Archives for category: Joy

A reader who signs in as “kindergarteninterlude” posted the following comment in the discussion about “growth mindset”:

The year I retire, I will have a tee-shirt made. On the front will be the word- big and bold- “RIGOR”, with the NO Symbol on top (a circle and diagonal line through it).


On the back will be the word data with the same NO symbol on top of it.


I’d love to work in “growth mindset “. What a bunch of garbage.


Hopefully my tee-shirt will be a conversation starter and I will be happy to talk to people about my experiences in the kindergarten classroom.

I will explain that rigor is developmentally inappropriate and the desperate attempt to shove rigor into the heart and mind of kindergartners (and every other grade level student) can only hurt them.

As for data- the obsession is destructive on so many levels. What’s worse, it’s meaningless.


Diane, why does this insanity persist? Why are true best practices and proven methods of success in education completely dismissed? I have been shaking my head (and my fist) for 20 years. Nothing changes. It’s just getting worse. What will it ever take to shift this train wreck that is education?

Blogger John Warner saw that the New York Times asked right educational experts to reflect on the purpose of school. He thinks they missed the point that is most important. His response reminds me of what John Dewey emphasized. For a child, school is their life, right now.

He writes:

Just about every essay framed school as something that would deliver some kind of positive future benefit. The reason to go to school is because it will pay off someday in terms of economic prospects, or being an informed citizen, or having an appreciation of nature.

This views the result of school as a product, an outcome. I would rather we look at school as a process, an ongoing experience. For that reason, my answer to the question “What is school for?” is:

To be engaged.

Surveys show that pre-pandemic we had something of an “engagement crisis” with fewer than 50% of students saying they were engaged in school and nearly one-quarter saying they were actively disengaged. Engagement declines with each successive year of schooling. This problem has been significantly exacerbated by the disruption of the Covid pandemic.

By framing school as something that will only have benefit in an indefinite future, we ignore the importance of living in the present. As I say in my book Why They Can’t Write, “Life is to be lived, including the years between 5 and 22 years old. A world that suggests those years are merely preparation for the real stuff, and the real stuff is almost entirely defined by your college and/or career, is an awfully impoverished place.”

I have long been a fan of Angela Lansbury. I saw her in several Broadway plays and watched her for years on “Murder, She Wrote,” where she was a sleuth in a small town. in whatever genre she performed, she was an icon.

This is the best tribute that I have seen. Seth Rudetsky is the host of the Sirius Broadway channel. He tells the story of a strike that closed down Broadway for 19 days in 2007. That now seems paltry in the wake of COVID, which turned off the lights of Broadway for more than a year.

Please watch the video. It includes wonderful performances by Bernadette Peters and Angela Lansbury and the stars of every big production on Broadway at the time.

This is a 10-minute TED talk by Dr. Yuli Tamir, academic and former minister of education in Israel.

She explains in a direct and lively manner how the PISA standardized testing regime was foisted on the world, destroying children’s imagination, curiosity, and joy of learning.

The fundamental hoax of PISA is the claim that higher test scores will inexorably produce higher economic growth. As she demonstrates, this assertion is false.

If we want children to benefit more from their schooling, we should bend our efforts to reducing poverty. This would seem to be obvious, but it hasn’t slowed the slavish devotion of governments to raising PISA scores.

This is a brilliant presentation. I urge you to watch it.

This is an important clip of the Kentucky Derby filmed by NBC Sports. Unlike the original clip, seen from the perspective of the audience, this clip is seen from above. It labels the winner, Rich Strike, and shows his dramatic acceleration as he passes the leading horses.

The dramatic win of the horse that was admitted into the race on the last day, whose odds were 80-1, is a real-life fairy tale, the stuff that dreams are made of.

I am not a racing fan. I can’t get engaged in a sport whose major competition is completed in two minutes.

But, whoa! These may be the two greatest minutes of horse-racing history!

On Friday morning, the horse Rich Strike was not in the starting line-up. When another horse dropped out, Rich Strike was a last-minute addition. The odds against him were 80-1.

He was supposed to trail the field.

Watch this.

I’ve watched three times and may see it a few more times.

Meet his owner and jockey here.

Our friend Bob Shepherd shared this wonderful video of a musical group whose instruments (at least the strings) were made from garbage collected at a landfill in Paraguay. And the group is called the LandFillHarmonic.

Here is another.

Be sure to watch!

Three major religious events converge this weekend: Easter, Passover, and Ramadan.

To readers who celebrate these holy days, I send good wishes.

To those who are non-religious, I also send good wishes.

To everyone, I send my personal hope that we can share a world without war, a world of kindness, a world of plenty, a world in which we can share the bounty of a healthy earth, and a world in which everyone is respected.

Above all, in this moment, I hope that Mr. V. Putin stops his war against Ukraine. Please end the killing and destruction.

Let us together seek Peace, Joy, Freedom, Democracy, and Justice. Not just for ourselves but for everyone.

Dale C. Farran was one of the lead researchers in a study of the effects of an academic pre-kindergarten program in Tennessee. The study concluded that the children who participated in the program eventually fell behind those in the control group who were not in the program.

In an article on the blog of DEY (Defending the Early Years), Farran expressed her views about child development. She used the metaphor of an iceberg.

She wrote:

Years ago, few teachers believed that children should be taught to read in kindergarten; a more recent survey shows that 80% of kindergarten teachers now think children should know how to read before leaving the grade.

As recently as 1993 the great majority of kindergarten teachers did not believe an academic focus in preschool was important for children’s school success.

However, concern for the “fade out” of pre-kindergarten effects has led several researchers and policy makers to argue for a stronger academic focus in those classrooms, including the use of an intentional scripted, academically focused curriculum.

Not only do effects from pre-k classrooms fade, but also results from one study of the longitudinal effects of pre-k attendance conducted by my colleagues and me demonstrated that in the long run the effects turned negative.

A greater focus on academics for three- and four- year-olds is not the solution.

As an author of the recent paper on long term effects and as a primary investigator on the only randomized control trial of a statewide pre-k program with longitudinal data, and, finally, as a developmental psychologist whose career focused on young children’s development, I have thought extensively about what the causes of these unexpected effects might be.

I AM PROPOSING AN “ICEBERG MODEL OF EARLY DEVELOPMENTAL COMPETENCIES.”


The tip of the iceberg, the section floating above the surface, is composed of things that are easily measured.

These types of skills have recently been characterized as “constrained” skills meaning they are finite and definable.

All standard school readiness assessments focus on these types of skills.

But they do so because assessors believe that the skills represent deeper competencies.

They measure these skills somewhat like taking a finger-prick for evidence of the information the assessments provide into other more important characteristics of children.

BOTH THE FOCUS OF CURRENT PRE-K PROGRAMS AND THE PEDAGOGICAL STRATEGIES EMPLOYED FOCUS ALMOST EXCLUSIVELY ON THE TIP OF THE ICEBERG SKILLS.

Many who have been in early childhood for a long time testify to the changes in classrooms.

I believe these changes are accelerated by the process of subsuming preschool into the K-12 system.

In many states the department of education administers the pre-kindergarten program, and the program behaves like an additional grade level below kindergarten – the classrooms are open for the school day (5-6 hours a day) and the school calendar (9 months a year).

The classrooms are most often in elementary schools, where the push down from the K- 12 system is almost impossible to avoid.

Many of the elementary schools are older and unsuitable for younger children – no bathroom connected to the classroom, the requirement to have meals in the large cafeteria, and no appropriate playground.

These physical features mean that children spend a lot of time transitioning from the classroom, necessitating a high level of teacher control as children walk through the halls and endure long wait times.

Descriptions from a number of large studies of the instructional strategies used in current pre-k classrooms show them to be dominated by whole group instruction focused on basic skills (the tip of the iceberg).

TEACHERS TALK AT CHILDREN A MAJORITY OF THE TIME, SELDOM LISTENING TO CHILDREN, AND MULTI-TURN CONVERSATIONS ARE A RARE OCCURRENCE.

Learning opportunities that involve other than right-answer questions are almost never observed, and a high level of negative control from teachers characterizes many classrooms.

This content focus and the teaching strategies, I argue result in a detachment of the tip of the iceberg from the deeper skills under the surface.

Thus, children can score well on school readiness skills at the end of pre-k – especially on those related to literacy – but not maintain any advantage by the end of kindergarten when all children attain these skills with or without pre-k experience.

The tip of the iceberg skills no longer symbolizes those under the surface.

They are no longer the visible and measurable aspects of more important competencies.

Only when the deeper skills are enhanced should we expect continued progress based on early experiences.

A very different set of experiences likely facilitates the development of those deeper skills.

We have known for many years that the developmental period between four and six years is a critical one.

Neuroscience confirmed the importance of this period for the development of the pre-frontal cortex.

The pre-frontal cortex is involved in many of the skills described in the model as being below the surface.

Research does not provide good evidence for which experiences facilitate the development of important skills like curiosity, persistence, or working memory.

But research has demonstrated the importance of these kinds of skills for long term development.

For instance, some argue that early attention skills are more important than early academic skills as predictors of long-term school success including the likelihood of attending college.

In a large longitudinal study, researchers identified the importance of the development of internal self-control during the ages of four to six.

Some children with initially low self- control developed self-control during early childhood and had subsequent better outcomes via what the researchers called a “natural history change.”

Whether an intervention-induced change would yield the same positive outcomes is an open question.

So far, no early childhood curriculum has been able to bring about sustained changes in self-control or any of the below- the-surface skills listed above.

WHAT IS CLEAR IS THAT CHILDREN FROM MORE AFFLUENT HOMES ENTER KINDERGARTEN SCORING HIGHER ON SCHOOL READINESS SKILLS.

Moreover, they maintain that advantage across the school years.

But they did not learn those “readiness” skills from a didactic pre-k experience.

While these children may have had magnetic alphabet letters to play with, for example, parents did not sit them down in front of the refrigerator and force them to learn the letters.

Most of those tip-of-the-iceberg skills were learned through a variety of experiences and the opportunity to learn through interactions with adults and friends.

For these children, measuring the tip does provide information about the beneath the surface competencies that are so important.

Guidance may come from comparing the developmental contexts of families who are economically secure to the pre-k classroom context.

Children of economically secure families are more likely to succeed in school, more likely to matriculate in a two or four year college and more likely to graduate when they enter….

GOVERNMENTS IN MOST HIGHLY DEVELOPED COUNTRIES HEAVILY SUBSIDIZE THE CARE FOR YOUNG CHILDREN PRIOR TO SCHOOL AGE.

Nordic countries all provide a child supplement to parents, which most parents use to offset the modest cost of the government-subsidized group care, care that looks nothing like U.S. pre-k programs.

These programs stress different sorts of competencies in young children, capabilities like “participation” or the ability to be a functioning member of a group (not sitting “criss-cross applesauce” for 20-40 minutes during large group instruction).

The programs stress self-reliance and independence, the ability to make good decisions and to be responsible for one’s actions.

Most of these countries delay formal instruction in academic skills until children are six or seven. Their children do quite well in international comparisons in the later grades.

Concerns about the accelerating academic focus in early childcare education are being voiced by many.

I hope this “iceberg” model will provide a useful visual depiction of the danger of concentrating on basic skills instruction in pre-k.

I hope also that it will help people understand why getting early childhood right is so important and the imperative need to fix the childcare situation in the U.S. for families of poor children – in fact for all our children.

Pre-k is not the magic bullet policy makers hoped it would be. Quite the contrary. The reason it is not may lie with the unavoidable focus of the program when it becomes part of the K-12 system.

On Saturday, I went to a matinee of “The Music Man” on Broadway. Before entering, every person had to prove that they were fully vaccinated. Everyone in the audience wore masks.

We are used to that now.

What we are not used to yet is seeing a full Broadway musical, in all its glory, with a huge and very talented cast, wonderful sets and staging, and a large orchestra.

Sutton Foster as Marian the Librarian was excellent, as was Hugh Jackman as Professor Harold Hill.

The audience was ecstatic, applauding everything and everybody, every dance number and song.

Make plans to visit NYC in the spring or summer and book tickets well in advance. I promise you a delightful event.

Broadway is the beating heart of New York City, and Broadway is back!