promising a “print-rich” environment that few five-year-olds can, in reality, actually understand. Drill and kill worksheets are the norm. Many kids can’t handle the pressure: suspensions in the early years have increased dramatically since the 1970s, even trickling down to preschools where children are expected to be “ready” for a kindergarten curriculum that would have been more appropriate to a 1st or second grade classroom 20 years ago.” 

and

“If states continue of this wrong-headed path, there’s no reason to believe President Obama’s laudable proposal won’t inflict the same high-stakes testing climate on even younger kids. That would be a disaster because a disproportionate emphasis on academic skills in the preschool years violates everything we know scientifically about healthy child development: that three- and four-year-olds learn best when learning is embedded in social relationships, real life experience, and unhurried exploration. In short, young children, like all other mammals, learn through play.”  Read Christakis entire piece here.

Finally, we present DEY’s latest member of our National Board of Advisers, Dr. Doris Pronin Fromberg, Professor of Education at Hofstra University, who sums up her reaction to Obama’s plan this way:

Applause is due for President Obama’s support of universal pre-kindergarten. Below are some thoughts about The Upsides; The Downside Cautions; and Possible Future Outlooks.

The Upside:  There is research to support the cost-benefit to society of fine quality early childhood education, particularly for children from low-income homes

During the past 40 years, different studies have found a $1.00 investment in fine quality early education yielding as high as a $16.00 cost-benefit return by reducing retention, school dropouts, improved high school graduation, less incarcerations, and improved employment histories.

The Upside: Children from low-income and immigrant families benefit significantly from pre-kindergarten/Head Start settings.

The Upside: There is research that finds kindergarten children attained higher test scores when their teachers were specifically state certified to teach early childhood education.

The Downside Caution: Early childhood teachers typically work with 100% of school principals and central school administrators who have had no required preparation to understand the distinctive ways in which pre-kindergarten and kindergarten learn.

In order to effectively supervise, support, and evaluate early childhood teachers, school administrators would need to understand how teachers can match early learning with a rich repertoire of teaching activities; classroom organization, scheduling, and equipping.

The Downside Caution: Federal funds in recent years have followed the path of the past 14 years of educational funding by focusing on testing and evaluation. Part of the impact has been an increase of teaching narrowly to the test and downright reporting fraud by frightened adults. The testing funds typically have categorized rather than qualitatively or quantitatively improved rich learning.

(If you have 15 minutes of curiosity, I invite you to view a TEDx talk on the economic impact of high-stakes testing when compared with fine quality early childhood education. Google: Doris Fromberg TEDx as well as  Lawrence Schweinhart TEDx).

The Downside Caution: Federal funds have found their way into massive overlays of administrative costs as well as testing costs.

The Downside Caution: More than 95% of kindergarten children attend public schools. Their teachers are required to have professional state certification. Barely 50% of children attend any pre-school programs, and their teachers often do not have specific preparation in how to match teaching with the conditions with which young children learn. There is a 45-55% turnover rate among non-public school early childhood staff members.

In 1993 Trellis Waxler stated that, if the federal government had invested modestly in college scholarships for Head Start teachers instead of isolated bits of uncoordinated staff development, there could have been less turnover, more stability, and stronger educational benefits to the young children.

Pre-kindergarten funding within states has streamed into non-public school settings which might or might not have professionally state certified teachers. Many of the settings drill children in unproductive ways and support the children’s alienation from school.

The Possible Future Outlook: Focus funds on supporting states to require professional state-certified preparation for all teachers, building level, and school district administrators who are responsible for the education of pre-kindergarten children. Professionals are able to assess young children through multiple means, sequence their learning experiences, and differentiate instruction effectively.

The Possible Future Outlook: Minimize administrative costs. Maximize relevant materials (other than tests), equipment, and require professional educators for the benefit of young children.

Fine quality professionally certified educators who can match teaching with the conditions with which young children learn are likely to support the society’s needs for STEM (Science-Technology Engineering, and Mathematics) professions. Moreover, young children who have a richly engaging early education have the potential to become productive adults and informed citizens.

*See Related References below

At this point, with so many questions and concerns, here at DEY, we will be watching closely and with caution. We wonder, can the Obama plan can be shaped into a plan that leads to what is best for children and to a plan that does no harm?

Related References from Dr. Doris Pronin Fromberg:

  • Association of Teacher Educators and the National Association for the Education of Young Children (1991). Early childhood teacher certification. Young Children 47, (l), 16-21.
  • Arnett, J. (1987). Caregivers in day care centers: Does training matter?Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology 10, 541 – 552.
  • Bodrova,E.,& Leong, D.J. (2007). The Vygotskian approach to early childhood education. 2nd ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Merrill/Prentice-Hall.
  • Deal, T.E., & Peterson, K.D. (1991). The principals’ role in shaping school culture. Washington, DC: United States Government Printing Office.
  • Early Childhood Advisory Council & Council on Children and Families (2012). New York State early learning guidelines. Author.
  • Fromberg, D.P. (1992). Certification of early childhood teachers. In L.R. Williams & D.P. Fromberg (Eds.).The encyclopedia of early childhood education  (470 – 472). New York: Garland.
  • Fromberg, D.P. (2006).Kindergarten education and early childhood teacher education inthe United States: Status at the start of the twenty-first century. Journal of Early Childhood Teacher Education 27(1) 65-85.
  • Fromberg, D.P. (2012). Kindergarten today: Is the match between high-states outputs and low-impact inputs cost-effective? TEDTalk. (You Tube)
  • Fromberg, D.P. (n.d.) A comparison of small-group compared with whole-group instruction in kindergarten. Unpublished study.
  • Howard, E., Howell, B., & Brainard, E. (1987). Handbook for conductingschool climate improvement projects. Bloomington, IN: Phi Delta Kappa.
  • Jerrold, R.H. (2011). A comparison of early childhood linear-academic and nonlinear intellectual teaching methodologies. Doctoral dissertation. Cypress, CA: Touro University.
  • Lazar, I., Darlington, R., Murray, H., Royce, J., &Snipper, A. (1982). Lasting effects of early education: A report from the Consortium for Longitudinal Studies. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development 47, (2 – 3), 1-151.
  • McMahon, E.M., Egbert, R.L., & McCarthy, J. (1991). Early childhood education: State policy and practice. Washington, DC: American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education.
  • National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (1992). 38thannual guide to accredited education programs/units. Washington, DC: Author.
  • Reynolds, A.J.,Temple,  J.A., Robertson, D.L., & Mann, E.A. (2001). Long-term effects of an early childhood intervention on educational achievement and juvenile arrest. A 15-year follow-up of low-income children in public schools. Journal of the American Medical Association 285 (18), 2339-2346.
  • Ruopp, R., Travers, J., Glantz, F., &Coelen, C. (1979). Children at thecenter: Summary findings and their implications. Cambridge, MA: Abt.
  • Rust, F., O’C. (1993). Changing teaching, changing schools: Bringing earlychildhood practice into public education. New York: Teachers College Press.
  • Schwartz, S.L., & Copeland, S.M. (2010). Connecting emergent curriculum and standards in early childhood education: Strengthening content and teaching practice. New York: Teachers College Press.
  • Schweinhart, L.J., Koshel, J.J., & Bridgman, A., (1987). Policy optionsfor preschool programs. Phi Delta Kappan 68, 527.
  • Schweinhart, L.J., et al, (2005) Lifetime effects: The HighScope Perry preschool study through age 40. Monograph of the HighScope Educational Research Foundation No.14. Ypsilanti, MI: HighScope Press.
  • Schweinhart, L.J. (2012). The return on investment of high quality preschool. TED Talk. (You Tube).
  • Seplocha, H.,&Strasser, J.(2009). A snapshot of quality in kindergarten classrooms in low-income districts: Implications for policy and practice. Trenton: New Jersey Department of Education..
  • Smith, W.F., & Andrews, R.L. (1989). Instructional leadership: How principals make a difference. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
  • Warger C. (Ed.). (1988). A resource guide to public school early childhood programs. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
  • Stipek, D., Feiler, R., Daniels, D., & Milburn, S, (1995). Effects of different instructional approaches on young children’s achievement and motivation. Child Development 66, 209-233.

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.

Teachers’ Voices

In case you missed it, DEY wrote an op-ed for Valerie Strauss’ column titled The Answer Sheet at The Washington Post. The piece is titled How ed policy is hurting early childhood education, and it included some early quotes from teachers who had responded to our online survey. We believe the quotes hightlight DEY’s concerns and help to paint a picture of the where we are today with early childhood eduction. Here is an excerpt:

“I just decided yesterday that what I am doing has little to do with my intent when I became a teacher. I will work one more year and then retire. Not because I want to , but because I hate the teacher I have had to become.”

“It concerns me that policies are being written by people who are not knowledgeable about young children and how they develop. While their intentions may be good, they are setting us up for an epic failure that we have not seen before. Our public education system is at risk and unfortunately, the ‘fixes’ are steering us toward disaster at a rapid rate. It is sad and I am currently exploring my options to leave the profession.”

“I feel disrespected as a professional, my students feel the pressure and the parents are confused. I see kids with eyes glazed who are simply overwhelmed by being constantly asked to perform tasks for which they are not yet ready to do. I finally had to leave my classroom and retire early. Now I volunteer in my grandson’s first grade classroom and cringe every time I see what the teacher has to do. She is testing every time I enter the room. I have not seen her sit with a small group of children and actually support them.”

“Rhyming, reading in kindergarten, recognizing numbers to 30, counting by 2’s, 5’s and 10’s. SOME children can do these things. The problem is they want ALL children to reach the standards and children do not come ‘standard’. ”

“Very simply — much of the joy has been taken away from education for both children and the adults providing it.”

To read the entire column, click here.