YOUNG CHILDREN IN JEOPARDY 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 kindergarten? 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 more? 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 kindergarten 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 still.” – 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 kindergarten children and preschool children to spend long hours preparing for reading, trying to master skills that come much more easily a year or two later? “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 children 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 competencies; (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 “I 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? FINLAND: GERMANY: 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 needs. 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 matters. 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 creativity. What Does Appropriate Early Childhood Education Look Like? Engaging in dramatic play helps children develop their self-regulation, language, 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 stories 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? 1.. 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 views! What can concerned parents and teachers do? 2. 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? 3.. 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 teachers). 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 kindergarten. What can concerned parents and teachers do? 4. 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 www.ipetitions.com or www.change.org What can concerned parents and teachers do? 5. 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. http://www.networkforpubliceducation.org/npe-tool-kit/how-onegroup-held-a-play-in-to-promote-appropriate-early-childhoodeducation/ What can concerned parents and teachers do? 6. 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? 7. Stay informed and involved with the organizations that advocate for young children, such as: Defending the Early Years deyproject.org Alliance for Childhood allianceforchildhood.org Class Size Matters classsizematters.org Gesell Institute www.gesellinstitute.org/ The National Center for Fair & Open Testing www.fairtest.org Network for Public Education www.networkforpubliceducation.org Parents Across America parentsacrossamerica.org Save Our Schools saveourschoolsmarch.org United Opt Out www.unitedoptout.com Also check out local organizations such as Citizens for Public Schools in Massachusetts citizensforpublicschools.org Parent Voices NY in New York parentvoicesny.org What can concerned parents and teachers do? W 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 stakeholders o Whatever else you may think of… THE APPLICATION IS AVAILABLE ON THE DEY WEBSITE: WWW.DEYPROJECT.ORG “Never doubt that a small group of concerned citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” - Margaret Mead RESOURCES USED IN PREPARING THIS POWER POINT PRESENTATION • “8 Ways to Work for Testing Reform.” http://fairtest.org/eight-steps • “A Guide for Parents: Advocating for Your Child in the Early Years” by United Opt Out in partnership with Nancy Carlsson-Paige and DEY. http://unitedoptout.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/ECE-Brochure-8.11.13.pdf • “A Researched-Based Case for Recess” by Olga S. Jarrett. http://www.allianceforchildhood.org/sites/allianceforchildhood.org/files/file/Recess_online.pdf • “The Crisis in Early Childhood Education: A Research-Based Case for More Play and Less Pressure” by Joan Almon and Edward Miller. http://www.allianceforchildhood.org/sites/allianceforchildhood.org/files/file/crisis_in_early_ed.pdf • “The Decline of Play and the Rise of Psychopathology in Children and Adolescents” by Peter Gray. http://deyproject.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/gray-lessplaymorepsychopathology.pdf • “How Ed Policy is Hurting Early Childhood Education.” by Geralyn Bywater McLaughlin, Nancy Carlsson-Paige, and Diane Levin. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/how-ed-policy-is-hurting-early-childhoodeducation/2012/05/24/gJQAm0jZoU_blog.html • “How One Group Held a Play-In to Promote Appropriate Early Childhood Education.” http://www.networkforpubliceducation.org/2013/04/howone-group-held-a-play-in-to-promote-appropriate-early-childhood-education/ • “Why Preschools Shouldn’t Be Like School” by Alison Gopnik. http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/doublex/2011/03/why_preschool_shouldnt_be_like_school.single.html • “Reading at Five? Why?” by Joan Almon. http://allianceforchildhood.org/sites/allianceforchildhood.org/files/file/Reading_at_Five_reprint.pdf • Parents Across America Advocacy ToolKit. http://parentsacrossamerica.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/PAA-toolkit-3.12.pdf • Peaceful Playgrounds’ “Right to Recess Campaign: Tool Box”. http://www.peacefulplaygrounds.com/right-to-recess-campaign/ • 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.