Senior Advisor Nancy Carlsson-Paige Reflects on the 2016 Network for Public Education Conference

The 2016 Network for Public Education Conference, held April 15-17 in Raleigh, NC, is truly an experience—something hard to describe.  For a few days in April, education and social justice activists from around the country come together in a burst of energy and synergy to share lives and ideas and to build an education movement for equity and justice for all children.

I was glad that Denisha Jones, DEY National Advisory Board member, and I attended because our session was the only one focused exclusively on young children.  Our panel was called T-E-S-T and Not PLAY is a Four-Letter Word:  Putting the Young Child and the Teacher at the Center of Education Reform.  Susan Ochshorn, early childhood author and journalNPE 2016 3ist, moderated, and we were joined by Michelle Gunderson, first grade teacher and early childhood leader in the Chicago Teachers Union. We covered many issues in a short time including the decrease in play and active learning in classrooms for young children, the disproportionate effects of corporate education reform on black and brown children and those in low-income communities, and the need to strengthen our advocacy for young children.  Lots of folks attended the session and I was really glad we were there to connect early childhood issues to the larger landscape of education reform that were the focus of the conference.

Many people came up to me over the course of the three days in Raleigh to tell me how they follow DEY, appreciate us, and benefit from using our materials.  It was really heNPE 2016 2artening to realize that we are voicing important ideas and issues that might otherwise not be accessible to teachers and parents.  People are using the papers we’ve put out in a variety of ways as well as our fact sheets, and many say they read our website regularly.

At the conference, we learned about many new documentary films being made about the current state of education in our country.  All of these films and how to order them are listed on the NPE website.   In a separate session we saw a “fine cut” preview of the almost finished documentary Backpack Full of Cash.  This film is being made by Sarah Mondale and Vera Aranow who made the PBS series called SCHOOL which received so much acclaim.   Their new film unwraps the movement to privatize our nation’s schools, telling a straightforward and understandable narrative through the eyes of the communities affected.   The film should be out in the coming year and I think its time is right.

On Saturday, we listened to a riveting keynote speech from Reverend William Barber, president of the North Carolina chapter of NAACP, about the history of racism in our schools and the continuing reality of systemic racism that permeates our society today.  Rev. Barber is a gifted orator who can move his listeners to new levels of awareness by his artistic crafting of words and powerful delivery.Themes of charter schools, over-testing, privatization, racial justice, poverty, global education, democracy, and public education ran through the speeches and sessions of the conference, helping all of us to heighten our understanding and also our resolve to continue our work.  I felt re-energized about our work at Defending the Early Years, proud of what we do, sure that we should keep on.

Maybe next year YOU will want to attend the Network for Public Education conference—you won’t be disappointed!

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Miami Parents Petition for More Time for Recess and Play

playground The front page of the March 28, 2016 edition of the Miami Herald, featured a nearly full page article about the efforts of parents in South Florida to demand more recess time for their young children.  After Florida’s legislature failed to pass a law mandating recess during the current session, parents decided to fight for their children’s right to play.  They have so far gathered over 6,000 signatures on a petition demanding a minimum of 20 minutes per day of recess for pre-K, kindergarten, and elementary school students in the Miami-Dade public schools. Find their petition at Change.org here.

“Kids need recess,” Paula Zelaya, parent of a first grader at Downtown Doral Charter School, was quoted as saying.  “I think that they do better if they have a space to relax.”

Experts agree.  Dr. Peter Gorski, a member of the national executive committee of the American Academy of Pediatrics and a Miami pediatrician, mentioned the lack of play in today’s schools and the new standards for teaching and learning.  “They are defeating their very academic purpose by denying or cutting back on free, supervised play.”  He went on to say that activities such as a video-led dance break called GoNoodle isn’t a substitute for child-directed, free play when children can choose what they want to do and who they want to play with. “Imaginative play can only happen when there’s free choice involved.  Every child needs to dream, needs to imagine, needs to commuicate.”

The petition calls for a scheduled recess time, preferably outdoors, and that it should not be a substitute for physical education.

 

 

Parents and educators stand together against growing test stress in children

Parents Across America

PAA has also sent letters to the National Institutes of Health and the American Academy of Pediatrics asking that they investigate our concerns that high-stakes standardized testing has become a health hazard for our nation’s public school children.

According to Dr. Isabel Nuñez, Associate Professor in the Center for Policy and Social Justice, Concordia University Chicago:

“High-stakes testing is doing children grievous mental and emotional harm. Parents Across America has gathered overwhelming evidence of the destructive psychological impact of test anxiety. For your children’s sake, read and be outraged!”

Dr. Peter Gray, a research professor in the department of Psychology, Boston College, added:

“The evidence is overwhelming that our national mania for testing–and for so much time in school and at schoolwork–is damaging the physical and psychological health of our children. I appreciate the work of Parents Across America and sincerely hope that the educational 4 kids at deskspowers that be start to listen. What we have today is, essentially, state-mandated child abuse.”

Testing in the early years, which is strongly opposed by early childhood professionals, is taking a toll. According to Dr. Nancy Carlsson-Paige:

“As we see testing increasingly edge out play and active learning in classrooms for young kids, we also see more and more children who don’t like school, who feel way too much pressure, who don’t want to go to this place that feels so uncomfortable and out of synch with who they are and what they need.”

A research paper recently published in JAMA Pediatrics suggests a correlation between the increased academic pressure on young children and the significant increase in ADHD diagnoses (Brosco).

Coping skills, “stealth” assessments not the answer

Much of the literature on test anxiety focuses on how to help children cope with the stress. In contrast, PAA believes the cause of the stress itself must be addressed. No child should be exposed to prolonged, intense stress, which can inhibit brain function and take a toll on mental health.

PAA is not simply asking for an end to high-stakes, one-shot testing. Parents are demanding that no child be harmed in the assessment process. We know that test publishers and education entrepreneurs are already developing new ways to label, sort and profile students through high-tech devices now taking over classrooms. This may not create as much stress but carries other dangers such as:

  • Constant collection of student data via online websites, apps, and programs without parental notification.
  • Embedded or “stealth” assessments – students will not even be aware if their work is being used for high-stakes purposes.
  • A significant increase in the amount of screen time children are exposed to – the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a two hour per day screen time limit for children.

PAA has many other concerns about the misuse and overuse of standardized tests which we have detailed in previous position papers and fact sheets (see, for example, “Testing and ESEA,” http://parentsacrossamerica.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/TestingandESEA1-15-15.pdf and “Why More Standardized Tests Won’t Improve Education” http://parentsacrossamerica.org/2011/09/why-more-standardized-tests-wont-improve-education/.boy with glasses

Our full position paper with recommendations and endorsements can be found here: http://parentsacrossamerica.org/educator-endorsements-paa-test-stress-position-paper/

Our one-page fact sheet on test stress is here: http://parentsacrossamerica.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/Test-Stress-facts-2-1-16rev.pdf

and our background paper is here: http://parentsacrossamerica.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/Test-Stress-Doc-full1-28-16.pdf

A downloadable pdf version of our position paper is here: http://parentsacrossamerica.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/TestStressPositionrev2-1-16.pdf

To learn more about testing or PAA, please visit www.parentsacrossamerica.org or email us at:info@parentsacrossamerica.org.

Contacts:

  • Julie Woestehoff, Interim Executive Director, Parents Across America, 773-175-3989
  • Laura Bowman, leader of PAA-Roanoke Valley (VA), 540-819-6385
  • Danielle Arnold-Schwartz, leader of PAA- Suburban Philadelphia (PA), 215-498-2549

 

DEY Releases “Straight Talk About the Common Core State Standards”

Testing season is around the corner and, once again, Defending the Early Years takes a stand about the Common Core State Standards. Find our newest resource, Straight Talk about the Common Core State Standards, on our website now!

 

More on “Our Twisted Pre-K Education”

Please listen to this story from Meghna Chakrabarti which aired on WBUR’s Radio Boston yesterday. On theRadioBoston program DEY’s Nancy Carlsson-Paige explains that “high quality Pre-K is just a buzzword for rigorous instruction of 4-year-olds.” Carlsson-Paige explains what has been happening in early childhood classrooms under recent ed reforms – and what preschool classrooms should look like. We hope you listen and share!

http://radioboston.wbur.org/2015/12/30/pre-k-education

LivelyMindsAs 2015 draws to a close, we look back on all we have done together to defend play and playful learning in the face of misguided education reform. In 2015 we published three new research-based advocacy reports that have been read and shared widely. We began using short videos to help share our message to a wider audience. We also started translating our work into Spanish. We look forward to more reports, videos and translations in the new year. We could not have done this alone and today, we thank you for being a part of DEY!

In a few weeks DEY turns 4 years old! Today we ask you to help celebrate our accomplishments and our growing coalition with a tax-deductible donation.

Onward!

Please click here to donate

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Happy New Year and many thanks from DEY!

 

 

 

Celebrate #GivingTuesday!

Please Support DEY 
 #GivingTuesday
 
Join people around the world today, Tuesday, Dec. 1st, known as #GivingTuesday. This is a global day for giving back. Your donations will help Defending the Early Years continue the fight to defend play and playful learning in today’s world of over-testing and corporate reforms that devalue the rights of children and the craft of teaching.
Thank you so much!
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DEY at NAEYC’s Annual Conference

DEY Panel at NAEYC
Our DEY panel at NAEYC received a standing ovation! Diane Levin facilitated our panel on the challenges of the Common Core – drawing on the expertise of Joan Almon, Constance Kamii and Lilian Katz. Their messages, which are captured in the advocacy reports they have all published with DEY, truly resonated with the audience. We were able to archive much of the session on video, and have added the clips to our Defending the Early Years’ YouTube Channel.
You can also watch clips from our organizing meeting with Denisha Jones. We had over 50 people in attendance to work with us in identifying key educational issues as well as potential next steps for dealing with the issues. Thanks to Blakely Bundy for her immense help in making this event a success!