Archives for category: Childhood, Pre-K, K

A comment posted on the blog:

 

“Thank-you. I’ve been teaching for 26 years. I currently teach kindergarten. You should see the SLO (Student Learning Objective) test that I have to give my kindergarteners next week. The state of Georgia, in its infinite wisdom, came up with the term Student Learning Objective, realizing too late that it spells SLO. How appropriate.

 

“Anyway, next week’s test is hilarious when you read it, knowing what I know about five year olds & seeing it from their point of view. It is also ridiculous and sad. I so wish Bill Gates would come and administer that test for me next week so he could get a taste of what he & others are causing our students to go through. Testing isn’t educating, but it’s all we seem to do anymore. Even in primary school.

 

“To make matters worse, our new “teacher evaluation instrument” is convoluted and makes little sense. We are observed 6 times a year and downgraded if our lesson plans aren’t done just so, no matter that they are MY lesson plans. Here’s the real kicker: we must have our “I can” statements clearly posted, taking up valuable wall space, and we must refer to them and chant “I can….. ” do whatever ridiculous, age inappropriate objective set aside for us to “teach them.” I said the “I can” statements with my students a couple of times, realized how utterly useless they are, and haven’t done it since. It’s bad enough that I have to have them posted. My principal has told me that I live in a world of “butterflies, birds, and rainbows” and that I “do my own thing.” I’m glad she’s finally figured that out.”

This is the story of Mell Zinn. She got her teaching credentials, but she couldn’t find a job. She opened a licensed early childhood center in her home. Her husband is earning. Graduate degree. She is the sole support of her family. It is below the poverty line.

This is not what it should mean to be a professional in America in 2015.

Wendy Lecker, a civil rights attorney, contends that the Common Core standards–not just the testing, but the standards as well–are bad for education.

Humans are born with the desire to learn. The job of parents and teachers is to foster and nurture that desire to learn, not stifle it.

“As child development expert Diane Levin of Wheelock College told me, through play, children develop the foundation for reading. When a child builds with blocks or engages in socio-dramatic play, s/he is making a representation of something in a different form — a step toward abstract thought. By painting and drawing, a child begins to understand that two-dimensional lines can represent three dimensional objects — a precursor to comprehending that letters can represent sounds and words can represent objects or ideas. By telling stories or putting on plays, a child understands sequencing. In playing with objects, s/he learns to categorize. These activities are intentionally designed to help children build a strong foundation for the kind of skills required for formal reading instruction later on. Children need to first build this foundation experientially, in the concrete world in which they live, in order for the skills to have meaning for them.

“During the above-described play, children may start to recognize letters and words. However, for most children, formal reading instruction at this age is not meaningful or engaging. They may learn to mimic and comply with instructions, but without the necessary foundation, they will not integrate the lessons. In fact, studies show that children who begin formal reading instruction at age seven, having first developed strong oral language skills in a play-based environment, catch up to children who learn to read earlier and have better comprehension skills by middle school.”

Steven Singer is a National Board Certified Teacher of secondary school in Pennsylvania, he is also a parent of a kindergarten student. He didn’t want her to take standardized tests, and he went to her school to meet with the principal and her teacher. One of the tests is DIBELS, the other is GRADE. He thought both were useless.

 

He writes:

 

“I think standardized testing is destroying public education. It’s stressing kids out by demanding they perform at levels they aren’t developmentally ready to reach. And its using these false measures of proficiency to “prove” how bad public schools are so they can be replaced by for-profit charters that will reduce the quality of kids’ educations to generate profits.”

 

The principal said:

 

“I’ve never had a parent ask to opt out of the DIBELS before,” he said.

 

He said the DIBELS is a piece of the data teachers use to make academic decisions about their students. Without it, how would they know if their children could read, were hitting certain benchmarks?

 

Singer replied:

 

“I know I teach secondary and that’s different than elementary,” I said, “but there is not a single standardized test that I give my kids that returns any useful information. “I don’t need a test to tell me if my students can read. I don’t need a test to know if they can write or spell. I know just by interacting with them in the classroom.”

 

The principal looked to the teacher, and the teacher agreed! She knows how her students are doing without the standardized tests.

 

Singer left feeling elated.

 

“It wasn’t until then that I realized the power parents truly have. The principal Smith might have refused a TEACHER who brought up all of the concerns I had. He’s their boss. He trusts his own judgment. But I don’t work for him. In fact, he works for me. And – to his credit – he knows that.

 

“I know everyone isn’t as lucky as me. Some people live in districts that aren’t as receptive. But if parents rose up en masse and spoke out against toxic testing, it would end tomorrow.

 

“If regular everyday Dads and Moms stood up for their children and asked questions, there would be no more Race to the Top, Common Core or annual standardized testing. Because while teachers have years of experience, knowledge and love – parents have the power. Imagine if we all worked together! What a world we could build for our children!”

According to the Cherry Creek News, Colorado parents are trying to beat back another high-stakes testing bill by State Senator Michael Johnston. This one is aimed at kindergarten children. They would be required to pass a reading test or take remedial instruction.

Maybe kindergarten kids will stage protests or their parents will.

The last education reform bill by Johnston made test scores 50% of every teacher’s evaluation. He called it “Great Schools, Great Teachers,” all accomplished by the magic of standardized tests. That was 2010. How did that work out?

Laura H. Chapman, arts educator, has taught from pre-school through college. In this comment, she responds to the pressure on little children to be “college-and-career-ready.”

 

 

 

Arizona has a checklist for this purpose. It is offered up as graphic and “balloon questions” that should be answered as if proof that the kindergartner is on track for college AND a career. (Meanwhile Congress wants to reframe NCLB as “Every Child Ready for College OR Career).”

 

Arizona’s State Department of Education offers a graphic that also functions as a checklist for college and career readiness. There in no picture of a train on a track, just comic-like bubbles filled with text, organized around a car. The car is facing left (a visual convention that has long been used to imply “go west)”

 

You can see this graphic and some grade by grade versions of the college/career questions here http://www.azed.gov/azccrs/files/2013/10/k-12collegeandcareerchecklist.pdf

 

This kind of checklist is migrating to other states via the promoters of “personalized learning” and on-line programs where dashboard versions update information and post “recommendations” for specific colleges or for career certificates that match up with student interests, family budgets, and so on. Some of these programs are designed to by-pass the need for face-to-face guidance from middle and high school guidance counselors.

 

The permitted “vocational interest” classifications in these assessments typically match up with 16 “career clusters” and occupational pathways linked to O’Net, an online resource designed for job-seekers. The O’Net system in turn, is connected to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics that offers projections of labor markets by industry and occupations, the most recent from 2012 to 2022. These projections are updated every 2 years.

 

The Bureau of Labor Statistics labor projections show the fastest growing occupations, those with a rise or drop in average salary, those with educational requirements such as on the job training, high school diploma, and more.

 

You will not find Achieve, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the promoters of the Common Core, STEM, and technical education publicizing many of these projections. Why not?

 

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projections take into account outsourcing, the shifting of professional work to paraprofessionals and automated technologies, the expansion of services for the aging baby-boomers, and so on. The jobs and trend lines show that many jobs are not destined to be “drivers of the global economy.” Neither will many produce a fast turn-around in the U.S. economy. The job projections do not match much of the career hype.

 

Almost all of the business and economic reasoning from the late 1990s—prompting talk about a nation at risk from global competition, higher standards as a panacea, and implied promises of unbridled growth in high tech careers—persists, along with claims that every student must have post-secondary education, preferably college. No doubt college helps on life-long income, but that has been true for a long time.

 

The career promoters who want to reach into kindergarten with assessments and year to year tracking are doing the equivalent of killing the seed corn. The seed corn is PLAY…unleashed from any clear purpose, unencumbered by what it is good for, untethered to CEO expectations for a 21st workforce.

 

It is as if…nothing changed after 9/11—just go shopping and get your little ones prepared for that and making marketable goodies.

 

It is as if…the world economy did not tank in 2007-2008, or if so, it was the fault of low standards, not enough testing, lazy teachers, too much play in school, especially Kindergarten.

 

It is as if…it is perfectly OK that 51 percent of K-12 students today live in poverty.

 

It is as if…it is perfectly OK that 30 states provide less funding per student in 2014-15 than they did before the 2008 recession.

 

It is as if…it is perfectly OK that the price tag of K-12 education has increased since 2008, due to rising costs of supplies and tests—more tests from an unregulated industry, and and dubious investments in technology for tests and data-mining.

 

It is as if…all of those teacher salaries were outrageous. Fact check: Between 1999 and 2013 the average salary decreased by 1.3 percent (adjusted dollars), National Center for Education Statistics.

 

I hope that the teachers and parents of Kindergarten children in Arizona will download and shred this ugly graphic filled with questions about careers.

 

It is time for some civil disobedience to stop careerism, especially in Kindergarten and the early grades. This must become as important as stopping the endless testing…for the sake of children who need to experience childhood for the joy of that and as the greatest way to learn stuff that matters to them. That “stuff” may, by a circuitous path, matter more to the future of a great nation than all of the rigors and angst created by today’s strictly academic regime.”

Remember the Néw York Times story about the tech executives in California who send their own children to a no-tech Waldorf school?

Look at this:

“Please comment on this and help stop before it starts. This has to be stopped before these are turned into laws. This is how bad it is getting in Connecticut.

“HIGH-STAKES testing BEFORE Kindergarten…..Keyboarding instruction in Kindergarten. God help these children:

“AN ACT CONCERNING THE KINDERGARTEN ASSESSMENT TOOL. (given in preschool!!)

http://www.cga.ct.gov/asp/cgabillstatus/cgabillstatus.asp?selBillType=Bill&bill_num=SB00339&which_year=2015″

AN ACT CONCERNING COMPUTER KEYBOARDING INSTRUCTION IN KINDERGARTEN AND ELEMENTARY SCHOOL. http://www.cga.ct.gov/asp/cgabillstatus/cgabillstatus.asp?selBillType=Bill&bill_num=HB05015&which_year=2015

High-stakes testing has reached down into kindergarten, where it is developmentally inappropriate. Kindergarten is supposed to be the children’s garden. It is supposed to be a time for learning to socialize with others, to work and play with others, to engage in imaginative activities, to plan with building blocks and games. It is a time when little children learn letters and numbers as part of their activities. They listen as the teacher reads stories, and they want to learn to read.

 

But in the era of No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top, kindergarten has changed. Little children must be tested. The great data monster needs data. How can their teachers be evaluated if there are no standardized tests and no data?

 

This frightening article in Slate by Alexandria Neason describes how high-stakes testing now permeates kindergarten.

 

The author describes the kindergarten classroom of Molly Mansel in Néw Orleans.

 

“Mansel’s students started taking tests just three weeks into the 2014–15 school year. They began with a state-required early childhood exam in August, which covered everything from basic math to letter identification. Mansel estimates that it took between four and five weeks for the teachers to test all 58 kindergarten students—and that was with the help of the prekindergarten team. The test requires an adult to sit individually with each student, reading questions and asking them to perform various tasks. The test is 11 pages long and “it’s very time-consuming,” according to Mansel, who is 24 and in her third year of teaching (her first in kindergarten).

 

The rest of the demanding testing schedule involves repeated administrations of two different school-mandated tests. The first, Measures of Academic Progress, or MAP, is used to measure how students are doing compared with their peers nationally—and to evaluate teachers’ performance. The students take the test in both reading and math three times a year. They have about an hour to complete the test, and slower test takers are pulled from class to finish.

 

The second test, called Strategic Teaching and Evaluation of Progress, or STEP, is a literacy assessment that measures and ranks children’s progress as they learn letters, words, sentences, and, eventually, how to read. Mansel gives the test individually to students four times throughout the year. It takes several days to administer as Mansel progresses through a series of tasks: asking the students to write their names, to point to uppercase and lowercase versions of letters, and to identify words that rhyme, for example.

 

Although more informal, the students also take about four quizzes per week in writing, English, math, science, and social studies. The school’s other kindergarten teacher designs most of the quizzes, which might ask students to draw a picture describing what they learned, or write about it in a journal.

 

“By the end of the school year, Mansel estimates that she’ll have lost about 95 hours of class time to test administration—a number inconceivable to her when she reflects on her own kindergarten experience. She doesn’t remember taking any tests at all until she was in at least second grade. And she’s probably right.”

 

Whoever made this happen should be arrested for child abuse and theft of childhood.

Robert Pondiscio wrote an article for US News defending Common Core’s requirement that all children in kindergarten must learn to read. [Full disclosure: Robert is a friend though I don’t agree with him about Common Core.]

 

Peter Greene disagrees with Pondiscio.

 

Robert writes:

 

“I’m a fan of the Common Core State Standards, but I recognize there are many reasonable and honorable areas of disagreement about them, both politically and educationally. However one recent thread of opposition strikes me as quite unreasonable: the idea that Common Core demands too much by expecting children to be able to read by the end of kindergarten.

 

“A recent report from a pair of early childhood advocacy organizations (Defending the Early Years and Alliance for Childhood) makes the argument that “forcing some kids to read before they are ready could be harmful” and calls for Common Core to be dropped in kindergarten and “rethought along developmental lines.” It’s a really bad idea. Early reading struggles left unaddressed tend to persist, setting kids up for failure. Common Core is not without faults, but its urgency about early childhood literacy is not one of them.

 

“The first red flag in the report is its insistence that Common Core is “developmentally inappropriate.” That sounds scientific and authoritative, but it’s a notoriously slippery concept, harkening back to the day when Piaget theorized that children go through discrete developmental stages. As Dan Willingham, a cognitive scientist at the University of Virginia points out, “children’s cognition is fairly variable day to day, even when the same child tries the same task.” What critics seem to be saying is that Common Core is simply too hard for kindergarten. But that’s clearly not true either.”

 

Peter Greene responds:

 

“There is a world of difference between saying, “It’s a good idea for children to proceed as quickly as they can toward reading skills” and “All students must demonstrate the ability to read emergent reader texts with purpose and understanding by the last day of kindergarten.”

 

“The development of reading skills, like the development of speech, height, weight, hair and potty training, is a developmental landmark that each child will reach on his or her own schedule.

 

“We would like all children to grow up to be tall and strong. It does not automatically follow that we should therefore set a height standard that all children must meet by their fifth birthday– especially if we are going to label all those who come up short as failures or slow or developmentally disabled, and then use those labels in turn to label their schools and their teachers failures as well. These standards demand that students develop at a time we’ve set for them. Trying to force, pressure and coerce them to mature or grow or develop sooner so that they don’t “fail”– how can that be a benefit to the child.

 

“And these are five year olds in kindergarten. On top of the developmental differences that naturally occur among baby humans, we’ve also got the arbitrary age requirements of the kindergarten system itself, meaning that there can be as much as a six-month age difference (10% of their lives so far) between the students.”

 

 

As for myself, I agree with Dan Willingham, who was quoted by Robert. Children’s development is highly variable, making it impossible to set a hard and fast deadline, such as, they must be able to read at the end of kindergarten. My own children learned to read before they started kindergarten (I read to them and with them daily), but others in their class started reading in first grade; a few became readers as late as second grade. Now they are all adults, and no one remembers when they started reading, except their parents.

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.”

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 150,284 other followers