Archives for category: Childhood, Pre-K, K

Rigor!

Iowa will not allow third graders to pass from third grade to fourth grade unless they can pass a standardized test. The pressure to read has moved down to kindergarten.

“Kindergartners at Hubbell Elementary School in Des Moines no longer have time set aside to play — or to take a nap. Recess, too, has been shortened to 30 minutes a day. Like many schools across Iowa, the state’s push for education reform has set higher expectations that are placing more pressure on teachers and students.

“Now, 5- and 6-year-olds are expected to know their letters and numbers before they start kindergarten. And by the spring, they are supposed to be able to add and subtract numbers up to 10 and read words such as “school” and “food.”

“We are the new first grade,” said Micaela Tuttle, a kindergarten teacher at Hubbell who’s taught for 10 years.

“This year’s kindergarten and first-graders are garnering special focus because of a key part of Iowa’s education reform law: third-grade retention.

“Starting in May 2017, students who are below grade level in reading by the spring of third grade will be required to repeat the grade.

“However, they may enroll in a summer reading program to progress to fourth grade.”

One in four third-graders are unlikely to pass the test.

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?

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