Archives for category: Early Childhood Education

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:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4-DcjwzF9yc
Now, read Education Next on the same topic, in
the context of a book review by Cherker Finn.
https://www.educationnext.org/more-play-will-save-our-schools-book-claims-review-let-the-children-play-sahlberg-doyle/
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:

 

Nancy Bailey describes here the determined effort by policymakers to stamp out play and childhood, all in the name of teaching reading long before children are ready to learn to read.

Because kindergarten has become more advanced, preschool is seen as the time children must have prereading skills for kindergarten. If they don’t, it’s seen as a red flag. This makes teachers and parents push children to learn to read early.

Children are expected to know letters and numbers, even basic sight words. They’re supposed to be able to sit and focus on tasks for longer periods. But preschool wasn’t always about teaching prereading skills, and we should question if children that young are being pushed to read too soon.

In 2002, Newsweek published an article entitled “The Right Way to Read.” The title was conjecture. Reporters visited the Roseville Cooperative Preschool in northern California. Children there were called “masters of the universe” because they oversaw play. Children played most of the time. The school based everything on play.

Children played at a science table. They used magnifying glasses to explore flowers, cacti, and shells. They donned smocks to do art, lots of art. They were able to climb and stay active. They had access to books and a dollhouse.

There were no letters or numbers on the wall.

Director and founder Bev Bos told teachers, “Forget about kindergarten, first grade, second grade. We should be focusing on where children are right now.”

But Newsweek didn’t praise the preschool. They were there to show the controversy surrounding it.

The Bush administration had claimed research indicated that 50,000 Head Start teachers were going to have to learn how to provide explicit instruction on how to teach the alphabet, letter sounds, and writing to young children.

Not only that. Preschool teachers were to use a detailed literacy-screening test. Forty-five million was being earmarked for preschool-reading research.

Children were no longer masters of their world. Adults were in control.

Yes, the adults were in control but they made horrible decision that stole childhood and play from children.

For all the hundreds of millions and billions poured into the Great Crusade to Teach Preschoolers to Read, there has been minimal change in NAEP scores for reading, in fourth or eighth grades. Despite the pressure to raise test scores in reading, scores remained stagnant, and no academic progress was made at all for the lowest performing students since the implementation of NCLB almost two decades ago.

John Thompson, historian and retired teacher in Oklahoma, posts frequently about education in his state.

 

Last week, National Public Radio’s Alexandra Starr first reported on Florida’s mandatory retention of 3rd graders who don’t pass a reading proficiency test. Even though it is stigmatizing for children to be retained, and “multiple studies have found that flunking a grade makes it much more likely students will fail to graduate from high school,” the high stakes testing law has spread to about 40 percent of states.

States Are Ratcheting Up Reading Expectations For 3rd-Graders

NPR’s Starr draws on experts like Pedro Noguera, Nell Duke, and Diane Horm, while explaining how short-term benefits of 3rd grade retention “dissipate over time.” She also cites Marty West, a Big Data researcher who sidesteps the anxiety imposed on children and pressure on teachers to increase pass rates through ill-conceived instructional practices, and says that Florida’s well-funded mandatory retention law doesn’t hurt students’ graduation rates. Neither does West address states like Oklahoma, with chronic underfunding of education.And that leads to the first slippery slope created by Florida’s willingness to scale up punishments for young children and their teachers in order to improve student performance. At least it invests more than $130 million per year on its reading sufficiency act. When Oklahoma legislators, who were often persuaded by Jeb Bush’s public relations campaign, passed its reading act, they intended to invest $150 per struggling reader, but they only came up with $6 million, which was enough for only about $75 per student. It took six years to find money for about $153 per student.

For First Time, ‘Read or Fail’ Law Is Fully Funded. Will It Reduce Retentions?

In NPR’s second report focusing on Tulsa Ok., Starr shows the benefits of well-funded, holistic pre-kindergarten instruction. Oklahoma and edu-philanthropists fund such classes for 4-year-olds; nearly 3/4ths of Oklahoma students enroll in pre-k. And, next door to a comprehensive pre-k partnership, the majority-Hispanic Rosa Parks Elementary School illustrates the promise of partnerships for improving public schools. It is a part of the Tulsa Union community school system which so impressed David Kirp that his New York times article that featured Rosa Parks was entitled “Who Needs Charters When You Have Schools Like These?”  Oklahoma Among States Setting Higher Reading Expectations For 3rd-Graders

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/01/opinion/sunday/who-needs-charters-when-you-have-public-schools-like-these.htmlA Rosa Parks elementary teacher explained the dilemma schools face regarding kids who aren’t on track to pass the high stakes 3rd grade test, “Very early on, we have to put them on a plan if we think that they’re going to be held back in third grade for a test.” Unfortunately Starr didn’t have time to dig into those plans the way that Oklahoma Watch’s Jennifer Palmer has done. It leads to the second slippery slope created by high stakes testing for 3rd graders.

Palmer cites a librarian who explained, “‘RSA allows two years of retention, and two years in third grade would be worse,’ she said. ‘They would be completely destroyed.’” And that raises the question about the risks educators can/must take in order to not completely destroy their students.

The Oklahoma Watch’s study of federal data showed that 2,533 3rd graders were retained in 2015-16. Worse, she found that “repeating a grade is actually more common in kindergarten and first grade,” and “the high-stakes third-grade test appears to drive many of the early retentions.”  Oklahoma retained 3,977 kindergarteners, and a total of 10,345 students in the kindergarten through 2ndgrades.

These retentions were not evenly spread across the state. Next door to Tulsa Union, the Tulsa Public Schools, for instance, has about 2-1/3rds as many students as Union. The TPS retained 823 students through kindergarten and second grade, or more than 4-1/3rds as many. We can only hope that the edu-philanthropists who fund worthy early education programs, as well as their opposite – the corporate reform policies of Deborah Gist’s TPS – will realize how and why those two approaches are the antithesis of each other..

Palmer also touched on the third slippery slope when she explained the benchmark assessments that are used in predicting failure on the end-of-year tests. She writes, “Schools also rely on computerized benchmarking programs to glean more information on students’ skillsets and how they compare to other students their age.” But, to say the least, they are “not an exact science.” This leads to crucial, potentially life-changing and risky decisions being made by parents and teachers using data on a computer screen that they acknowledge they don’t understand.

Lastly, the dehumanizing slide down into systems where the punitive is seen as normal, even for our youngest students, might or might not have been predictable. Twenty years ago, the reward and punishment of kindergarteners would have seemed despicable. Market-driven reform may have begun as a way to force teachers to comply. Then it was dumped on teenagers. Now, when such stressful incentives and disincentives are imposed on 5-year-olds, it doesn’t seem surprising to read Big Data studies that claim that those who fail tests in the states with the most funding for competition-driven reform may not be damaged as much as previously thought …