Archives for category: Childhood, Pre-K, K

Susan Ochshorn, an expert in early childhood education, read a recent article by Motoko Rich in the New York Times about a “renaissance” of play in kindergarten. She cautions here that the renaissance is still in too few places and can’t come soon enough.

Ochsborn writes:

“I sure hope she’s right. But I’m not yet ready to raise a glass.

“Some educators in low-income districts–including the one quoted in Rich’s piece–cling to the idea that poorer children will be ill-served by a curriculum dominated by play, falling behind their more affluent peers. Their worries, fueled by anxieties about the achievement gap, reflect a centuries-old divide—dueling theories about how young children learn best. Never mind that the evidence base for the acquisition of reading, math, science, and social skills through play couldn’t be more robust, as the researchers like to say. Or that the most well-endowed private schools, producing the nation’s elite, have long subscribed to this pedagogical model.

“We continue to spar, leaving children in the dust. Is it better for them to lead the way, or be led? Developmental scientist Alison Gopnik, who calls children the “R & D department of the human species—the blue-sky guys, the brainstormers”— argues that teacher-led learning may produce specific answers from students, but it also puts the kibosh on unexpected solutions, or the kind of creative thinking that we purport to hold in such high esteem.”

A post yesterday described the intrusion of Common Core into a Headstart program for babies.

This teacher tried but could not escape the dead hand of test-driven Common Core:

“I am just completing my 10th consecutive year teaching Kindergarten. I began the first year of the NCLB standardized testing. I previously taught grades 3-5, 10 years prior and strongly objected to the tests at that time. My principal who always praised the way I taught reading told me that I would have to restructure my program to include more workbooks and test prep.

“Luckily a position in K opened up and i was able to get away from the testing and enjoy teaching in a creative way again with thematic units and high interest books. But slowly, ever slowly that began to change. For the past 4 years I have been forced to use a “CC aligned” curriculum that I hate and must use the assessments from the program that is extremely developmentally inappropriate. And there are A LOT of benchmark tests, at least one every 2 weeks that have as many as 65 multiple choice questions like on the final ELA benchmark I gave just this week….. So now of course they would come for the babies next, not surprised, this is the trickle down effect of the poison of back mapping.”

The Boston Globe has a good article describing the debate about the developmental appropriateness of the Common Core.

Articles like this are important for educating the public

Susan Ochshorn of the ECE Policy Works, questions our society’s obsessive compulsive demand for data, especially data about our youngest children.

 

She writes:

 

“Americans love data. We cannot get enough of it. Collectors on speed, we measure every indicator in sight. Children are the youngest, most fragile casualties of our obsessive compulsive disorder. How many words do they have in their emergent lexicons? Do they know their letters? Can they count up to 20? Are they ready for school? Are they reading The Sorcerer’s Stone ahead of the third-grade benchmarks? They’re on treadmills, each milestone anxiously awaited, and dutifully recorded….

 

“Assessing readiness “a somewhat narrow and artificial construct of questionable merit,” as one early childhood expert put it, is daunting. Kids develop on wildly different timelines, their progress difficult to capture in a snapshot. But that doesn’t stop us. Today, a growing number of states are adopting universal assessment of kindergarten students, grappling with the challenges of reliability and validity in the instruments they use.”

 

Nothing can stop us from collecting Big Data about little kids. Or can it? What if parents should said no?

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.”

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