Archives for category: Childhood, Pre-K, K

A teacher in Syracuse writes, in response to comments by another teacher:

Teaching has lost its joy and spontaneity. It has become “all work and no play, which makes Johnny a very dull boy.” (that goes for teachers too)!

At least one third of the teachers in my elementary school are now looking for work outside the profession. My kinder class is doing literacy curriculum with imaginative play completely phased out and only 20 minute recess daily. It is a stressful, rigid, boring environment that causes children and teachers to lose their spirit.

There is very little opportunity for social interaction between the children, since most of their CCSS worksheets are designed for independent work. There is no opportunity for relaxed conversation or spontaneity in our classroom, since our rigid schedule is demanding and inflexible. I don’t really have an opportunity to get to know my students on a personal level, since we are expected to maintain our detached business like atmosphere. We do have one art/music/pe class weekly, but when those go away it will be very depressing. The atmosphere of our school has become gelotophobic.

As a teacher, I feel restricted and controlled in everything I do. I have no freedom to use my own creativity in designing lesson plans, which causes me to think I could easily be replaced by a computer. Maybe that is the goal of CCSS and the reformers?

Your choice of the word “eerie” is true: ” It’s eerie to see CCSS stamped on all current material and resources. Education has been branded like cattle.”

That is a good description because the hostile corporate takeover is turning schools into systems of management like those used for livestock! It is all about “conditioning” children to “perform for tests”, like little workaholics who can follow commands, but cannot think for themselves or be creative. Work and boredom has become normal.

I think it is “eerie” to see children who have blank stares and work in silence most of the day without spontaneity, imagination, or play. I think the reason Pearson designed CCSS materials to be confusing and frustrating is part of the plan to dismantle public schools. The more parents recognize their children are having anxiety and depression, the more they will be inclined to put them into private or charter schools.

Drs Cashin & Cooper,

Thank you for an insightful article. I wish there was a way for the reformers to absorb this information.

Because of the harsh test focused school environments of chronic stress, most children no longer have a “safe haven”. The same seems to apply to their home environment as well, since most parents have become indoctrinated to focus on their child’s “performance”, at the expense of validating their emotional and social needs.

Children and teenagers are searching for connections to anything or anyone who can give them affection and acceptance for who they are. They are getting tired of being used to perform for and please adults. They will find surrogate family connections in gangs or whatever group will accept them for who they are. Trouble is, most children don’t have freedom to form their own identity in the autocratic environments that now exist in homes & schools, so they will spend a lifetime searching.

As a librarian, I am shocked at the increased rigidity this year, where our elementary students are told which library book that must choose.

Children have lost freedom in learning.
They are physically and mentally controlled to the extent that schools appear more like prisons. Reminds me of the book “The Twelve Year Sentence” by William Rickenbacker in 1974. How much worse things have become since then!

Howard Katzoff doesn’t understand why the commentators at MSNBC are so ill-informed about education issues. With the exception of Ed Schultz and possibly Chris Hayes, the commentators at MSNBC have swallowed the snake oil of corporate reform. Although they are usually out front on social and political issues, they sound like Fox News on education. When Education Nation opens in September, all of NBC turns into a cheerleading squad for the non-educators who paint by numbers (test scores).

In this post, Mr. Katzoff reminds Chris Matthews what education should be: it should be about educating the whole child in the liberal arts and sciences. It should not be a race for higher test scores or a process dominated by fear of failure.

Mr. Katzoff remembers when he started teaching:

“Look at our educational system from the point of view of well-meaning adults who use their academic knowledge and interpersonal skills with kids every day— and you will see that the whole discussion about American Education is framed from what Society needs, rather than from who children are.

“That is what is wrong with American public education.

“When our generation came into teaching in the mid-1960′s, it was typical for a Superintendent of Schools to make a speech at the start of the school year to inspire idealism among the staff, especially among the first- year teachers. Educational leaders would inevitably quote Socrates and the classics, alluding to the higher purposes of our jobs.”

But consider how things have changed:

“When I attended my last early September motivational meeting before I retired, the new regional superintendent came to our school to tell us we were in danger of getting a failing grade from the New York City Department of Education. Then she proceeded with graphs and charts to show exactly how we could move last year’s test scores to her projected scores for that year.

The instructional culture within American public schools has radically shifted from the classical Liberal Arts and Sciences or Humanistic tradition which emphasizes all the Arts, Sciences, Literature, History, Physical Education, Hand Work, Civics and Community Service— the paradigm of EDUCATING THE WHOLE CHILD.”

Our leaders are obsessed with numbers and data, not children or learning. That’s backwards.

Chris, can you help us? Rachel Maddow, can you?

I am really sorry to have to publish posts like this. I don’t want to see any teacher quit, especially the veteran teachers who are needed to help new teachers learn the ropes. And yet, there is a massive outflow of teaching talent from our public schools, caused by the soul-deadening testing regime that has throttled creativity and independent thought among teachers and students like. The spirit of standardization is alive in the land, and teachers feel they are under assault if they do not conform and comply. Some just can’t do it. I urge them to stay and fight, for the sake of the children, but for many teachers the conditions have become intolerable. I know that the modal year of teaching experience has dropped from 15 in 1988 to only one or two today; that is a frightening statistic. I have been in schools where no one had more than five or six years of experience. That is awful. Some education schools report a dramatic decline in enrollments. At some point, we must attribute the deliberate attacks on the teaching profession to the so-called reform movement that holds teachers “accountable” for everything wrong in the lives of children. Researchers state without question, even conservative researchers like Eric Hanushek, that the influence of family far exceeds that of the teacher, yet reformers have turned teachers into their targets while doing nothing to improve the lives of children or families.

This article was published on Valerie Strauss’s blog “The Answer Sheet” at the Washington Post. As Strauss writes, “Susan Sluyter is a veteran teacher of young children in the Cambridge Public Schools who has been connected to the district for nearly 20 years and teaching for more than 25 years. Last month she sent a resignation letter ( “with deep love and a broken heart”) explaining that she could no longer align her understanding of how young children learn best in safe, developmentally appropriate environments with the testing and data collection mandates imposed on teachers today.

Read Sluyter’s entire letter. It begins like this:

When I first began teaching more than 25 years ago, hands-on exploration, investigation, joy and love of learning characterized the early childhood classroom.  I’d describe our current period as a time of testing, data collection, competition and punishment. One would be hard put these days to find joy present in classrooms.

I think it started with No Child Left Behind years ago.  Over the years I’ve seen this climate of data fascination seep into our schools and slowly change the ability for educators to teach creatively and respond to children’s social and emotional needs.  But this was happening in the upper grades mostly.  Then it came to kindergarten and PreK, beginning a number of years ago with a literacy initiative that would have had us spending the better part of each day teaching literacy skills through various prescribed techniques.  ”What about math, science, creative expression and play?” we asked.  The kindergarten teachers fought back and kept this push for an overload of literacy instruction at bay for a number of years.

Next came additional mandated assessments.  Four and five year olds are screened regularly each year for glaring gaps in their development that would warrant a closer look and securing additional supports (such as O.T, P.T, and Speech Therapy) quickly.   Teachers were already assessing each child three times a year to understand their individual literacy development and growth.  A few years ago, we were instructed to add periodic math assessments after each unit of study in math.  Then last year we were told to include an additional math assessment on all Kindergarten students (which takes teachers out of the classroom with individual child testing, and intrudes on classroom teaching time.)

Every year, the mandates grew more academic and less child-friendly. The demand for standards and assessments grew more insistent, more detailed, more onerous:

There is a national push, related to the push for increased academics in Early Childhood classrooms, to cut play out of the kindergarten classroom.  Many kindergartens across the country no longer have sand tables, block areas, drama areas and arts and crafts centers.  This is a deeply ill-informed movement, as all early childhood experts continuously report that 4, 5 and 6 year olds learn largely through play.  Play is essential to healthy development and deep foundational learning at the kindergarten level.  We kindergarten teachers in Cambridge have found ourselves fighting to keep play alive in the kindergarten classroom.

Last year we heard that all kindergarten teachers across the state of Massachusetts were to adopt one of a couple of in-depth comprehensive assessments to perform with each kindergarten child three times a year.  This requires much training and an enormous amount of a teacher’s time to carry out for each child.  Cambridge adopted the Work Sampling System, which is arguably a fine tool for assessment, but it requires a teacher to leave the classroom and focus on assessment even more, and is in addition to other assessments already being done.  The negative impact of this extensive and detailed assessment system is that teachers are forced to learn yet another new and complicated tool, and are required to spend significantly less time in the classroom during the three assessment periods, as they assess, document evidence to back up their observations, and report on each child.  And it distracts teachers yet again from their teaching focus, fracturing their concentration on teaching goals, projects, units of study, and the flow of their classroom curriculum.

Conditions for teaching kindergarten children grew increasingly oppressive. Finally, on February 12, Susan Sluyter submitted her resignation letter. She concluded it in this way:

I was trying to survive in a community of colleagues who were struggling to do the same:  to adapt and survive, to continue to hold onto what we could, and to affirm what we believe to be quality teaching for an early childhood classroom.  I began to feel a deep sense of loss of integrity.  I felt my spirit, my passion as a teacher, slip away.  I felt anger rise inside me.  I felt I needed to survive by looking elsewhere and leaving the community I love so dearly.  I did not feel I was leaving my job.  I felt then and feel now that my job left me.

It is with deep love and a broken heart that I write this letter.

The so-called reform movement is destroying the lives of teachers and hurting children. It must be stopped. Soon, our classrooms will be filled with temps who come to teach for a few years, knowing only one thing: test scores matter most. None of the reformers would do this to their own children. Why do we let them do it to Other People’s Children–and to ours? This madness must end.



This teacher explains: She loves teaching. She loves her
students, but she wants the high-stakes testing and the Race to the
Top to stop. She knows that her students are set up to fail. It is
all so wrong, so mean-spirited, so cruel. This is what she knows:
“I am a NYS certified public school teacher teaching 3rd grade in
an economically disadvantaged school district in rural upstate New
York. I happen to be one of the unfortunate teachers in a “test
grade” and am in fear of loosing my job, my livelihood, and the one
thing I used to enjoy waking up to every morning (my students)!!!!!
I went into teaching to teach precious little minds to learn and
not fear the consequences if they do not get something. “That has
all changed in the last several of years as state and federal
politics have stepped in to tell us how poorly our students are
doing. We, as teachers, are so under pressure to make a round peg
fit into a square hole with these new core standards. The people
who write these tests and demand that all students achieve at the
same level have never stepped foot into a classroom to see the
diversity of the students we work with everyday. “Last year during
the first year of the common core testing, I had students who were
crying because they did not understand the question, did not have
time to finish under the allotted time, or were just simply
overwhelmed by the complexity of the test. Is that why I became a
teacher, no it is not! I teach because I want to see my students
learn, but as more and more pressure comes down on us as teachers
so too does it in our students! “There has to be a time when we
stop thinking about the race to the top and start thinking about
the children we are supposed to be encouraging to want to learn!
The only thing we are doing with these common core state tests is
setting them up for failure and in the same process making teachers
look like they are not doing their jobs. “I’m tired of people who
have never stepped foot into a classroom telling me that I am not
“effective” because my 8 year old students can’t pass a test that
even a college graduate has difficulty completing!!!!!!! Whether I
am effective should not depend on how my students do on a three day
test, it should be based on whether they show growth from beginning
to end, just like they should not be considered as not meeting an
impossible state mandated goal in a three day test!!! Enough is
enough, let us get back to teaching and let our kids be kids,
after-all your childhood only lasts so long!!!!!”

The most famous line ever written by John Dewey was this:

“What the best and wisest parent wants for his own child, that must the community want for all its children. Any other ideal for our schools is narrow and unlovely; acted upon, it destroys our democracy.”

Our frequent commenter KrazyTA has been exploring what our leading reformers–who see themselves as our best and wisest educational visionaries–want for their own children. After Bill Gates spoke to the teachers at the annual conference of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards to explain why the Common Core was absolutely necessary and was the key to teachers’ creativity, KrazyTA inquired into the practices at the elite Lakeside School in Seattle, where Bill was a student and where his own children are enrolled.

This is what he found:

“Strangely, when I went to the Lakeside School website—you know, where Bill Gates and his children went/go to school—I found not a single mention of Common Core, standardization and electric plugs. Not to mention that they weren’t coupled with terms like “innovation” and “teaching.”

“Worse yet, not a single mention of how “college and career readiness” has been lacking there up until now either. Am I missing something? Anyway, let’s see what sort of institution crippled Mr. Bill Gates.

“Let’s start with “About Lakeside.”

First, their mission statement:

[start quote]

“The mission of Lakeside School is to develop in intellectually capable young people the creative minds, healthy bodies, and ethical spirits needed to contribute wisdom, compassion, and leadership to a global society. We provide a rigorous and dynamic academic program through which effective educators lead students to take responsibility for learning.

“We are committed to sustaining a school in which individuals representing diverse cultures and experiences instruct one another in the meaning and value of community and in the joy and importance of lifelong learning.

[end quote]

Second, “Mission Focus”:

[start quote]

“Lakeside School fosters the development of citizens capable of and committed to interacting compassionately, ethically, and successfully with diverse peoples and cultures to create a more humane, sustainable global society. This focus transforms our learning and our work together.

[end quote]


“Academics Overview” with the subtitle “A Commitment to Excellence”:

[start quote]

“Lakeside’s 5th- to 12th-grade student-centered academic program focuses on the relationships between talented students and capable and caring teachers. We develop and nurture students’ passions and abilities and ensure every student feels known.

“The cultural and economic diversity of our community, the teaching styles, and the approaches to learning are all essential to Lakeside academics. We believe that in today’s global world, our students need to know more than one culture, one history, and one language.

“Each student’s curiosities and capabilities lead them to unique academic challenges that are sustained through a culture of support and encouragement. All students will find opportunities to discover and develop a passion; to hone the skills of writing, thinking, and speaking; and to interact with the world both on and off campus. Lakeside trusts that each student has effective ideas about how to maximize his or her own education, and that they will positively contribute to our vibrant learning community.

[end quote]


“Let’s switch gears—or at least websites. Even more strangely, I found that stuff like class size matters:

[start quote]

“Finally, I had great relationships with my teachers here at Lakeside. Classes were small. You got to know the teachers. They got to know you. And the relationships that come from that really make a difference…

[end quote]

“More of this nonsense [?] can be found in the link below, like the fact that Lakeside School has a student/teacher ration of 9:1 and average class size of 16.


“Well, I could on and on but I fear we need to rescue the little tykes in the Gates family from such horrors as, well, feast your eyes on this bit of barbarity regarding the Study Year Abroad:

[start quote]

“Since 1964, School Year Abroad has sent high school juniors and seniors to study abroad in distinctive cities and towns throughout Europe and Asia where their safety and security is a priority. Widely considered the ‘gold standard’ of high school study abroad programs, SYA’s rigorous academic curriculum, paired with complementary educational travel and varied extracurricular activities, ensure students are in an optimal position to return to their home schools or proceed to college.

[end quote]


“Nuff said. Will you be joining Eva M and the pro-charterite/privatizer commenters on this blog for the upcoming “Save the Children of the Poor Millionaires & Billionaires Rally: A New Civil Rights Movement For The Truly Downtrodden” — catered, don’t you worry, by Wolfgang Puck.

I hope the above will put you at ease.”


Dr. Yohuru Williams teaches history at Fairfield University in Connecticut.

In this post, he condenses the lessons of the best-seller All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, reducing sixteen lessons to only six. They are on point and hilarious.

These are six rules to live by and to learn by. School would be a far better place for learning if everyone took Dr. Williams’ good advice.

Here are two of his rules:


  • Play fair. (Of course, this is impossible when the ultimate measure of a student’s success is reduced to how well they perform on standardized tests). Recent cheating scandals, involving some of the luminaries of Corporate Education Reform, illustrate the danger of a hyper-competitive model of education that substitutes standardization for innovation instead of more organic and battle-tested measures of student achievement.


· Don’t hit people. Or yell at people (Chris Christie), or make up facts (Stefan Pryor), or denigrate parents (Arne Duncan), or brag about taping the mouths of children shut (Michelle Rhee), or lie about test scores. Take your pick. But seriously, the crass manner in which the apostles of corporate education reform have “engaged” parents and teachers from Connecticut to California demonstrates how little respect they have for the communities or “children” whom they claim to value. See also: Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.

It is never too soon to start Racing to the Top. It is never to soon to warn your toddler about the utter irrevance of studying useless subjects like Art History, Philosophy, or Literature.

Ask EduShyster. She will explain it to you.

“Chetty, chetty bang bang

“Chances are, your career-ready kindergartner LUVS his or her teacher. [Brief pause while writer shakes her head slowly and dramatically for effect.] You see, it may be time for a tough little talk with your youngster in which you explain that a *nice* teacher and a *highly effective* teacher are not one and the same, no matter how sweet she was when you had that little problem at nap time. Using brightly colored blocks (or the virtual equivalent on your at-home Amplify tablet), quickly and carefully demonstrate the Chetty principle to your youngster. See the great stack of yellow blocks? Those are your future earnings under a *high value teacher.* And that small tower of blue blocks? That’s the actual apartment building where you’ll live in your higher *SES* neighborhood, also home to the very bank at which you’ll amass savings at a higher rate.”

Read carefully for good advice from a billionaire who used to work at Enron.

Albany, Néw York, will be the scene of two competing rallies on Tuesday.

Eva Moskowitz is closing her charter schools on NYC and will bus thousands of children and parents to lobby for her charter chain.

On the same day, allies of Mayor de Blasio will assemble to urge the legislature to permit NYC to tax the richest–those who earn more than $500,000 annually–to pay for universal pre-K.

Place your bets, folks. Will it come down to a contest between which groups made the biggest campaign contributions? Or will the greater public good prevail?

This morning, Joe Williams, the executive director of the hedge-fund managers’ “education reform” front group (“Democrats for Education Reform”) published an opinion piece in the New York Daily News opposing Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan to fund universal pre-kindergarten by taxing incomes over $500,000. As Mayor de Blasio has pointed out, the incremental tax to pay for U-PK would be the equivalent of a soy latte at Starbucks every day, about $1,000 a year for the city’s wealthiest residents. But the hedge fund managers say no. This may explain why the California Democratic party called out DFER last year and urged them to stop calling themselves “Democrats” when they are fronts for Republicans and corporate interests. Imagine someone who has a take home pay of half a million a year unwilling to pay another $1,000 to ensure that every child in the city has pre-kindergarten class. How embarrassing for DFER. Why not just call themselves Hedge Funders for Education Reform and drop the pretense. They are making war on the signature proposal of the city’s wildly popular new progressive mayor.


The Alliance for Quality Education, which advocates on behalf of the city’s children, fired off a press release:



“On Pre-K, Parents Blast Corporate Education Front-Groups for ‘Putting the Rich First’ Over Students 


NY, NY— Following the Daily News op-ed by DFER’s Joe Williams, a national leader in the education corporate reform agenda, which revealed they are advocating against Mayor de Blasio’s tax plan to fund pre-K, Zakiyah Ansari, Advocacy Director for the Alliance for Quality Education, & Celia Green from New York Communities for Change released the following statement:


“Shame on the corporate front-groups for trying to get in the way of pre-K for New York City. They are simply ‘putting the rich first’ and shortchanging four year olds. The best plan would be to combine both the mayor’s and the governor’s plans—that would serve more kids in New York City and throughout the state. Mr. Williams is misrepresenting the facts when he says the Governor’s plan is more equitable; there is nothing equitable about leaving tens of thousands of four year olds out in the cold on pre-K. Every single child deserves to have access to high-quality pre-K, not just the rich who can afford to pay for it,” said Zakiyah Ansari, Advocacy Director for the Alliance for Quality Education. 


“The corporate reform agenda was rejected in New York City, and now their front-group spokesman is cozying up to the Governor and millionaires. Opposing the Mayor’s plan because it will slightly raise taxes is out-of-touch with not only families across the city, but with the countless wealthy individuals in the city who support the Mayor’s plan. The bottom line is that I’m tired of protesting cuts to programs or living in fear as to whether they will still be there next year– that’s why we need a reliable funding stream through a small tax increase on the wealthy,” said Celia Green, parent leader with New York Communities for Change.



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