Archives for category: Early Childhood Education

Denisha Jones, an expert in early childhood education and a lawyer (and a member of the board of the Betwork for Public Education) has prepared an excellent report for Defending the Early Years.

DEY advocates for sound educational practices for young children, and their advice in this report is balanced and humane.

Be sure to read the recommendations at the end of the report.

It begins:

Though the push to online learning/remote schooling was necessary to deal with a global pandemic, it ushered in fundamental changes to the lives of young children, their families, and their teachers. The speed at which schools were closed and how quickly we expected children and families to learn online or at home made it difficult for parents and teachers to prepare children for this new reality adequately. Now that another school year has begun, time to adjust to hybrid or full online/remote schooling has slipped away. As children and families spent their summer trying to regain a sense of normalcy, they now face the reality that a return to schooling as we knew it might not happen for quite some time. Some families will send their children back to socially distant schooling while others will keep them home and hire tutors or teachers and replace traditional schooling with “pandemic pods.” We recognize that all families, regardless of the option they can choose, continue to want the best for their child’s education and health and need support, resources, and guidance. We propose the following recommendations to assist families of young children and their teachers to reap as many benefits from online learning/remote schooling as possible and mitigate the challenges.

1. Do not try to replicate school at home.
This might seem unrealistic faced with another quarter, semester, or year of online learning/remote schooling, but it is essential to recognize that we cannot do at home all the things we do at school. First, parents are not teachers and even if you are a teacher, teaching your child is different than teaching someone else’s child. If you are homeschooling your child during the 2020-2021 school year, then you are your child’s teacher, but if you are working from home, you should not expect to be a full-time teacher, full-time parent, and full-time or part-time employee. Online learning/remote schooling is not traditional schooling. It is a substitute for the educational environment we typically provide children and, just like when your child has a substitute teacher at school, things cannot be precisely the same. Traditional schooling is set up to function very differently than online teaching/ remote schooling. We expect children to spend an entire day in a room with many other children and at least one adult and to complete a variety of tasks in a variety of different formats. Teachers come prepared to facilitate this environment, and, over time, many children adjust to it. Online teaching/remote schooling should not have the same expectations. Yes, children are at home all day, and yes, parents who are working from home need to keep them engaged, but that does not mean we should sit them down in front of a computer or tablet and expect them to do the same things they would do in school. In-person instruction cannot transform into online teaching for young children. Remote schooling should not mean that we expect children to do the same things that they did in school at home. For children, their families, and their teachers to gain benefits from online learning/remote schooling, we must separate the functions of traditional schooling from the realities of online learning/remote schooling.

2. 2. Use screens and technology sparingly and wisely.
Many of us are aware that an increase in screen use can be harmful to young children. But we also know
that Zoom and other platforms provide valuable connections for children whose lives have been disrupted by COVID-19. Even before the pandemic, many families used technology-based communication platforms to stay connected when they lived in different geographical locations. Infants, toddlers, and preschoolers love seeing grandma and grandpa on the tablet, and many love seeing their teachers and peers as well. Thus, we must find ways to incorporate these platforms that maximize their benefits but also limit their exposure. We should
not expect young children to spend more than 30 minutes a day, a few days a week, on technology. Brief opportunities to connect with their teacher and classmates that are engaging and developmentally appropriate are crucial to maximizing the use of technology. Reading stories, sharing items from home, singing songs, watching a puppet show, and playing are good examples of how technology can bring young learners and their teachers together. However, we must keep these sessions brief and optional. We know not all children want or need to be on Zoom every day. Even if the teacher offers daily 30-minutes class meetings, families should be able to decide whether to attend as many or as few as their child can handle each week. We do not recommend longer remote schooling sessions that include online teaching for young children. Just as we did not (or should not) expect young children to sit still at a desk and listen to a teacher for extended periods of time in schools, we cannot expect them to do the same at home. Remote schooling does not mean that all teaching and learning has to happen through direct online instruction.

3. Prepare children to be s 2. Use screens and technology sparingly and wisely.
Many of us are aware that an increase in screen use can be harmful to young children. But we also know that Zoom and other platforms provide valuable connections for children whose lives have been disrupted by COVID-19. Even before the pandemic, many families used technology-based communication platforms to stay connected when they lived in different geographical locations. Infants, toddlers, and preschoolers love seeing grandma and grandpa on the tablet, and many love seeing their teachers and peers as well. Thus, we must find ways to incorporate these platforms that maximize their benefits but also limit their exposure. We should
not expect young children to spend more than 30 minutes a day, a few days a week, on technology. Brief opportunities to connect with their teacher and classmates that are engaging and developmentally appropriate are crucial to maximizing the use of technology. Reading stories, sharing items from home, singing songs, watching a puppet show, and playing are good examples of how technology can bring young learners and their teachers together. However, we must keep these sessions brief and optional. We know not all children want or need to be on Zoom every day. Even if the teacher offers daily 30-minutes class meetings, families should be able to decide whether to attend as many or as few as their child can handle each week. We do not recommend longer remote schooling sessions that include online teaching for young children. Just as we did not (or should not) expect young children to sit still at a desk and listen to a teacher for extended periods of time in schools, we cannot expect them to do the same at home. Remote schooling does not mean that all teaching and learning has to happen through direct online instruction.

The report goes on to identify ways that parents can best help their young children navigate these difficult times.

A group of New York City teachers argue in The New York Daily News that the best way to restart the schools, especially for young children, is to hold classes outdoors. They do not address the problems of rain and freezing weather.

Liat Olenick, Darcy Whittwmore, and Heather Costanza see many virtues in outdoor learning.

Holding classes indoors in a city with over one million students, they write, will create dangerous and unhealthy conditions. Why not grab this opportunity for creative solutions?

Move the younger children outdoors, they say, while keeping high school students online.

Outdoor learning is a tried and tested fit for early childhood. There are all-day outdoor kindergartens in wintery Maine and Vermont, in which children dress for the weather and learn outside nearly every day. Vaunted models of early childhood education like Reggio-Emilia emphasize outdoor exploration because ages 4-8 comprise the crucial stage in which multisensory, interactive learning is essential for children’s cognitive growth. Outdoor learning offers children authentic, stimulating experiences that foster skills like creative problem solving, independence, flexibility and resiliency as they form a deep connection to the natural world. Learning outdoors also offers possibilities for culturally responsive, place-based learning, giving students hands-on, meaningful opportunities to engage and connect with their communities.

In the context of COVID, outdoor learning becomes even more appealing. Elementary students are more likely to live near school, making finding a space that works for families without needing public transit more feasible.

And per current guidelines, the requirements of indoor learning — sitting six feet apart, no contact, no sharing materials, and staying in one enclosed space for hours on end — are not developmentally appropriate for young children.

If we move outdoors, kids will have room to be kids without fear of punishment or infecting someone they love. Given the ongoing criminalization of students of color in schools, we fear the consequences of imposing new, high stakes social-distancing rules on all, but particularly on our youngest students.

We have the space to make outdoor learning work. New York City is home to 28,000 acres of public parkland, more than 1,100 school and community gardens, plus schoolyards, rooftops, cemeteries, beaches, private outdoor space and even parking lots or closeable neighborhood streets which could be spruced up with benches and planters.

These investments in public space might even foster greater equity in our city; experiences in nature are essential for children’s mental health, but green space is often concentrated in wealthier, whiter neighborhoods.

Transforming our streets and playgrounds into possibility-rich outdoor classrooms could be a way to equalize access to nature at a time when many outdoor programs serving children of color have been shuttered.

Outdoor learning will not be perfect. It will require support from schools, parks, neighborhood institutions and families to plan for site-specific challenges. But compare that with our other two options: Fully remote learning, which means zero childcare for caregivers and especially fails our young students, or a blended, classroom model for 1.1 million students that is likely to put our most vulnerable communities in grave danger.

This is our clarion call. We hope it spurs intrepid leaders to consider outdoor learning as a viable option for all of our youngest students during COVID and beyond. Organizations around the country, including New York private schools, are already developing proposals to take learning outside. With a little imagination and support from our city, we could make it happen here — not just for the privileged few, but for all.

Olenick, Whittemore and Costanza are public elementary school teachers in Brooklyn.

Every Wednesday at 7:40 pm EST, the Network for Public Education has hosted a conversation about education. All the conversations are archived here.

In the first one, I discussed my new book SLAYING GOLIATH with Carol Burris.

In the second one, I talked to Pastor Charles Foster Johnson of Pastors for Texas Children about their fight against vouchers and for public schools.

In the third one, I asked Mercedes Schneider about her new book and her skill at investigative reporting.

In the fourth one, I discussed the effects of the pandemic on early childhood education with ECE experts Denisha Jones and Susan Ochshorn.

Today is the birthday of Patty Smith Hill, who wrote “Happy Birthday to You.”

I recall that she was a leading advocate for early childhood education and play while a professor at Teachers College, Columbia University, in New York.

Garrison Keillor wrote this about her.

It’s the birthday of the woman who wrote “Happy Birthday to You,” Patty Smith Hill, born in Anchorage, Kentucky (1868). Most of her life was spent as a kindergarten teacher. She began teaching in Louisville, Kentucky, and it was there, in 1893, that Hill first wrote the lyrics to the song. But it was originally meant as a welcome to start the school day and was first called “Good Morning to All.” Hill’s sister Mildred, an accomplished musician, provided the melody. Hill was 25 when she wrote the lyrics to the famous song.

But wait? Where is her professional life?

Wikipedia says this:

Hill taught nursery school, kindergarten, and was a “key founder of the National Association for Nursery Education (NANE) which now exists as the National Association For the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).”

Not only was she famous for composing the Happy Birthday song, but she was a prominent advocate for early childhood education.

Hill was an authority and leader in the progressive education movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Patty developed the Patty Hill blocks and in 1924 helped create the Institute of Child Welfare Research at Columbia University Teachers College.[2] The Patty Hill blocks were large blocks with which children could create giant constructions. She was a member, President, and lifetime support of the Association for Childhood Education International.

New Hampshire’s Governor is a Trump-style extremist, Chris Sununu, whose father John advised the first President Bush. Sununu appointed Frank Edelblut as state commissioner of education. The state commissioner home-schooled his children and follows the ideology of Betsy DeVos. He thinks government money should go wherever children go, regardless of who gets the money. That’s called “Learning Everywhere.”

Edelblut is an extremist libertarian.

Now he wants to pilot online leaning for pre-schoolers. This is his response to the growing recognition of the value of early childhood education.

Not surprisingly, advocates for ECE are alarmed that sitting in front of a computer is being substituted for play, where children learn to cooperate with others and make things and use their imagination. One group said:

Kids aren’t meant to sit still in front of a screen. They use their whole bodies to learn, and they want and need to move. Let’s not forget that some of the essential milestones for preschoolers are gross and fine motor skills. They need to practice galloping, throwing a ball, zipping up their jackets to go outside, and holding a pencil. Having good motor control is essential for children’s growth and independence. They cannot develop it by sitting at a computer.

You may recall that DeVos offered New Hampshire $46 million to double the number of charter schools in the state. The Democrats in the legislature have twice turned down her offer. New Hampshire has declining student enrollment, and the Fiscal Oversight Committee said it would be irresponsible to add new charter schools, which would drain students and resources from existing public schools.

Edelblut came back with his own analysis, claiming that adding more charter schools in a time of declining enrollment would save money.

According to the report from Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut, doubling the number of charter schools over the next 10 years could translate into at least $60 million in savings for local taxpayers as 4,000 students leave traditional public schools.

Edelblut’s report points to studies that warn declines in enrollments not related to charter schools will be at least 24,000 by 2030 — and could approach double that figure.

“If the visceral reaction is how are we going to manage a declining student enrollment due to public charter schools, the answer is you are going to have to deal with this issue regardless of this grant,” Edelblut said…

This report clearly responds to analysis from Reaching Higher New Hampshire, which supports traditional public schools.

The group has warned the charter school grant could cost the state an additional $57 million to $104 million in its first 10 years.

The same organization found in its analysis of 20 of the state’s charter schools that at least 1,083 of the 4,025 seats available went unfilled in the 2018-2019 school year.

Reaching Higher New Hampshire also maintains state funding alone often doesn’t cover operating costs for these charter schools, which make them unsustainable.

Senate Majority Leader Dan Feltes, D-Concord, said the new report doesn’t change his view that the panel should keep rejecting this grant.

“We need to support our public schools and the successful existing charter schools, work on the over 1,000 open spots in existing charter schools, and protect New Hampshire taxpayers. This fiscally irresponsible grant will cause our already record high property taxes to continue to increase, which is unacceptable,” Feltes said in a statement.

With 25% of the state’s charter school seats empty, it should be hard to make the case that NH needs more charters.

Reaching Higher NH’s research on the charter grant is cited here.

Edelblut welcomes the Trump administration’s plan to turn all education funding into a block grant as he feels it will give him more control over federal money. His own philosophy is that public schools are unnecessary, which is rooted in the practices of the 18th century.

 

Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards announced a budget proposal that earmarked new spending on education, but no raises for teachers, whose pay is below the average for southern states.

For Louisiana public school teachers, a group that includes some of Gov. John Bel Edwards’ earliest and most avid supporters, the governor’s first post-reelection budget proposal has good news and bad news.

The good news is a request that the Legislature spend significantly more on education. The $32 billion spending package includes an additional $65 million to support K-12 schools, $25 million for early childhood learning programs and $35 million for colleges.

The bad news is that a certain line item is conspicuously missing: money specifically dedicated to raise teacher pay.

No raises has been the status quo for a long time now, with the notable exception of last year, when Edwards backed the first increase in a decade. Until Friday, every indication, both from Edwards’ campaign-year rhetoric and from the new reality of a budget surplus, was that it wouldn’t be the last.

It could be, at least for now. Rather than propose a specific raise and signal that Edwards would once again fight for it in the Legislature, his administration is now saying that any raises this year would have to come from the overall allocations the state makes to school districts. So while some teachers may benefit, there would be nothing across the board.

The governor’s top priority is early childhood education.

Low education spending and low teacher pay help to maintain Louisiana’s place as one of the lowest-performing states in the nation on NAEP.

 

The Economic Policy Institute has created an interactive state-by-state analysis of the cost of high-quality early childhood education.

At present, most ECE workers/teachers are grossly underpaid, some well below the poverty line.

It is fair to assume that policymakers today are unlikely to pay the cost of high-quality ECE. In many states, and at the federal level, policymakers do not believe in investing in the future. They prefer to give tax cuts to the wealthiest people and to corporations.

Consult the EPI website to see what it would cost your state to have first-rate ECE:

Explore the cost of high-quality early child care and education

Thanks to a new interactive online report from EPI and the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment at U.C. Berkeley, readers can find out what it would cost to create a high-quality early child care and education (ECE) system in their state and how many teachers, parents, and children could benefit. The report acknowledges what policymakers are beginning to recognize: we can’t solve the child care crisis without a major investment. A companion reportoutlines the resources currently invested in early care and education in the U.S., including some of the unspoken costs of our chronically underfunded system—underpaid ECE teachers living in poverty, parents forgoing paid work to care for their children, and compromised quality of care. Visit the interactive report »
Share the interactive online report:

Explore the cost of high-quality early child care and education

 

The Education Law Center is one of the nation’s pre-eminent civil rights organizations committed to improving equality of educational opportunity. It points out in the following release that the charter schools have never signed the legally required contracts to participate in court-ordered universal pre-school programs in the state’s poorest districts, the “Abbott Districts.”

 

December 9, 2019
ELC CALLS FOR END TO SEPARATE CHARTER SCHOOL PRE-K PROGRAMS IN ABBOTT DISTRICTS
Education Law Center is calling for the NJ Department of Education (NJDOE) to immediately end the unauthorized practice of allowing charter schools in poor urban Abbott districts to operate separate preschool programs outside the districts’ universal “Abbott Preschool Program.”
The administration of former Governor Chris Christie allowed 10 charter schools in five Abbott districts to operate their own preschool programs, despite not having a contract from the districts to participate in the districts’ universal program, as required by the landmark Abbott v. Burke rulings. In 2019-20, the 10 charter preschool programs enrolled 630 three- and four-year-olds, funded by over $8 million in state preschool aid.
ELC’s December 2019 letter to the NJDOE emphasizes that, under the NJ Supreme Court’s detailed Abbott preschool mandates, only Abbott districts are authorized to offer high quality preschool to all resident three- and four-year-olds through an NJDOE-approved universal enrollment program. While community providers and Head Start are eligible to operate preschool classrooms in Abbott districts, they can only do so under a contract with the districts. The district contract requires strict adherence to teacher quality, class size, and other Abbott preschool standards, as well as enrollment through the district’s universal outreach and recruitment process.
As the Supreme Court has made clear, these requirements are essential elements of the constitutional obligation imposed on Abbott districts to provide high quality preschool to all eligible three- and four-year old children residing in their communities. The districts are mandated to enroll at least 90 percent of the universe of those children. The requirement for community-based providers to operate only under district contracts ensures that only those providers capable of and willing to deliver high quality preschool through district coordination, support and supervision, can participate in the Abbott program.
The NJDOE’s decision to allow the 10 charter schools to operate separate preschool programs not only violates the Abbott rulings and the agency’s own regulations, but also undermines the cornerstone of the nationally-recognized success of the Abbott Preschool Program: a district-supervised, mixed delivery system of early education unifying community-based providers and district classrooms under a common set of high quality standards, backed by adequate funding. This well-established legal and policy framework does not permit any entity, including charter schools, to provide preschool wholly outside of the district-run, universal Abbott program.
“The NJDOE has no authority to permit a charter school to run a parallel preschool program that competes with the district’s Abbott program for students and funding,” said David Sciarra, ELC Executive Director and lead counsel in the Abbott litigation. “Charter schools in Abbott districts cannot operate preschool classrooms unless they enter into a contract with the district, as is required of every community-based provider and Head Start program participating in Abbott preschool.”
In 2019-20, the following charter schools are providing preschool without obtaining the legally required contract to participate in the Abbott district program:
In addition to calling for an end to the unauthorized practice of allowing charter schools to operate their own preschool programs, ELC is also demanding the NJDOE immediately notify the 10 charter schools that to continue to provide preschool in the 2020-21 school year, they must secure a contract with their district to participate in the district-wide Abbott preschool program.
Press Contact:
Sharon Krengel
Policy and Outreach Director
Education Law Center
60 Park Place, Suite 300
Newark, NJ 07102
973-624-1815, ext. 24

The media received early copies of Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s plan for K-12 education. Like Warren and Sanders, he proposes a large increase in funding for the neediest children and for early education. He wants to see a reduction in college tuition. He does not propose a wealth tax on the 1%. He is against for-profit charters but, unlike Warren and Sanders, would not eliminate or freeze the federal Charter Schools Program, which currently dispenses $440 million a year, mostly to big corporate chains like KIPP and IDEA.

Mayor Pete’s plan is a centrist program, which could have been drafted by the Center for American Progress, the think tank for the Obama administration.

Valerie Strauss describes the plan here.

She writes:

Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg is unveiling a broad new education plan on Saturday that pledges to spend $700 billion over a decade to create a high-quality child care and preschool system that he said would reach all children from birth to age 5 and create 1 million jobs.

The 37-year-old, openly gay mayor of South Bend, Ind., also promised to spend $425 billion to strengthen America’s K-12 public schools, targeting federal investments and policy to help historically marginalized students. He would boost funding for schools in high-poverty areas as well as for students with disabilities, and promote voluntary school integration. And he said he would ensure that all charter schools — which are publicly funded but privately operated — undergo the same accountability measures as schools in publicly funded districts…The more than $1 trillion in his plan would be spent over 10 years and would come from “greater tax enforcement” on the wealthy and corporations, according to a Buttigieg campaign spokesperson, who asked not to be identified. He would not impose a new tax on the super-rich, the spokesperson said, who did not detail how much money the mayor believes he can realize from uncollected taxes…

Buttigieg’s new education plan details a push to help communities integrate their schools racially and economically, which research shows is beneficial to black and white students. The mayor pledged to invest $500 million into communities that want to undertake integration efforts. And he said he would reinstate Obama era guidance on the voluntary use of race in state- and district-level strategies to achieve integration, removing current restrictions on the use of federal funds to pay for busing that would be part of integration efforts.

He also pledged triple funding for Title I — the largest federally funded educational program, intended to help schools with high concentrations of students who live in poverty. But that added funding would be targeted to states and districts that “implement equitable education funding formulas to provide more state and local resources to low-income schools….”

Both Sanders and Warren have called for free college tuition for all, while the mayor’s recently released higher education and workforce development plan calls for lowering college tuition and fees on a sliding scale, with free college for those students whose families early up to $100,000. Former vice president Joe Biden, who has topped the polls more consistently than any of the other candidates, has also taken education positions less expansive than Warren and Sanders.

Buttigieg’s big initiative in this plan is around early childhood, for which he has pledged to spend $700 million to create a new system to provide child care and prekindergarten to all children, which he said is more than 20 million, and that would create 1 million new jobs in that sector.

For additional insight on Mayor Pete’s plan, read Matt Barnum and Kalyn Belsha’s account here in Chalkbeat. 

 

Reader Jack Covey, a teacher in Los Angeles, sent the following comment to me:

 

First, watch this clip from Michael Moore about
schools in Finland:
Now, read Education Next on the same topic, in
the context of a book review by Cherker Finn.
Here’s the ending of Chester Finn’s “Stick with GERM” 
review of Past Sahsberg’s new book, and his
argument that “play” hurts poor kids, but it’s fine
for middle class kids (and presumably upper class
kids as well).  
He says we’re “bizarrely and cruelly” damaging 
those poor kids when U.S. schools “model themselves 
on a charming small country in northern Europe 
(it’s Finn vs. Finns, I guess)
CHESTER FINN: