Archives for category: Childhood, Pre-K, K

Susan Ochshorn, founder of ECE Policy Works, surveys the harmful impact of Race to the Top on early childhood education.

It was bad enough that No Child Left Behind turned into a Frankenstein:

“…narrowing curriculum, inspiring fear, trembling, and depression in the U.S. teaching corps, not to mention test anxiety among a growing — and ever younger — population of students.

“Today, kindergarteners, their fine-motor skills still wobbly, are darkening the circles of multiple-choice tests. Time for blocks and play is diminished. First and second graders are prepping for exams, exploration and skill-building sidetracked. Assessment in early childhood is hardly a recent concern, notes Kyle Snow, Director of the Center for Applied Research at the National Association for the Education of Young Children, in a paper on kindergarten readiness and other large-scale assessment systems. He cites Samuel Meisels, former head of the Erikson Institute, a Chicago-based graduate school of education, whose vociferous criticism of standardized testing goes back decades. He’s the father of work-sampling, the early childhood equivalent of portfolio assessment — collections of essays, lab reports, research projects, and other student work, with nary a bubble in sight. Snow also warned of the “great need for additional research and development of assessments appropriate for young children.”

But the train has already left the station — sans Thomas the Tank Engine. As states have applied for Early Learning Challenge grants, as part of the Race to the Top initiative, assessments of children’s kindergarten readiness are par for the course. Teachers are also administering standardized tests in the early elementary grades — the better, some argue, to meet the demands of increased accountability.”

Ochshorn describes the growing movement among parents to opt their children out of inappropriate testing. At one school, Castlebridge in Néw York City, most parents boycotted the bubble tests for the K-2 grades. The children love to learn through play. They love school.

Ochshorn writes:

“Isn’t that the point? And isn’t that worth preserving? It’s time to turn the tables, and assess the damage of Race to the Top. If we delay, we risk turning out the light for another generation of students.”

Experts in early childhood education are calling for the abandonment of Common Core standards in kindergarten and their replacement by developmentally appropriate, research-based practice.

Defending the Early Years (DEY), in conjunction with the Alliance for Childhood, released a new report “Reading Instruction in Kindergarten: Little to Gain and Much to Lose.”

Early childhood experts could find no solid research showing long-term educational gains for children who are taught to read in kindergarten, yet this is what the Common Core Standards require. The pressure of implementing the CC reading standard is leading many kindergarten teachers to resort to inappropriate drilling on specific skills and excessive testing. Teacher-led direct instruction in kindergarten has almost entirely replaced the active, play-based experiential learning that we know children need.

Defending the Early Years and Alliance for Childhood are calling for the withdrawal of the kindergarten standards from the Common Core so they can be rethought along developmental lines. You can read the full report and watch a video, along with calls to action on the DEY website:

Find the full report at: http://www.DEYproject.org .

The video: http://youtu.be/DVVln1WMz0g

If you want to tweet your support, use this hashtag:

#2much2soon

Here are some suggested tweets:
#EarlyEd experts @dey_project @4childhood conclude #CCSS Kinder reading requirement is #2much2soon http://youtu.be/DVVln1WMz0g

and

Why @dey_project @4childhood call for withdrawal of kinder standards from #CCSS http://youtu.be/DVVln1WMz0g

Jason Stanford of Austin asks, what is the point of testing? The answer, he supposes, is to collect data. What is the point of data? Stop and think about it.

“To many, the answer is more testing. And because they’re testing darn near every child in America in most core subjects, now education reformers are going after the K in K-12. The Education Commission of the States says kindergarteners are now being given standardized tests in 25 states as well as the District of Columbia to measure whether they are ready for the rigor of crayons, naptime, and singing the alphabet song.

“These tests aren’t kid stuff, either. In Maryland, where teachers are asking for the state to suspend the tests, the average kindergartener takes more than 1 hour and 25 minutes to complete the tests. Teachers report that students don’t understand that they’re being tested to measure what they don’t know. When these 5-year-olds don’t know an answer, they think they’re stupid. We’re talking oceans of tears here.

“Remind me what the point of the tests is? To one state education official, the tests “will help improve early education,” which confuses things further. Remember, the thermometer doesn’t cook the meat.”

“So let’s go back to the original question: What is the point of data? With standardized tests, the point was supposed to be to diagnose which schools and students needed extra help. At least, that’s how they sold it to Dallas schools in the 1980s, then Texas schools in the 1990s, and then the whole country with No Child Left Behind.”

This is a terrific article by civil rights attorney Wendy Lecker about the madness of our nation’s obsession with standardized testing.

 

She writes:

 

Last year, President Barack Obama committed hundreds of millions of dollars to brain research, stressing the importance of discovering how people think, learn and remember. Given the priority President Obama places on the brain in scientific research, it is sadly ironic that his education policies ignore what science says is good for children’s brains.

It is well known that play is vital in the early grades. Through play, kindergarteners develop their executive function and deepen their understanding of language. These are the cornerstones of successful reading and learning later on.

At-risk children often arrive at school having heard fewer words than more advantaged children. This deficit puts at-risk children behind others in learning to read. Scientists at Northwestern have recently shown that music training in the early years helps the brain improve speech processing in at-risk children.

Scientists at the University of Illinois have demonstrated that physical activity, coupled with downtime, improves children’s cognitive functions.

Scientists have also shown that diversity makes people more innovative. Being exposed to different disciplines broadens a student’s perspective. More importantly, working with a people from different backgrounds increases creativity and critical thinking.

These proven paths to healthy brain development are blocked by Obama’s education policies, the most pernicious of which is the overemphasis on standardized tests.

Despite paying lip service to the perils of over-testing, our leaders have imposed educational policies ensuring that standardized tests dominate schooling. Though standardized tests are invalid to measure teacher performance, the Obama administration insists that students’ standardized test scores be part of teacher evaluation systems. Both under NCLB and the NCLB waivers, schools are rated by standardized test scores. Often, a high school diploma depends at least in part on these tests. When so much rides on a standardized test scores, tests will drive what is taught and learned.

Just last month, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan declared that yearly standardized testing is essential to monitor children’s progress. Setting aside the fact the new Common Core tests have not been proven to show what children learn, data shows that a child who passes a standardized test one year is overwhelmingly likely to pass the next year. Therefore, yearly standardized testing is unnecessary.

 

She adds:

 

The result? More than 10 years of high-stakes test-based education policy under NCLB and the waivers has narrowed curricula. Schools de-emphasize any subject other than language arts and math. In kindergarten, play has all but been eliminated in favor of direct instruction, and social studies, art, music, science, physical education and other subjects are disappearing. School districts at all grade levels are forced to reduce or eliminate these subjects to pay for implementation of the Common Core and its testing regime. Lansing Michigan last year eliminated art, music and physical education from elementary schools and the state of Ohio is considering the same. Recess has disappeared from many schools. The Obama administration promotes policies that increase school segregation yet have questionable educational value, like school choice. Consequently, school segregation continues to rise.

 

If we don’t end our obsession with picking the right bubble, marking the right box, we will ruin the education of a generation of children.

 

 

Parent activists in Seattle are wary of Proposition 1B, a proposal for “Preschool for All,” fearing that it means a scripted curriculum and standardized tests for tots.

They have learned that the money for the proposition is coming from hedge fund managers and corporations that have been mainstays of the charter school movement.

Parents worry that the Gates Foundation is behind the proposal and that it is a prelude to mayoral control, for-profit schools, and TFA. are they right? Read: 11 Reasons to oppose Prop 1B.

This Washington State preschool teacher explains why he will vote against Prop 1B.

Should toddlers and pre-school children master technology? The industry thinks so. Look, little ones are an untapped sector. Parents will do anything to get their infants college-ready.

“New research from RAND Corporation and PNC Grow Up Great aims to define developmentally-appropriate technology use in early childhood education by taking into account the technology and content used, the reason they used and how they are used, and how often they are used.”

How about some guidelines for developmentally appropriate use of technology? Here is my favorite:

“Weaving technology into active play, such as exercise-based activities or exploring new environments, can reduce some of the negative health effects associated with excessive technology use in young children, the authors note.”

Exercising actively with a computer. An oxymoron?

Opt Out Orlando posted the following letter by Susan Bowles, a kindergarten teacher. For her courage and dedication to her students, Susan Bowles joins the honor roll.

Her husband wrote this introduction:

“I tried to share this post by my wife, Susan, last night. I just found out her privacy settings don’t let others see it. I am very proud of her stance and completely support her, even if it means she loses her job. That would mean someone whose passion has always been about teaching little kids would be out of the profession. She began teaching in 1977.”

Susan Bowles wrote:

Dear Facebook Friends,

I have just sent emails to my principal and CRT, the superintendent, my colleagues at school, the school board members, ACEA (local teachers’ union) and the Gainesville Sun. I have a letter ready to go to the parents of the children in my class, pending principal approval which is standard protocol.

WHY I AM REFUSING TO GIVE THE FAIR TEST TO MY KINDERGARTNERS!

We have given the FAIR assessment in the past but this year it was revamped. It does provide useful information, but nothing significantly superior to what a typical Kindergarten teacher would observe in her students. This year, it is more time consuming and more difficult. Kindergartners are required to take it on the computer using a mouse. FYI: Kindergartners aren’t born with mouse skills. Many of them are proficient on tablets or smartphones, but the mouse can be tricky. (While testing a child last week, she double-clicked which skipped a screen. This child double-clicked three times and triple clicked once. There is no way to go back. There is no way for the school administrator to go back and make a correction.) While we were told it takes about 35 minutes to administer, we are finding that in actuality, it is taking between 35-60 minutes per child.

This assessment is given one-on-one. It is recommended that both teacher and child wear headphones during this test. Someone has forgotten there are other five year olds in our care. There is no provision from the state for money for additional staff to help with the other children in the classroom while this testing is going on. A certified teacher has to give the test. If you estimate that it takes approximately 45 minutes per child to give this test and we have 18 students, the time it takes to give this test is 13 ½ instructional hours. If you look at the schedule, a rough estimate would be that it requires about one full week of instructional time to test all of the children.

Our Kindergarten teachers have been brainstorming ways to test and still instruct. The best option we have come up with is for teachers to pair up, with one teacher instructing two classes while the other teacher tests one-on-one. So now we are looking at approximately TWO WEEKS of true INSTRUCTIONAL TIME LOST. We will not be putting them in front of a movie or having extended playtime, but the reality is that with 35 students, instruction is not the same. FAIR TESTING IS DONE THREE TIMES A YEAR!

I KNOW I MAY BE IN BREACH OF MY CONTRACT BY NOT ADMINISTERING THIS TEST. I CANNOT IN GOOD CONSCIENCE SUBMIT TO ADMINISTERING THIS TEST THREE TIMES A YEAR, LOSING SIX WEEKS OF INSTRUCTION. THERE IS A GOOD POSSIBILITY I WILL BE FIRED.

I am heartsick over the possibility of losing my job. I love my job. There is nothing I would rather do than teach. I have cried and cried over this, but in the end, it’s not about me. I feel God wants me to stand up for what is best for children. So, come what may, this is my stance. I WILL NOT ADMINISTER THE FAIR TEST TO MY STUDENTS.

If you are wondering what you can do, first and foremost, pray that the testing situation for children in Florida will change. Secondly, if you are a teacher or administrator, tell your story. This is not an education problem. This is a state government problem.

Whom should you contact? Governor Scott sits at the top in the chain of command. I say, voice your concerns to him. He actually might listen since he’s up for reelection. Just Read Florida is the group that masterminded the new version of FAIR. Let them know what you think about it. This issue isn’t about one teacher. This is a springboard for educators and parents to tell their stories. Please, let your voice be heard.

Thanks to Becky Jones Young, my childhood friend and fellow lifelong teacher, for taking a stand of her own in Ohio. She was an amazing middle school English teacher, who quit teaching (her love, joy and passion) because she could no longer participate in cheating children out of fun, creativity and enriching learning – in the name of education.

Susan Bowles
Kindergarten Teacher
Lawton Chiles Elementary School
Gainesville, Florida

Susan Ochshorn, a specialist in early childhood education, demonstrates in this post (as she has before, and will again) that play is crucial for the healthy mental development of young children. Ochshorn is the founder of ECE Policyworks and a tireless advocate for childhood.

Ochshorn cites the research of Deborah Leong to explain the importance of play.

“Self-regulation, as the non-neuroscientists among us refer to executive function, has to do with the development of the prefrontal cortex, and influences both cognition and emotions. Leong compares this “muscle,” which grows exponentially in the years from birth to five, to a traffic controller, allocating mental resources to focus on the tasks at hand. Here are the three components of executive function:

Inhibitory self-control, which allows children to delay gratification, and to stay on task, even when they’re bored;

Working memory, which enables kids to take multiple perspectives and hold two strategies in mind at the same time; and

Cognitive flexibility, or the ability to adjust mental effort depending upon the task, and to pay attention when the task is challenging.

And here’s why it matters: Levels of executive function have been found to predict academic success better than IQ and social class. Moreover, self-regulation correlates with acquisition of literacy skills, improved teacher-child interactions, and relationships with other children. Emotional regulation is also linked to a child’s ability to control stress while learning. Unregulated children just can’t get down to the important business at hand, and they are becoming alarming statistics. Today, one out of 40 preschoolers is expelled, or three times the rate of K-12 expulsions. Class size, teacher-child ratios, duration of day, teacher credentials and education levels, as well as teacher stress have all been implicated in this growing phenomenon. Early childhood mental health consultation is increasingly seen—and indeed, welcome—as a viable strategy for changing this calculus. But it’s not enough.”

In short, children need to play, and our test-obsessed education system is reducing the available for play. This is not good for children or for the mental health of our troubled society.

Florida has gone bonkers. State law requires children in kindergarten to take tests for every subject taught in kindergarten. Some counties will develop as many as 15 different tests, ranging from physical education to art. Most children will be required to take seven tests.

State Sen. David Simmons, a member of the education committee, said “For us to assure that schools do their jobs we can only test. If you don’t test, you don’t care,” said Simmons.

School districts will decide whether children’s performance on the tests will impact their grades and their ability to move on to first grade.

This must be another of former Governor Jeb Bush’s bright ideas. You can tell how much he cares because Florida students take so many tests.

When Governor Rick Snyder created the Educational Achievement Authority for the state’s lowest-performing schools, he promised bold new thinking. One of his bold plans is a kindergarten called the Brenda Scott Academy, which has a kindergarten of 100 students. It is a stretch to call it “new,” because classes of this size sometimes existed a century ago.

The lead teacher, a veteran, is 30. Her helpers are in their firstvand second years of teaching.

“The hub’s large size concerns some experts. Officials with the EAA say teachers using this system are better able to tailor their lessons to the needs of individual children.

“Research has shown smaller sizes work, but this model has pretty much in a sense, early on, has kind of proved that wrong,” said Marques Stewart, Brenda Scott’s principal…..”

“The National Association for the Education of Young Children recommends kindergartners be educated in a defined group no larger than 20 to 24 students. Within that, it says, the teacher-student ratio range should be 1:10 to 1:12.

“Particularly for younger children, you need small groups for their ability to focus and their ability to form strong relationships with the teacher and to have an effective learning experience,” said Barbara Willer, the organization’s deputy executive director.

“One of the things that’s important in terms of early childhood education is you’re focusing on all areas of children’s development. Not only academic development, but also their social development.”

“Those early relationships are especially important for at-risk children, Firestone said. At Brenda Scott, 73% of students qualify for a free lunch — a barometer of poverty — though the school gives free meals to everyone. The school is in an area with a highly transient population, school officials said.

“Firestone, Willer and Keith Myers, executive director of the Michigan Association for the Education of Young Children, all said they know of no other kindergarten set up the same way. They learned about the hub through the Free Press and have never been there.

“Denise Smith, vice president for early learning at Excellent Schools Detroit, a coalition of foundations and community leaders, was curious when she heard about the hub and observed it for 40 minutes in mid-May.

“What I think is unique and successful in this environment is that they are really using the opportunity to co-plan and co-teach, so they’re able to expand in and out of their classes, to hone in on the needs of individual children,” she said. “I think they’re making it work.”

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 124,363 other followers