DEY Power Point Presentation

The Growing Crisis in Early Childhood Education
(Preschool through 3rd Grade)
and What Parents & Teachers Can Do About It
Pop Quiz
1. As a child, did you play more in
kindergarten than your children or students
are allowed to play now?
2. Were you taught to read in
3. In 1st through 3rd grades, did
you have recess every day or
even more than once a day?
4. In elementary school, did you
experience art, gym, and music at
least once a week and sometimes
What’s The Problem?
1. Push-down academics:
 Preschool, kindergarten, and early elementary age
children are being taught with methods and curriculum
appropriate for older children
 For example, kindergarteners are now expected to
master more than 90 skills related to reading and math
which lead to teaching reading and writing in
kindergarten, whereas reading and writing have
traditionally been taught in 1st grade.
What’s The Problem?
2. Emphasis on testing
 Tests measure a narrow range of knowledge and skills so they often miss
important objectives of early childhood education like creativity, problemsolving, and social and emotional development.
 Young children have trouble completing standardized tests; how they
perform often depends on the day.
 Teachers sometimes have to eliminate worthwhile learning experiences,
introduce skills too early, and “teach to the test” if they are pressured to
produce high test scores.
What’s The Problem?
3. Much less time for hands on, active learning
and child-directed play
 Young children learn best through these activities.
 Play leads to creativity, capacity for problem-solving,
and love of learning.
What’s The Problem?
And, most recently,
4. The Common Core State Standards
 Demand that children learn specific skills and facts by a
certain age, despite the fact that children don’t all learn at the
same rate and in the same way.
 The Common Core Standards are not based on current
research about how children learn nor did early childhood
educators participate in the development of the Standards.
 The Standards are written in a way that results in direct
instruction, whether intended or not, that goes against how
young children learn.
 However, the Common Core State Standards have been
adopted by most states.
What Are Teachers Saying?
“I am being forced to shove
academics down the
throats of 4,5 and 6 year
old children. I used to be
proud of my teaching – now
I feel that I am being forced
to do wrong by my students
every day.”
– Teacher in New York City
“We have gone
from a
curriculum where
kids play to learn
to a more rigorous
one where kids are
expected to do
things that first
graders used to be
expected to do.
- Kindergarten Teacher
“Children at this age
should not be
‘tested’…. It scares
them and makes them
think there is only one
right answer.”
- Preschool Teacher
“Very simply—
much of the
joy has been
taken away
from education
for both
children and
the adults
providing it.”
- Elementary
School Teacher
What Are Teachers Saying?
What Are Parents Saying?
“Taking tests and filling in bubbles is not
only wrong, it’s destructive for little
children. Some have issues with sitting
– Chair of PTA at Castlebridge School
in New York, where parents boycotted standardized
tests for children as young at 4
“Many parents here deal with the too
academic kindergarten by giving their
child another year of preschool--if they
can afford it--or having them do two
years of kindergarten.”
- Mother in Massachusetts
“My daughter is more than a test!”
- New York parent
“The tests are distorting our teachers’
efforts in the classroom when they
have to spend so much time teaching
to the test.”
- California Parent
What Is The Impact on Kids?
“My 5-year-old grandson adored his playbased preschool, but it was a different when he
started an all-day, very academic, public school
kindergarten. From the first day, he had mostly
worksheets and table tasks, which, he said,
were “hard.” On the fifth day of kindergarten,
he refused to go to school, locked himself in his
bedroom, and hid under his bed!”
- Grandmother in Massachusetts
Does it make sense
to expect
children and
preschool children
to spend long hours
preparing for
reading, trying to
master skills that
come much more
easily a year or two
“With so much time spent on
- Joan Almon,
“Reading at Five: Why?”
test prep and less time for
SouthEast Education Network,
Fall 2013
art, music, recess, and gym,
my elementary school
daughters complained that
school was boring. Simply
put, they hated school.”
- Father in Illinois
What Does the Research Say?
There are no long-term gains from teaching children to read
at age five compared to age seven.
- Sebastian Suggate, U. of Otago, New Zealand
HighScope Preschool Curriculum Comparison Study
 Compared three kinds of preschool curricula:
o Direct Instruction when teachers used a
script and expected correct answers from the
o Traditional nursery school where children
learn through play
o HighScope program where children learned
through group time and play with a plan, do,
review focus
 By age 23, participants taught through Direct
Instruction needed 41% more special education
than those taught with the other curricula and had
been arrested and suspended from work 3 times
more than those taught with other curricula.
Scores on the Torrance
Test of Creativity have
declined since 1990.
- Kyung Hee Kim,
College of William
& Mary
What Does the Research Say?
Over the past 50 years, “…free play
with other children has declined
sharply. Over the same period, anxiety,
depression, suicide, feelings of
helplessness, and narcissism have
increased sharply in children,
adolescents, and young adults. …The
decline in play has contributed to the
rise in the psychopathology of young
people. Play functions as the major
means by which children
(1) Develop intrinsic interests and
(2) Learn how to make decisions, solve
problems, exert self-control, and
follow rules;
(3) Learn to regulate their emotions;
(4) Make friends and learn to get along
with others as equals; and
(5) Experience joy.
Through all of these effects, play
promotes mental health.”
- Peter Gray, Ph.D., American Journal of
Play, Spring, 2011
Through play, children develop the
attitudes, values, and skills they
need for school success — for
instance, the belief that
can do it!” — when confronted with
learning challenges big and small.
- American Academy of Pediatrics, 2011;
Berk, 1994; Levin, 2011; Miller &
Almon,2009; Piaget, 1951 and 1959
What’s Happening in Other Countries?
 In the 1970s, Germany pushed early
academics in kindergarten
 A study comparing 50 play-based
classes with 50 early academics
classes found that “by age 10 the
children who had played excelled
over the others…. They were
better adjusted socially and
emotionally in school; …excelled
in creativity, intelligence, oral
expression, and industry.”
 As a result, Germany returned to
play-based kindergartens
Children attend preschool and kindergarten,
which is completely play-based, until age 7.
Children enter 1st grade at age 7, when
formal reading and numeracy are introduced.
Finnish children are routinely at the top of
any international academic rankings.
88% of countries in the
world start formal leaning
when children are 6 or 7.
- Dr. David Whitebread,
University of Cambridge
What’s Happening in Other Countries?
What Does Appropriate Early Childhood Education Look Like?
Children develop best –
socially, emotionally, and
cognitively – when they
have educational
experiences that promote
creativity, thinking, and
problem-solving skills, and
engage in meaningful
activities geared to their
developmental levels and
What Does Appropriate Early Childhood Education Look Like?
Block play is perhaps the single most valuable
play for developing a wide range of early learning
skills. The research is undisputed: block play
supports social skills, abstract thinking, creativity,
problem solving and language development.
Through block play children develop a foundation
in math, science and even literacy. (Hanline,
Milton, Phelps 2009)
What Does Appropriate Early Childhood Education Look Like?
Children benefit
from working with
many different art
materials from paint,
crayons, and
markers to collage
and chalk.
At this age, it’s the
process, not the
finished product that
What Does Appropriate Early Childhood Education Look Like?
Classrooms should
provide materials for
many activities,
including sensory
tables filled with sand,
water, pebbles, or
bubbles; puzzles of
different levels of
difficulty; playdough;
and a variety of props
to enrich and extend
the play and
encourage children’s
What Does Appropriate Early Childhood Education Look Like?
Engaging in
dramatic play helps
children develop
their self-regulation,
imagination, and
social skills.
Through role-play
and pretend, stress
levels go down and
children learn to
make sense of their
world as their
competence and
confidence grows..
What Does Appropriate Early Childhood Education Look Like?
The teacher’s role in early childhood education is
crucial. The teacher sets up an appropriate
environment and establishes a warm and
accepting relationship with each child. The
teacher provides both group time and one-on-one
time, sometimes asking questions or helping to
extend the play, while other times letting the
children take the lead.
What Does Appropriate Early Childhood Education Look Like?
Classrooms provide
children with a print-rich
environment, filled with
books, posters, and
signage. There is time
each day for both group
and individual story
time, as well as
opportunities for
children to compose
and act out their own
What Does Appropriate Early Childhood Education Look Like?
Outdoor play and experiencing nature is important for
children’s health and well-being and should be a part of
each child’s day. Opportunities for varied outdoor
activities should be provided – including running,
climbing, riding vehicles, sand, water, and games. Indoor
activities like art and circle time can often be moved
outdoors, weather permitting.
What can concerned parents and teachers do?
Start talking to your neighbors, your children’s teachers,
the parents of your child’s classmates, parent groups,
school board, and legislative bodies.
 Ask them to support efforts to bring best practice
back to the education of young children.
 You may think that you are the only one, but will
probably be surprised how many others share your
What can concerned parents and teachers do?
Bring like-minded people together for a meeting.
 Consider showing this Power Point presentation to get the
conversation started.
 Brainstorm about next steps and how your group can spread the
word about your concerns
What can concerned parents and teachers do?
Develop a clear message.
 What are your primary concerns?
 Why are you concerned?
 It’s powerful to give specific examples, including anecdotes of
your own children (for parents) or of students in your class (for
 What are you for? What are the outcomes you hope for? Better to
be “for” something positive than just “against” everything.
 For example, it might be restoring recess for elementary
school students or allowing for play-based learning in
What can concerned parents and teachers do?
Start spreading the word! Communicate your
concerns by:
 Writing letters:
 To your school board
 To your local newspaper
 To elected officials at the local, state, and
federal level
 Using social media:
 Start a Facebook page, website, blog, or
Twitter account
 Devising and circulating a petition:
 Online petitions available at or
What can concerned parents and teachers do?
Consider next steps that generate attention, such as:
 Attending and speaking up at school board meetings.
 A demonstration.
 A special event, such as the “Play-In” held at the Board of
Education of the Chicago Public Schools.
What can concerned parents and teachers do?
Specific steps parents can take at their child’s school:
1. Find out what tests your child will be required to take.
2. Ask about recess.
3. Ask to visit your child’s classroom and inquire about the daily schedule.
4. Inquired into your school’s homework policy.
5. Inquire into your school’s data-collection policies.
6. Ask about the discipline policies used at your child’s school and classroom.
7. Ask how your child’s data is displayed within the school and classrooms.
For more information, see “A Guide for Parents: Advocating for
Your Child in the Early Years” by United Opt Out in partnership
with Dr. Nancy Carlsson-Paige and DEY
What can concerned parents and teachers do?
Stay informed and involved with the organizations that advocate for
young children, such as:
 Defending the Early Years
 Alliance for Childhood
 Class Size Matters
 Gesell Institute
 The National Center for Fair & Open Testing
 Network for Public Education
 Parents Across America
 Save Our Schools
 United Opt Out
Also check out local organizations such as
 Citizens for Public Schools in
 Parent Voices NY in New York
What can concerned parents and teachers do?
8. Apply for a grant. Defending the Early Years is offering
mini-grants for amounts from $200 to $500.
Applications will be reviewed on an ongoing basis and up to 20 awards will
be granted (depending on grant sizes).
Possible actions include, but are not limited to:
o Hosting a parent information meeting
o Organizing a Call Your Legislator Day
o Spearheading a letter-writing campaign to politicians
o Organizing a “Play-In” at the local school board
o Publicizing an “Opt Out” campaign
o Hosting a viewing and conversation of chapter or two from the
videos “A Year at Mission Hill;” or “When a Child Pretends” from
the Sarah Lawrence Series
o Holding an Open Forum for community members and
o Whatever else you may think of…
“Never doubt that a small group of concerned citizens
can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that
ever has.”
- Margaret Mead
• “8 Ways to Work for Testing Reform.”
• “A Guide for Parents: Advocating for Your Child in the Early Years” by United Opt Out in partnership with Nancy Carlsson-Paige and DEY.
• “A Researched-Based Case for Recess” by Olga S. Jarrett.
• “The Crisis in Early Childhood Education: A Research-Based Case for More Play and Less Pressure” by Joan Almon and Edward Miller.
• “The Decline of Play and the Rise of Psychopathology in Children and Adolescents” by Peter Gray.
• “How Ed Policy is Hurting Early Childhood Education.” by Geralyn Bywater McLaughlin, Nancy Carlsson-Paige, and Diane Levin.
• “How One Group Held a Play-In to Promote Appropriate Early Childhood Education.”
• “Why Preschools Shouldn’t Be Like School” by Alison Gopnik.
• “Reading at Five? Why?” by Joan Almon.
• Parents Across America Advocacy ToolKit.
• Peaceful Playgrounds’ “Right to Recess Campaign: Tool Box”.
• Play = Learning: How Play Motivates and Enhances Children’s Cognitive and Social-Emotional Growth.
Edited by Dorothy G. Singer, Roberta Michnick Golinkoff and Kathy Hirsh-Pasek. Oxford University Press, 2006.
Defending the Early Years
is a non-profit project of the Survival Education Fund, Inc.,
- a 501(c)3 educational organization.

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