STOP: KINDERGARTEN SHOULD NOT BE THE NEW FIRST GRADE

How wrong. And how sad.

Nancy Bailey, a veteran special education teacher and noted author explains, in this excerpted article, how we came to hear that statement and why it is so wrong. And so sad.

NCLB was a bi-partisan bill signed into law in 2002 during the Bush administration’s push for school reform.

We now recognize how punitive the bill was, its troubling use of one-size-fits-all standardized testing to demonize and close public schools, the punitive AYP and “highly qualified” teacher credentialing changes, the unrealistic predictions that all children would be proficient in reading by 2014, and the push for unproven charters and choice.

NCLB also created terrible changes when it came to reading instruction, and the impacts are still felt today by children across the country.

Many parents and educators continue to embrace the recommendations by the same individuals who were connected to failed NCLB policy. They subscribe to harmful ideology that claims children must read early, preferably in kindergarten, or they are failures, and that teachers and their education schools don’t know the right way or the “science” to teach reading.

However, teaching reading in kindergarten is developmentally inappropriate! We have monumental research by early childhood developmental researchers that goes back years. We know what is developmentally important to teach at what times.

As far as learning to read goes, language develops from the moment a child is born, and there are many wonderful ways to promote the joy of reading.

Some children easily acquire reading skills without formal phonics instruction. They are curious about words and are able to sound letters out as they listen to and enjoy picture books. They may read well before they start school.Other children learn a little later. And some with disabilities may need extra assistance with a formal phonics program.

Repeatedly testing young children to find out how they read at such an early age would be better spent reading out loud lovely, funny, engaging picture books, and letting children develop their language skills through play!

First grade formal reading might include a combination of sounding out words and reading simple texts, but the school curriculum should be well-rounded, including the arts, science, social studies and other subjects that grab a child’s interest.

By the end of first grade if a child is not interested in reading, can’t remember the alphabet, or rhyme, and other developmental milestones they may need extra help. But even then, a child might be a little slower to read.

Early childhood specialists like those at Defending the Early Years (DEY) and the Alliance for Childhood, recognize this and have written a number of reports telling about the dangers of forcing children to read in kindergarten. My post “Setting Children Up to Hate Reading” has been my most popular blog post.

Race to the Top and Common Core State Standards continued to promote this faulty thinking surrounding NCLB. Common Core State Standards are also developmentally inappropriate for young children. See: “A Tough Critique of Common Core On Early Childhood Education,” Valerie Strauss the Answer Sheet.   

The societal shift in the belief that children must read by kindergarten, or they are destined to fail, is forced and misguided.

When children don’t read well by kindergarten, parents panic and believe something is wrong and their child needs remediation.

So they push children harder! This creates a Catch-22 scenario. Children sense something’s wrong. Reading becomes unenjoyable and something to fear.

All of this takes place before a child sees the inside of a first grade classroom!

Two strategies that parents consider to cope with kindergarten being the new first grade are:

  •  Delaying kindergarten a year so the child is older and developmentally ready to read when that child gets to kindergarten.
  • Repeating kindergarten. This makes kindergarten more developmentally appropriate for the child in the second year, but retention can be socially defeating for a child.

The better solution, the only developmentally appropriate one, is:

Bring back kindergarten! Quit repetitively testing children! Get those play kitchens and sand tables out of the closet! Don’t only say that kindergarten shouldn’t be the new first grade! Bring back kindergarten!

 

Listen And Remember

Listen to Emma’s profound silence.

Remember what took place a year ago today at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School.

Remember the silence of students crouched in closets, hiding from the sound of an automatic weapon being fired in their school.

Listen to the loudmouth lack of silence from the President of the United States as he played golf while Emma Gonzales stood without words.

Listen to the silence of the Members of Congress when students, teachers, and parents asked them to address  gun violence.

Pray that  Emma Gonzales’s silence speaks for a new ethic, a new beginning for this country weary with the noise of violence and corruption.

Listen. Listen. Listen.

Listen to Emma’s minutes of  silence and then speak up to make our schools safe. Listen to Emma’s minutes of silence and then speak up for legislation about gun violence.

Our children need us to listen and then not be quiet any longer.

 

Connecticut Education Needs A New Direction From The Top

According to new research from several European economists, children of same sex parents do better in school than children of parents of different sexes. They have higher test scores and graduate at a higher rate than kids who have parents of different sexes.

If one wanted to be cynical about Connecticut’s efforts to close the large and gaping achievement gap among the students in the state, one might suggest that the state give tax breaks and other incentives to same sex couples who become parents and penalize couples of different sexes if they  have more than one child in order to increase test scores.

That wouldn’t be the solution, of course, because standardized test scores and graduation rates are foolish measures of achievement.  The scores of all standardized tests, from the SBAC in Grade 3 to the SAT in Grade 12, are indications chiefly of the income of the parents and the zip code of the home. Also, graduation rates are reported in unreliable ways – either by dismissing from the school or holding back a grade those students who will not graduate as charter schools have done or by giving students watered-down learning experiences that count as course credit as public schools have done.

The recent research study about the sex of the patents points out that a socio-economic factor applies to its findings. Using a large data base of 1,200 children raised by same sex couples and more than a million kids raised by different sex couples, researchers found that same sex couples were often wealthier than different sex couples. This did not come as a surprise to the researchers since same sex couples often use fertility treatments to have a child, and those treatments are expensive. The cause and effect of high test scores and high graduation rates, therefore, is more complex than the sex of the parents.  One of the lead economists, Deni Mazrekaj, said, when presenting the research to the American Economic Association conference in January, ” Research shows that socio-economic status positively influences the school outcomes of children.” As encouraging and affirming as the recent research is about families with parents of the same sex, the report leaves us in Connecticut with the same basic questions to answer:

  • Do we want standardized tests and graduation rates to be our measure of student learning?
  • Can we ever close a gap in test scores when the scores are based on income inequality?

Governor Lamont and the State Board of Education are in the process of selecting a new Connecticut Commissioner of Education. It’s time for Connecticut to take the lead in the nation in defining what achievement is and how to assess it. To do that, we must have a Commissioner of Education who pushes hard that Connecticut:

  1. Stops using test scores and graduation rates as the measures of school success.
  2. Gives students of poverty the same experiences that more affluent children have: read to them, encourage their questions, give them ample opportunities to converse and to write,  let them express themselves with art and music, give them knowledgeable adults as role models, invite then to explore the wonders of science, literature, history, and diverse cultures, teach them to be diligent in their work habits, and take them on adventures through which they  get to know the world and claim it as their own. Most of all, invite them to be constructors of their own knowledge – to be learners.
  3. Assesses students authentically, asking them to demonstrate skills they will need to be successful, skills never, ever able to measured on standardized tests.  We could assess students on real world skills that Tony Wagner (Harvard Graduate School of Education) suggests: 1) critical thinking and problem solving, 2) initiative and entrepreneurialism, 3) collaboration, 4) agility and adaptability,  5) effective oral and written communication, 6) accessing and analyzing information, and 7) curiosity and imagination.
  4. Stops asking the question: How can we close Connecticut’s achievement gap? Let’s ask, instead: How can we best develop all children as learners and thinkers – the children who have two moms, the children who have two dads, the children with a dad and a mom, the children of poverty, and the children of affluence.

If we do these four actions, there will be a future research team that analyses what has caused the graduates of Connecticut’s schools to be so successful beyond high school, what has caused the graduates of Connecticut’s schools to be making such a difference in the world. Connecticut will have led the country in demonstrating what real achievement is.

 

 

 

Cory Booker: Not For Public Education

As the political field becomes a crowded one, I intend to look at each candidate from the perspective of how each one will benefit or harm public education because public education is the foundation of our democracy. I have determined that Cory Booker would be a disaster for public education because he doesn’t understand what constitutes a good education and because he puts his efforts into endeavors that may have political advantage for him but do not serve children well and do not help us to strengthen as a nation.

Diane Ravitch posted an analysis of Candidate Cory Booker, and I print it below. If you want to know more about Cory Booker and public education, I suggest  you read The Prize: Who’s In Charge of America’s Schools by Dale Russakoff.  It explains in detail Cory Booker’s involvement as mayor of Newark in the failed initiative of Mark Zuckerberg with his millions to improve public education in that city.

 

Cory Booker: What Educators and Parents Need to Know

by dianeravitch

 

Mitchell Robinson of Michigan State University explains why he could not support for Cory Booker for the Democratic nomination in 2020.

He writes:

I really don’t want to be a single-issue voter, but education will almost always be the most important issue for me–and Booker is catastrophically wrong and bad on education. His corporate leanings and pro-pharma stance are just the gravy for me on Booker.

So, if you like for-profit charters, then Cory Booker is your guy.

If you want to privatize public education, then Cory Booker is your guy.

If you think that state tax dollars should go toward vouchers to pay for private and religious school tuition, then Cory Booker is your guy.

If you think that Betsy DeVos’ education policies are making schools work better for kids, families, and communities, then Cory Booker is your guy.

And if you think that scapegoating the “failing public schools” takes the heat off your candidate’s support of a corrupt Wall St., or the crushing costs of prescription drugs, or our nightmare of a health care system, then Cory Booker is your guy.

But if you think it’s about time for the Democratic Party to return to their historic support of public education, and teachers unions, and abandon their somewhat recent neo-liberal dalliance with charter schools, and school privatization, and the corporate reform of education agenda, then look for a candidate who isn’t a charter member of “Democrats for Education Reform” (spoiler alert: they aren’t Democrats, and they aren’t *for* education), and who doesn’t have more ties to Betsy DeVos than her yachts have non-US flags, and who was willing to work with Chris Christie to sell-out Newark’s schools to Mark Zuckerberg.

None of this this is new.

The article below appeared in Education Week in 2013. Nothing has changed. Cory Booker is still a supporter of charters and vouchers, no different from Betsy DeVos except she’s a billionaire and he raises money from Wall Street billionaires.

Things Educators Need to Know About Cory Booker

Education Week By Alyson Klein October 29, 2013

New Jersey voters this month picked Newark Mayor Cory Booker, a Democrat, to fill the U.S. Senate seat formerly held by Sen. Frank Lautenberg, also a Democrat, who died in June. Mr. Booker already has a national profile on education issues.

1. ‘Democrat for Education Reform’: Mr. Booker was a galvanizing force in the past decade bringing together a cadre of high-powered, deep-pocketed Wall Street donors with an interest in education policy, to support his early races for city council and mayor. The group eventually became Democrats for Education Reform, now the signature political action committee for politicians who are fans of less-than-traditional Democratic policies, including charter schools and teacher performance pay. The group’s founders “knew each other before, but they got involved in politics together to support Cory Booker,” said Joe Williams, the executive director of dfer. The pac poured some quarter-million dollars into Mr. Booker’s Senate campaign, Mr. Williams estimated.

2. Voucher Supporter: Mr. Booker is among a handful of prominent Democrats nationally to support private school vouchers, and championed a proposed New Jersey law that would have created a voucher program in that state. He co-founded Excellent Education for Everyone, a nonprofit organization that sought to promote vouchers and charter schools in New Jersey. The push won backing from other well-known New Jersey Democrats but was ultimately unsuccessful.

https://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2013/10/30/10electionsenator.h33.html

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