"The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves." -- John Adams

"No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution." -- Indiana Constitution Article 1, Section 6.

"...no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinion in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish enlarge, or affect their civil capacities." – Thomas Jefferson

Friday, August 30, 2019

2019 Medley #16: Back to school 2019, Part 1

Special Ed. and Lead, Testing,
Teacher Evaluations,
Commission on Teacher Pay,
Reading and Phonics, Teachers' Spending, Supporting Your Local School, DPE


SPECIAL EDUCATION NEEDS AND LEAD POISONING

In Flint, Schools Overwhelmed by Special Ed. Needs in Aftermath of Lead Crisis

In nearly all my previous posts having to do with the lead poisoning of America's poor children, I have commented that we would likely see increased numbers of students needing special services in areas where lead is an identified problem.

Flint, Michigan is facing that situation. There aren't enough special education teachers to handle the increased case load in Flint's schools. The author of the article (and the plaintiffs in the lawsuit) don't blame the lead in the water for the increased need for speical ed services in Flint. It seems likely, however, that the near doubling of the number of children identified for special education over the last 8 years has something to do with the damage done to Flint's children by the lead in the water.

Who should pay for the permanent damage done to an entire community of lead poisoned children? Who should be held accountable? Will teachers' evaluations reflect the lower test scores of their students damaged by policy makers' neglect?

By the way, the title of this article refers to the "Aftermath of [Flint's] Lead Crisis." Is Flint's water safe yet? What about Newark? What about the lead in the ground in East Chicago, IN?
In a suit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, the Education Law Center, and the New York-based firm of White & Case, lawyers representing Flint families have sued the school system, the Michigan education department, and the Genesee County Intermediate school district, alleging systematic failure to meet the needs of special education students. The Genesee district helps oversee special education services in Flint and other county districts.

While the lawsuit does not pin the increased need for special education services solely on the prolonged lead exposure, research has linked lead toxicity to learning disabilities, poor classroom performance, and increased aggression.

STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT TESTS AREN'T VALID FOR TEACHER EVALUATIONS

As low ILEARN scores loom, McCormick wants to change how Indiana evaluates schools, teachers

What McCormick should have included in her comments...

We shouldn't use student achievement tests to evaluate teachers. Student achievement tests are developed to assess student achievement, not teacher effectiveness...not school effectiveness...and not school system effectiveness. This misuse of standardized tests invalidates the results.
McCormick also said it is “past time” for the state to take students’ standardized test scores out of teachers’ evaluations. The argument is that scores should be used to inform educators on what concepts students have mastered and where they need help, rather than a way of evaluating how well teachers are doing their jobs.

“ILEARN was a snapshot in time, it was a one-day assessment,” McCormick said. “It gave us information on where students are performing, but there are a lot of pieces to student performance beyond one assessment.”

As for why the first year of scores were low, McCormick said the new test was “much more rigorous” and weighed skills differently, prioritizing “college and career readiness” skills.


McCormick: It’s time to change school grading system

"It's past time to decouple test scores from teacher evaluations."
• Hold schools harmless for test results for accountability purposes. In other words, schools would receive the higher of the grade they earned in 2018 or 2019.
• Pause the intervention timeline that allows the state to close or take over schools that are rated F for multiple consecutive years.
• Give emergency rule-making authority to the State Board of Education to enable it to reconfigure the accountability system to align with the new assessment.

McCormick also said it’s past time to decouple test scores from teacher evaluations, which can determine whether teachers get raises. Current law says teacher evaluations must be “significantly informed” by objective measures, like students’ test scores.

TEACHERS REPEAT WHAT THEY'VE BEEN SAYING FOR YEARS: LISTEN TO US!

Local educators tell commission to ‘support Hoosier teachers’ during input session focused on competitive wages

Once more teachers tell policy makers (this time "business and education leaders") how the state of Indiana (and the nation) has damaged public education and the teaching profession. Apparently, the only people who don't know why there's a teacher shortage are those who have caused it...
One by one, teachers and community members took to the mic to give their input of what they believe needs to be done to increase teacher pay as well as revenues available to school corporations.

Recommendations included — but were not limited to — looking into low-enrollment schools, increasing state taxes, dropping standardized testing and examining charter schools’ “harmful impact” on public education.


THERE IS NO MAGIC ELIXIR

Is NCLB’s Reading First Making a Comeback?

There's more to reading instruction than phonics.

[emphasis in original]
Teachers need a broad understanding about reading instruction and how to assess the reading needs of each student, especially when students are young and learning to read.

This includes decoding for children who have reading disabilities. But a variety of teaching tools and methods help children learn to read. The conditions in their schools and classrooms should be conducive for this to happen.

It would be helpful to read more about lowering class sizes, a way to better teach children in earlier grades.

Problems relating to the loss of librarians and libraries is also currently of grave concern. And with so many alternative education programs like Teach for America it’s important to determine who is teaching children reading in their classrooms.

The Reading First scandal was noxious, and I have not done justice describing it in this post. Today, most understand that NCLB was not about improving public education but about demeaning educators and closing public schools. Reading First fit into this privatization plan. It was about making a profit on reading programs. It turned out not to be a magic elixir to help students learn how to read better.


TEACHERS OPEN THEIR WALLETS

It’s the beginning of the school year and teachers are once again opening up their wallets to buy school supplies

While the governor and his commission on teacher pay argue about the best way to increase teacher salaries across the state, Indiana's teachers are opening their classrooms and their wallets. The average amount of money a teacher spends on his/her students in Indiana is $462, which is more than the national average.
The nation’s K–12 public school teachers shell out, on average, $459 on school supplies for which they are not reimbursed (adjusted for inflation to 2018 dollars), according to the NCES 2011–2012 Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS). This figure does not include the dollars teachers spend but are reimbursed for by their school districts. The $459-per-teacher average is for all teachers, including the small (4.9%) share who do not spend any of their own money on school supplies.

SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL PUBLIC SCHOOL - END VOUCHERS AND CHARTER SCHOOLS

Support Our Public Schools – And The Teachers Who Work In Them

What can you do to help support your local school?
As our nation’s young people return to public schools, there are things you can do to shore up the system. First, support your local public schools. It doesn’t matter if your children are grown or you never had children. The kids attending public schools in your town are your neighbors and fellow residents of your community. Someday, they will be the next generation of workers, teachers and leaders shaping our country. It’s in everyone’s best interest that today’s children receive the best education possible, and the first step to that is making sure their public schools are adequately funded.

Second, arm yourself with facts about the threat vouchers pose to public education and oppose these schemes. To learn more, visit the website of the National Coalition for Public Education (NCPE), a coalition co-chaired by Americans United that includes more than 50 education, civic, civil rights and religious organizations devoted to the support of public schools. NCPE has pulled together a lot of research showing that voucher plans don’t work and that they harm public education by siphoning off needed funds.


GUIDE TO THE DPE MOVEMENT

A Layperson’s Guide to the ‘Destroy Public Education’ Movement

This excellent summary post by Thomas Ultican was originally published on Sept. 21, 2018.
The destroy public education (DPE) movement is the fruit of a relatively small group of billionaires. The movement is financed by several large non-profit organizations. Nearly all of the money spent is free of taxation. Without this spending, there would be no wide-spread public school privatization.

It is generally recognized that the big three foundations driving DPE activities are The Bill and Melinda Gate Foundation (Assets in 2016 = $41 billion), The Walton Family Foundation (Assets in 2016 = $3.8 billion), and The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation (Assets in 2016 = $1.8 
billion).

Last week, the Network for Public Education published “Hijacked by Billionaires: How the Super-Rich Buy Elections to Undermine Public Schools.” This interactive report lists the top ten billionaires spending to drive their DPE agenda with links to case studies for their spending.

🚌🚌🚌

Friday, August 23, 2019

Repairing the Damage to Science

ANTI-INTELLECTUALISM

The Growing Partisan Divide in Views of Higher Education

In 2012 53% of Republicans and Republican-leaning Independents in the U.S. believed that higher education was a net positive for the nation and 35% had a negative view. Now, in 2019, those numbers have reversed. 59% of Republicans and Republican-leaning Independents have a negative view of higher education while 33% have a positive view. Over the same time period, the results for Democrats and Democratic-leaning Independents have been consistent -- about 66% positive and about 20% negative.

Ed Brayton, who blogs at Dispatches from the Culture Wars "is not at all" surprised by this.

Most Republicans Reject Higher Education
This is not at all surprising. The right, and Trump in particular, have made rejection of expertise and knowledge almost an article of faith. They look at university faculty that leans liberal, decide they’re the enemy and demonize them in every way possible. Trump embodies this with his constant rejection of science, learning and experience. No one knows anything about anything but him, so he doesn’t need no fancy schmancy liberal eggheads telling him that global warming is real or that perhaps he should listen to our career civil servants in the diplomatic corps, who might just know something he doesn’t about the countries they’ve been deeply involved with for decades.
Not only is this not surprising, but, as the surveys have shown, it's not new either. In 2012 more than a third of America's Republicans thought that a post-secondary education had a net negative impact on our society. While that's less than in 2019, it's still a lot.


QUICK HISTORY

This strain of popular anti-intellectualism has been part of American life since the beginning of the Republic. It was present in the religious objections to the Constitution, and according to Richard Hofstadter's Anti-Intellectualism in American Life, is at least in part, the result of the particular strain of Protestantism which set the tone for the development of the country.

In more modern times...
  • Vice-Presidential candidate Richard Nixon called former Illinois Governor Adlai Stevenson an "egghead"
However, the fact that the percentage of Republican Americans who disdain expertise has risen is more reflective of the direction of the Republican Party under its current leadership than any change in the number of Americans who would like their children to go to college.

By the way, it's still true that the more education one has, the higher one's income prospects...and the difference is growing. In 1970 the difference in average income between those with a college degree and those with just a high school diploma was $14,400 per year. By 2018 that difference had nearly doubled to $25,000.

Majorities of both Republicans and Democrats don't like the post-secondary impact of high tuition costs, but nearly 80% of Republicans include the so-called left-leaning tendency of college professors in their reasons for their negative view of colleges and universities. Interestingly, this further divides by age. 96% of Republicans over 65 think liberal professors impose their beliefs on the young, whereas slightly over half (56%) of Republicans between the ages of 18 and 34 feel that way. While that's still a majority, it implies that a large number of young Republicans don't see post-secondary liberal professorial indoctrination as a problem. One would think that the younger sample rather than the older, would have a better handle on what is going on in colleges and universities today.

FIGHTING BACK

In the meantime, the current administration ignores scientific (and other) expertise when making decisions which affect us all.

The Union of Concerned Scientists wrote in their report, The State of Science in the Trump Era (2019),
Scientists—whether agency staff, experts in leadership positions, or nongovernmental scientists on advisory committees—have long advised policymakers when good decisions depend on scientific evidence. The Trump administration is excluding this expertise from decisionmaking...

Our nation's landmark public health and environmental laws require the use of science to set standards that protect people and preserve our natural resources. The Trump administration has ignored or sidestepped many of these processes...
In fact, the administration is not just ignoring expertise, but actually censoring science that doesn't fit its pro-profit or political agenda.

Who does President Trump treat worse than anyone else? Scientists.
In 2017, Interior Department officials — including then-Deputy Secretary David Bernhardt — blocked the release of a comprehensive analysis about the threat that three widely used pesticides pose to endangered species, requiring the report’s authors to use a narrower standard for determining the risk of the chemicals. That year, the government also halted a study by the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine on the health risks of mountaintop removal mining in Appalachian states, wasting $455,110 that had already been spent on the process.

We could go on: The administration has suppressed, blocked or ignored scientific research on the environmental effects of mining in national forests, the dangers of asbestos, the status of endangered species, the effect a citizenship question would have on the U.S. Census, the safety of children’s products and countless other issues.


The education community must step up. We must prepare tomorrow's leaders to repair the intellectual damage coming from the current administration.
This is the intellectual rot of the Trump era. It’s more than just an anti-big government ideology; it’s a systematic assault on science across the federal government. These actions will reverberate in our government for years to come, even after the Trump administration is gone, in the form of policy decisions we make without the benefit of the best evidence available. And worse, Americans may not even be aware of how they are being deceived and deprived.

That’s the true scandal of Trump’s war on scientists. No other group is so pervasively targeted and so thoroughly ignored. Yet it is their voices, more than any other, that our nation needs in this disturbing political moment.

CHILDREN ARE OUR FUTURE

Reversing the anti-science direction of the country will take time and won't be easy. We can do it if we focus on today's students...tomorrow's leaders.

In his last interview (go to 3:55 for this quote), Carl Sagan warned (1996),
Science is more than a body of knowledge. It is a way of thinking; a way of skeptically interrogating the universe with a fine understanding of human fallibility.

If we are not able to ask skeptical questions, to interrogate those who tell us that something is true, to be skeptical of those in authority, then, we are up for grabs for the next charlatan (political or religious) who comes ambling along.

It's a thing that Jefferson lay great stress on. It wasn't enough, he said, to enshrine some rights in a constitution or a bill of rights. The people had to be educated and they had to practice their skepticism and their education. Otherwise we don't run the government. The government runs us.
What can we do? The charlatans are here...it's time to step up.


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Sunday, August 18, 2019

Medley #15: A Poisoned Environment - A Side-Effect of Poverty

Poisoning our children

Let's review.

Lead in the environment damages children...permanently. It lowers their school achievement, causes behavior and growth problems, and can increase criminal behavior.

Educational Researcher David C. Berliner discussed the impact of environmental toxins such as lead in his 2009 paper, Poverty and Potential: Out-of-School Factors and School Success. He wrote,
It is now understood that there is no safe level of lead in the human body, and that lead at any level has an impact on IQ. Small doses from paint on toys or in cosmetics have the power to subtly harm children. The present-day cut off for concern about toxic effects is usually a measured lead level of 10 micrograms per deciliter of blood (10 ΞΌg/dl). Anything higher than this is considered unsafe by the U.S. government. However, a five-year study of 172 children indicates that lead causes intellectual impairment even at much lower levels...
Now, in 2019, ten years later, we're still discussing the damage that lead poisoning does to our children...and we're still blaming the low achievement of lead-damaged children on schools, teachers, and parents through our reliance on test scores and our underfunding of those schools serving children who need the most help.

[The following is from the Environmental Protection Agency. I reccomend that you read it soon, as there's no telling when the current administration will remove it from the web site.]

Basic Information about Lead in Drinking Water
It is important to recognize all the ways a child can be exposed to lead. Children are exposed to lead in paint, dust, soil, air, and food, as well as drinking water. If the level of lead in a child's blood is at or above the CDC action level of 5 micrograms per deciliter, it may be due to lead exposures from a combination of sources. EPA estimates that drinking water can make up 20 percent or more of a person’s total exposure to lead. Infants who consume mostly mixed formula can receive 40 percent to 60 percent of their exposure to lead from drinking water.

Children

Even low levels of lead in the blood of children can result in:

  • Behavior and learning problems
  • Lower IQ and hyperactivity
  • Slowed growth
  • Hearing problems
  • Anemia
The most notorious example of state-sponsored child-poisoning in the last few years has been in Flint Michigan, where the residents still do not have safe drinking water, and those responsible for the mess -- and covering up the mess -- have yet to be held accountable.


Flint’s Water Crisis Started 5 Years Ago. It’s Not Over.

This was published in April 25, 2019, five years after a group of Flint officials declared the water safe. How many children from Flint now need special educational services?
...in Flint, the water crisis is by no means in the past.

“It’s a community that’s still dealing with the trauma and the aftermath of having been poisoned at the hands of the government,” Karen Weaver, who replaced Mr. Walling as mayor largely because of anger over the water crisis, said in an interview this week. Ms. Weaver continues to tell residents to drink only bottled or filtered water.

On Thursday, pastors and activists gathered outside the city’s water treatment plant to call for more help. Some wore shirts that said “Flint Is Still Broken.” 
It's not just Flint, however. Right here in Indiana...

INDIANA

East Chicago

The Bitter Legacy of the East Chicago Lead Crisis

...which then-Governor Pence ignored as long as he could...
In 1985, the Indiana State Department of Health discovered lead contamination near the USS Lead facility, the same year the facility closed down. While USS Lead would later clean up lead waste at the facility, contamination would linger in the surrounding areas. It wasn't until 2009 that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) added parts of the USS Lead facility and the surrounding neighborhood to the Superfund National Priorities List...

In the summer of 2016, the EPA sent letters to residents of the housing complex informing them of the lead contamination. Frustrated by the slow pace of the EPA cleanup effort, which continues to this day, East Chicago Mayor Anthony Copeland called on the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to demolish the West Calumet Housing Complex, which it did, forcing more than a thousand residents to move out.

South Bend

Towns Face Obstacles Dealing With, Then Fixing Lead Contamination
“One of the challenges is that, as we’re digging into this, we’re discovering that funding has diminished, testing has diminished, the attention to this problem has diminished,” says Stoner.

As far as funding goes, the St. Joseph County Health Department doesn’t have the money to help all the children with elevated blood levels—help like seeing if there are lead hazards in the kids’ homes or educating parents on how to manage lead poisoning...

Whiting/Hammond

Lead contamination limbo plaguing Whiting, Hammond neighborhoods
...a lack of funding means the majority of the yards in EPA's study area have been left untouched.

Soil sample results provided to the Times show Dana and Sean’s backyard levels at 435 ppm, or slightly above the federal agency’s residential cleanup removal standard.

By EPA’s own safety standards, their soil level should warrant action, they said, but so far, EPA has only had enough money to clean yards deemed critically necessary...

Lead Levels In Hammond, Indiana Schools Raise Concerns
A new round of test results show potentially hazardous lead-levels in water at seven Hammond schools, and now some in the community are worried about schools that have not been tested yet.
What do all these areas have in common besides lead in the water?

A high percentage of children of color, and high levels of childhood poverty.

60% of Flint's children live in poverty. East Chicago schools have a free and reduced lunch rate of 85%. Childhood poverty rates for children in South Bend, while dropping in recent years, is still over 30%, well above the state average.

NEW JERSEY

Lead Crisis in Newark Grows, as Bottled Water Distribution Is Bungled

Newark New Jersey, with a childhood poverty rate of over 40% is now facing the same situation as Flint, East Chicago, and dozens of other high poverty cities around the country.
A growing crisis over lead contamination in drinking water gripped Newark on Wednesday as tens of thousands of residents were told to drink only bottled water, the culmination of years of neglect that has pushed New Jersey’s largest city to the forefront of an environmental problem afflicting urban areas across the nation.

Urgent new warnings from federal environmental officials about contamination in drinking water from aging lead pipes spread anxiety and fear across much of Newark, but the municipal government’s makeshift efforts to set up distribution centers to hand out bottled water were hampered by confusion and frustration.


Why do children in poverty achieve at lower rates than wealthier children? In part, it's because they are exposed to environmental toxins like lead at higher rates than their wealthier peers.

This wouldn't...and doesn't...happen to children of the wealthy.


πŸšŒπŸ’°πŸšŒ

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

The Lamp is broken; the Golden Door is closed

The current acting Director of Citizenship and Immigration Services made the news on Tuesday...

Trump official revises Statue of Liberty poem to defend migrant rule change
On Tuesday, Mr Cuccinelli was asked by NPR whether the 1883 poem titled The New Colossus at the Statue of Liberty on New York's Ellis Island still applied.

"Would you also agree that Emma Lazarus's words etched on the Statue of Liberty, 'Give me your tired, give me your poor,' are also a part of the American ethos?" asked NPR's Rachel Martin.

"They certainly are," Mr Cuccinelli responded. "Give me your tired and your poor - who can stand on their own two feet and who will not become a public charge."
Those of us who are familiar with the poem, and the history it embodies, know that the actual words are a bit different. There are no strings attached to coming to America and Cuccinelli, no matter what his "acting" title, can't change that. While it's not the law of the land, Emma Lazarus's poem has been part of what Rachel Martin called the "American ethos" for more than a century.
The Democratic led House Homeland Security Committee condemned Mr Cuccinelli's revision in a tweet, calling the words "vile and un-American".

"It's clear the Trump Administration just wants to keep certain people out," the committee wrote, calling Mr Cuccinelli "a xenophobic, anti-immigrant fringe figure who has no business being in government".
On last night's (Aug 13) edition of The 11th Hour with Brian Williams, author Rick Wilson said,
This is the American story writ large. Generation after generation after generation, who came here, not because we were a race, not because we were a single tribe, but because we were a propositional nation; an idea that if you came here you could become an American. The one unique nation on Earth where there is zero racial or cultural universality...Let's be honest about this. This isn't a code for whether they're coming here with a 401K or not, it's a code for whether they come here if they're white or not.
Emma Lazarus was not an immigrant, but she came from immigrant roots. She was born in New York City in 1849 to a wealthy Jewish-American family. When she was asked to write a poem for the base of the Statue of Liberty she recognized that the statue was a beacon, an outward-facing welcoming sign.

She focused her poetry on the "welcome" of America because her immigrant roots were important to her and she used the poem to express the feelings of those immigrants and refugees who were looking for a place to "breathe free." At the time, she was aware of Jewish refugees from Russian anti-Semitic violence, but her words were universal and applied to everyone who needed to escape oppression.

Her words said,

Here is a country where you will be welcomed.

Here is a country where you can be free to live your life.

Here is a country where you can find a home.

There are no conditions set forth in her poem. You don't need a bankroll to come to America. You don't need a college degree to come to America. Emma Lazarus's poetry symbolizes the immigrant roots of America and welcomes the homeless. It welcomes the poor. It welcomes everyone.


"The New Colossus"

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
– Emma Lazarus, 1883

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Saturday, August 3, 2019

2019 Medley #14: Early Learning, Play, and Preschool

Play, Preschool


PUT PLAY FIRST

Let the Children Play: How More Play Will Save Our Schools and Help Children Thrive
By Pasi Sahlberg and William Doyle, Oxford University Press

Full disclosure: I haven't finished reading this book, yet...

...but I'm far enough along to know academic kindergartens and virtual preschools aren't the best way to build academic success for our children. In fact, I learned the same thing forty-five years ago, when I was a preservice education student. Current research supports previous research. Play is children's work. Children learn through play. Worksheets in preschool and kindergarten, whether they're made of paper or on a computer screen, are inappropriate. Cooking stations, dress-up boxes, and building toys are what we need for our littlest learners. We should bring back recess, blocks, and doll buggies. Teach young children through read-aloud, finger play, and singing. Give our youngest children time to play without adult interference.
Despite this strong medical and scientific consensus that play is a foundation of children’s lives and education, play is an increasingly endangered experience for many of the world’s children.

Why is play dying in our schools? There are many social and cultural factors, and one major political reason is “GERM,” or the “Global Education Reform Movement,” a term that co-author Pasi Sahlberg has coined to describe an intellectual school reform paradigm that places academic performance as measured by standardized tests before children’s engagement, well-being, and play in schools.

..."If we love our children and want them to thrive, we must allow them more time and opportunity to play, not less." -- Professor Peter Gray

WE'VE BECOME A WORSE WORLD FOR CHILDREN


"Play is where they learn to solve their own problems and learn, therefore, that the world is not so scary after all. Play is where they experience joy and they learn the world is not so depressing after all. Play is where they learn to get along with peers...and see from other points of view...and practice empathy...and get over narcissism. Play is by definition, creative and innovative...yet the hue and cry that we hear everywhere is for more school not for more play and we've really got to change that." -- Peter Gray

FAKE PLAY

Fake Play and Its Dangerous Alignment to Standards and Data

Being on a tee-ball team isn't real play. Pee Wee football isn't real play. Preschool soccer isn't real play. Adult directed play, while it has its place, isn't real play. Children need unstructured play...every day.
There’s a troubling phenomenon happening in early childhood education. It involves aligning standards to fake play.

Children own real play.

In Educating Young Children, Mary Hohmann and David P. Weikart discuss the HighScope preschool program and the welcome backseat adults often take to allow children to freely play. They say: When children are playing or starting to play, and are receptive to other players, adults can sometimes join them in a nondisruptive manner. This is real play.

Real play involves children using their imaginations to plan and work things out on their own. It’s messy and hard work for the child, but it builds thinking skills.

Educating Young Children provides descriptions of materials for play. The authors describe adult-guided educational activities too, but children are also trusted to learn through free play. Adults support the children in their activities. There’s no worry about test scores, but a focus on the child, their development, and the joy of learning.

Unfortunately, for years, unstructured play has been beyond the reach of many children. Kiss curiosity and problem solving good-bye.


UNSTRUCTURED PLAY INCREASES TEST SCORES?

Montgomery County adds additional recess time, test scores increase

For all those doubters who say we can't reproduce what Finland has done to make our schools more effective, here's an example of something we can copy -- free, unstructured, play.
We are about two weeks away from kids heading back to the classroom.

One local school system is hoping for another year of increased elementary test scores.

We sat down with the superintendent of Montgomery County schools, and he says a trip overseas to visit one of the world's best education systems opened his eyes to the one thing that was missing from our classrooms: playtime.

Montgomery County educators see the playground another classroom space where children learn communication and collaboration.

“I think it's an important part of learning,” said Montgomery County Schools Superintendent Dr. Mark Miear.

The change in perspective came after a trip to Finland a couple years ago.

“What I found was that there was not a lot of difference between us and them. Of course, they have some of the highest test scores in the world and they're very high in terms of academic achievement, so I start looking at what is the difference,” Miear said.

He found they have 15 minutes of recess for every 45 minutes of academic learning.

“We had kids who were spending an entire day in class with very little movement and having to wait until the end of the day for recess and that's, you know, several hours. That's not good for kids,” Miear said.

As he was preparing changes in the classroom the General Assembly loosened its restrictions allowing playtime to be counted as instruction.

So last school year, Montgomery County rolled out twice a day recess for all elementary students.


WHY DO WE NEED PRESCHOOL? ACADEMICS? OR INTERACTION?

Why Online Preschool is a Terrible Idea

Children don't learn through computer screens...they learn by doing. Is an online preschool really a preschool?
It used to be that parents sent their young children to kindergarten to prepare them for elementary school. Now things have developed to the point where parents are sending their 3 – 4-year-olds to preschool to prepare them for kindergarten! What is the world coming to?

It’s becoming a place where there is no time to be a child anymore. And that’s not all. It is becoming a world where children no longer run around and learn through play and interaction. No, thanks to online preschools they are now learning sitting on a couch, staring at a screen and clicking a mouse.

Parents of young children can now enroll their child in a cyber preschool that provides digital learning materials, activity guides and “homeroom teachers” online through a home computer, tablet, or smartphone. This is the latest way to start a child’s education, but is it sensible?

Preschool teaches important social skills

Think about it: why are children sent to preschool in the first place? Isn’t it because they need human interaction? One of the most important skills children learn in preschool is how to make friends. Life is about human relationships after all. How do you learn about making friends, sorting out differences, and obeying the rules when you are staring at a screen, looking for the right color to click on?

Children learn through play, not screens

Young children don’t learn best through computer-based instruction. They learn through activity, primarily play. They use all their senses, their entire bodies to learn. They learn through touch and smell, running and crawling, building houses with odd materials, making dams in the back yard after the rain. And most importantly, they learn about their place in a social context from their peers and teachers.


POSITION STATEMENT

Position Statement on Online Preschools

Defending the Early Years says "no" to online preschool.
All children deserve high quality early education, and we call on local, state, and federal agencies and policymakers to reject online preschools and invest in fully-funded, relationship-based, universal pre- kindergarten programs with proven long-term benefits.

BETTER THAN NOTHING?

An Online Preschool Closes a Gap but Exposes Another

Is an online preschool better than no preschool at all?

There are places where preschools don't exist...rural areas, high poverty areas. Those children need unstructured play with other children, too. Does online preschool fill the gap? Is it better than nothing?

The truth is that it's not a yes/no question. If we care about our future, we must make sure that "no preschool" and "online preschool" aren't the only options.
“Children who come from families of means have always gone to and still go to terrific quality pre-K programs,” said Nancy Carlsson-Paige, a co-founder of Defending the Early Years, a nonprofit campaign promoting universal pre-K. “Any program, you see the same thing — it’s kids engaged with teachers, blocks, paints and other kids. It’s all these things that everybody knows is quality.”

Not surprisingly, many early-education experts balk at the idea of preschool online. Steve Barnett, co-director of the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University, said a good preschool program typically developed a child’s social and emotional abilities, as well as ingraining lessons like thinking before you act.
“All of that can’t be done online,” he said.

But some advocates and Waterford Upstart argue that an online program is better than the current preschool options available to most low-income families, which are often nothing.


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