Action Steps For Young Children

The Common Core State Standards, which were written without the input of early childhood educators or those at the university level who are knowledgeable about cognition and child development or pediatricians and other clinicians who work with young children, stand in the way of real learning for young children. This four minute video explains how the standards are an impediment to real learning in kindergarten. Please watch.

If you cannot access the video here, you can find it at https://youtu.be/DVVln1WMz0g

It is time for action. We adults can talk endlessly, but each child has only one time to be kindergartener or preschooler. For each child, we must do all that we can to provide the best school experience possible. Two organizations, Defending the Early Years and the Alliance for Children, recommend changes in policy and practice. Here are their calls to action:

1. Withdraw kindergarten standards from the Common Core so that they can be rethought along developmental lines.

2. Invest in high quality, long-term research to identify which approaches in preschool and kindergarten best help children become fluent readers by fourth grade and beyond, paying particular attention to children living in poverty.

3. Convene a task force of early childhood educators to recommend developmentally appropriate, culturally responsive guidelines for supporting young children’s optimal learning from birth to age 8.

4. End the use of high-stakes testing with children up to third grade and the use of test scores for teacher evaluation and the closing of schools. Promote the use of assessments that are based on observations of children, their development and learning.

5. Ensure a high level of professionalism for all early childhood educators. Strive to reduce the income achievement gap by placing experienced teachers in low-income communities. Invest in high-quality teacher preparation and ongoing professional development.

Read their full report on reading instruction in kindergarten and their rationale for these calls to action here.

Real Learning and Not-Real Learning in Kindergarten

In a prior blog post, I wrote about real learning and not-real learning in high school English classes. In writing about real learning and not-real learning in kindergarten classes, I found the intellectual processes for both age groups to be remarkably the same. Children in kindergarten and adolescents in high school are either asked to construct their own knowledge and create their own personal meaning or they are not. When either five years olds or fifteen years olds construct their own knowledge and create personal meaning, they are engaged in real learning. When they are told information and expected to remember it, they are recipients of not-real learning.

Here are two checklists you can take with you when you visit a kindergarten class of your child or of another child you love:

CHECKLIST FOR REAL LEARNING IN KINDERGARTEN

Children are active, involved participants in the classroom community. Children are encouraged to ask their own questions and explore possible answers. They are taught, through their play, to problem-solve, to think divergently and innovatively, to broaden and deepen their thinking by being in conversation with others, and, most of all, to learn how to learn as new situations and problems present themselves. Children create personal meaning and construct their own knowledge from meaning-making, interactive activities.

 If you can check all of the following boxes, this classroom is a good place for young children to grow and learn.

☐ Children are engaging in hands-on learning experiences.

☐ Children are learning through their play.

☐ Children are surrounded by and immersed in rich literature.

☐ Children are learning through activities and projects with others.

☐ Children are demonstrating social and emotional capabilities.

☐ Children are questioning, exploring, and following-through on their curiosity.

☐ Children are asked to stretch their imagination.

☐ Children figuring things out and drawing conclusions.

☐ Children are deeply involved in activities they find relevant to them.

☐ Children are using skills of literacy and numeracy in authentic learning experiences.

☐ Children are wondering about lots of things.

☐ Children are taught to persist in their learning challenges.

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

CHECKLIST FOR NOT-REAL LEARNING IN KINDERGARTEN

The teacher conveys information to the children. Children answer the teacher’s questions. Children work by themselves and demonstrate individual mastery of specific skills. All the children in the class are expected to learn the same content and skills in the same way at the same time. Children are not asked to create their own personal meaning or construct their own knowledge.

If you check all of the following boxes, children in this class will need other kinds of learning experiences in order to grow as learners and thinkers.

☐ Children are practicing discrete literacy and numeracy skills with worksheets.

☐ Teachers are asking children questions for which the teacher has the answer.

☐ All of the children are being given reading instruction with the expectation that all of them will read by the end of kindergarten.

☐ Children are working individually to master skills.

☐ Children are listening to the teacher and gaining information.

☐ Children are having more “seat-time” than active, hands-on learning.

☐ Developing children’s social and emotional skills is limited or absent from the curriculum.

☐ College and career readiness is the purpose of instruction and the focus of the curriculum.

Common Core Squashes Early Learning

On April 25, 2015 at Network for Public Education Conference in Chicago, Nancy Carlsson-Paige, professor emerita of early childhood education at Lesley University, spoke passionately about the need for real learning for young children. She is co-founder of Defending the Early Years (www.DEYProject.org), which is an organization dedicated to promoting vibrant and healthy education for young children.

She said that love of learning is being squashed in young children due to current practices in many schools. In those schools, teachers are pressured by the demands of the Common Core State Standards to help four and five year old children to be “college and career ready” instead of engaging these young children in learning experiences which develop their minds and foster their love of learning.

Professor Carlsson-Paige is one of 500 early childhood educators who have authored a position statement entitled ” The Joint Statement of Early Childhood Health and Education Professionals on the Common Core Standards Initiative” (here) in opposition to the Common Core because they believe that those standards will harm young children. A mother in the audience at the conference spoke for many others in attendance when she said: “My kindergartener is NOT college and career ready because…….he is a child.”

In ” The Joint Statement of Early Childhood Health and Education Professionals on the Common Core Standards Initiative”, the most notable professionals in the country in the fields of child development objected to the Common Core State Standards because:

  • The didactic instruction the Common Core mandates is antithetical to how children learn.
  • The Common Core leads to inappropriate and unreliable standardized testing of young children.
  • The Common Core content crowds out other important areas of learning for young children.
  • There is little evidence that Common Core standards for young children lead to  later success in literacy and numeracy.

This four-minute video defines real learning as Professor Carlsson-Paige and the other signers of the statement against the Common Core standards  for young children define it. If you are not able to view the video here, you can access it at:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e53S8dnh0IM%5B/

You also may want to read the fuller definition of real learning for young children that is on the DEY website (here).