As an outgrowth of reading your new book, “Reign of Error” and reading your blog, I have written the op-ed piece below to the Connecticut Post.
Thank you for all you do in your support of public education.
The Developmental Inappropriateness of the CCSS for Kindergarten Children
To the Editor,
I recently had an opportunity to talk to a kindergarten teacher who taught in an urban school district in Connecticut immersed in implementing the Connecticut Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and was amazed at the changes that have occurred with kindergarten education over the years. As a former elementary school principal, kindergarten was always my favorite grade level as I enjoyed the innocence, naturalness and spontaneity of young kindergarten children and how much they loved school. Most amazingly was how impressively gifted and talented the kindergarten teachers were in accommodating to the intellectual, social, physical and emotional needs of these young children. It was inspiring to see how these kindergarten teachers planned lessons and activities that were intellectually challenging and creative yet very developmentally appropriate and how positively these precious young children responded to the lessons which enabled them to make giant strides and progress in their kindergarten year.
Unfortunately, education reformers such as Connecticut Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor don’t seem to think much about what is developmentally appropriate for kindergarten children in the zealous implementation the Connecticut Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Moreover, Commissioner Pryor and other reformers are thinking of how can we get these kindergarten children into college as their main focus. In the place of developmentally appropriate activities suitable for young children, Pryor and other “education reformers” want these kindergarteners to begin to work on “academic skills” instead of a kindergarten where creative play as well as language and number development use to be some of the central themes of the curriculum for these young children. Sadly, what we are are also experiencing with the Common Core Elementary Standards for these very young children is stress as many of these vulnerable young children are not prepared for this level of education.
In a recent speech given by the noted child psychologist, Dr. Megan Koschnick at the American Principles Project (APP) in Washington, DC, she cited how the CCSS “will cause suffering, not learning, for many, many young children.” Likewise, Dr. Carla Horowitz of the Yale Child Student Center claims ” the Common Core asks small children to behave like little adults and they are not little adults.” Noted child development expert, Dr. David Elkind wrote two books, “The Hurried Child” and “Miseducation” citing how schools have had a downward extension of the curriculum which have impacted children in their early years of schooling with inappropriate and test-driven instruction. He also believes that “miseducation” in the early years ” can leave the child with lifelong emotional disabilities.”
A parent of a kindergarten child in Palm Beach County, Florida shares her daughter’s experience in which she had her first test. According to the parent, each student taking the test in this kindergarten class was separated by a cardboard wall and were given a five page test on numbers. When the parent inquired from the teacher why these kindergarten children required testing, the teacher responded, “they have to be prepared for testing in first grade. ” In New York City, testing of young children has reached the point of absurdity in which many parents of preschool children are known to pay tutors $200 an hour preparing them for an entrance exam in order to enhance their chances of obtaining a place in one of the elite New York City private schools. One wealthy New York City couple even celebrated their daughter’s high test score with a catered bash at their Hampton’s home with the child’s closest preschool friends.
As Diane Ravitch, education historian and research professor of education at New York University, in her new book “Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools” points out that “since the advent of No Child Left Behind, many schools have cut back on every subject that was not tested.” Hence, according to Dr.Ravitch, we find that many public schools are cutting back on other subjects such as history, literature, dramatics, art, music and foreign languages at the expense of basic skill subjects which are the ones that are tested. The subjects being eliminated were once the norm in ordinary public schools, as Dr. Ravictch belives that programs such as No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and Race To the Top (RTTT) have undermined the ideal curriculm in many public schools, especially in the more impoverished urban schools. The amount of testing for children of all ages in Connecticut schools including the very young in Connecticut will only intensify as Commissioner Pryor implements the Connecticut Common Core State standards which will also, in part, be used for the assessment of Connecticut teachers. Needless to say, the stakes are very high for teachers, students and parents.
Ms. Ann Policelli Cronin, an experienced high school English teacher in Connecticut believes that much of what has been written about the CCSS is “based on a faulty premise about their quality.” She disputes what New York Times editorial writers Charles Blow and Bill Keller have written concerning the importance of the CCSS as Ms. Cronin believes, “the Common Core State Standards will diminish student learning in high school classes and will inhibit good teaching.” When parents and teachers examine who are the staunchest supporters of the CCSS, they will find the likes of Bill Gates, Arne Duncan and Jeb Bush who, in addition to advocating for the implementation of the CCSS in schools across the country, are among the most vociferous leaders of the corporate education reform movement.
If it hasn’t become obvious to Commissioner Pryor, CCSS could become another failed experiment of the education reformers as was the case with NCLB and RTTT, only its victims will be the many young children in public schools exposed to inappropriate developmentally curricula. The recent primary elections for the Board of Education in Bridgeport and for the mayoral race in New York City do not bode well for Commissioner Pryor and for his friends in the corporate reform movement.
One message that is quite clear from these elections is that the general public is starting to realize that more testing will not improve student learning and that the reformers’ obsession with testing has only made the country’s education worst, not better. As David Lee Finkel, a middle school teacher in Florida said, the general public, parents and teachers “want a public education system that isn’t an industrial factory spitting out test takers but want schools that are places for deep thinking, learning, creativity, play, wonder, engagement, hard work and fun.”
The public choice is becoming quite clear as an outgrowth of these recent elections as the high-stakes testing era may now be in its twilight years.
Joseph A. Ricciotti, Ed.D.
Teaching Internship Program Director
Graduate School of Education and Allied Professions
203-254-4000, ext. 2284