Friday, March 26, 2010

A threat to early childhood education

Dear Friends and Readers,

There are a few things in life that I am passionate about like no other. Simple living and breastfeeding are two of them. One of the others is that early childhood education must be a time where children learn how to learn and think, rather than learn how to memorize and complete worksheets and take standardized tests.

The Alliance for Childhood is an organization that conducts real research on this and similar issues. I give money to them, and y'all know I'm frugal.

There is a real and significant threat to early childhood education based on some new standards posed by the National Governor's Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. I have no doubt that the leadership in these organizations and the authors of these proposed new standards are good, well meaning people. But . . .

Well, let me just cut and paste directly from the Alliance for Childhood website:

Common Core Standards
Why we object to the proposed K–3 Core Standards

These proposed national standards address the fact that students are graduating from high school ill prepared for college or careers. Even in the best universities a shockingly large number of students need remedial help with basic language arts and math skills. We support the idea of a national effort to address this problem, but to let that concern shape kindergarten and early elementary education is short-sighted.

Young children are entering their school years, not exiting them. They need support and encouragement to become strong, motivated learners for their whole lives—in school and beyond. That strength begins with active hands-on learning. Current state standards have already led to long hours of didactic instruction, scripted teaching, a narrowing of the curriculum, and overuse of standardized tests with young children. The proposed standards will almost certainly intensify those inappropriate practices. (See
Crisis in the Kindergarten for data on current practices in public kindergarten education.)

The proposed standards call for kindergarten children to “read with sufficient accuracy and fluency to support comprehension.” They expect kindergarten children not only to know their numbers from 1 to 100, but to count forwards or backwards from any named number in the sequence. These are just two of dozens of such standards.

Is this necessary for children to succeed in school? Experts know of no research showing that children who read at age five do better in the long run than children who learn at six or seven. The proposed standards will almost certainly add to the stress already afflicting many children in kindergarten and the early grades—stress associated by clinicians with growing problems of aggressive behavior in young children and with burnout by third or fourth grade.

Effective learning in the early years requires a very different starting point than the one presumed in the proposed standards. The federal Department of Education and Department of Health and Human Services are working together to develop a fresh look at how children learn best from birth through age eight. New research points to the indivisibility of physical, social, emotional, and cognitive development. The proposed standards are based on a narrow and flawed focus on subject matter in isolation, overemphasizing cognitive skills at the expense of all others.

The proposed standards do not provide for ongoing research or review of the outcomes of their adoption. The entire K–12 standards initiative is flawed by this omission, which is especially egregious in relation to the youngest students. It is urgent that the proposed K–3 standards be withdrawn so that appropriate guidelines can be written.

Please, think about this. If you would like to take action, please visit the Alliance for Childhood at The process to submit comments is very complicated, but the Alliance has done a great job figuring it out and writing out an explanation for you.

I feel so intensely about this issue that I have tears in my eyes as I am writing.

Thank you for reading.

Much love,
Thrift Store Mama

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