Thanks, Diane, for making room on your blog for this critical topic.
Karen states that the “overacademization of kindergarten and preschool classrooms” is not a new trend. That may be true, though without a doubt the problem has intensified. The Alliance for Childhood report The Crisis in Early Education A Research-Based Case for More Play and Less Pressure (Miller and Almond, November 2011) states that “the pushing down of the elementary school early childhood has reached a new peak with the adoption by almost every state of the so called common core standards.” That report also looks at the high rate of preschool expulsions of late. Preschoolers and kindergarteners are now being expelled at three times the rate of K-12 children. How can that be okay? Peter Gray has documented the decline of play and the increase of childhood problems over recent decades in his article “The Decline of Play and the Rise of Psychopathology in Children and Adolescence” (The American Journal of Play, volume 3, number 4; Spring 2011). The increase in the number of young children attending overly-academic preschools and kindergartens is most assuredly part of the problem. An increase in childhood depression and anxiety are some of the results. When our mission should be, at the very least, to do no harm, clearly the children are being harmed. We cannot toss them in the trash like a cake with too much salt or a recipe gone awry (to further Karen’s analogy above). They are human beings, for goodness sake.
Finding ways to stay developmentally appropriate, when many of the tests and assessments are not, is becoming increasingly difficult. And looking critically at the how, what, when and why of testing and assessments which have increased with RTTT, is important work for the early childhood community. If ever there was a time in the USA for early childhood educators to be looking closely at policy and debating the direction of early childhood education, now is the time. As the leading organization of early childhood educators, NAEYC should be at the forefront of advocating for young children – and speaking out against policies that aren’t grounded in what decades of research has proven: that children develop best — socially, emotionally and cognitively — when they have educational experiences that promote creativity, thinking and problem solving skills, and engage in meaningful activities geared to their developmental levels and needs.
Nancy Carlsson-Paige is not alone in her assessment of the situation. A national coalition of early childhood educators met earlier this year regarding their concerns about the current education policy trends and their negative effects. You can read more about that in an op-ed piece titled “How ed policy is hurting early childhood education” published in Valerie Strauss’ The Answer Sheet at The Washington Post. (http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/how-ed-policy-is-hurting-early-childhood-education/2012/05/24/gJQAm0jZoU_blog.html)
Geralyn Bywarter McLaughlin
Director, Defending the Early Years