Archives for category: Childhood, Pre-K, K

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.”

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.

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