Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

How Damaging Will Common Core Be To Young Children?

I posted earlier about the NY Post article that describes how the Common Core curriculum is being used on four and five years olds in NYC public schools.

The Common Core requires "high standards" even in kindergarten, replaces fictional stories with non-fiction, adds high stakes tests, and is causing much stress, anxiety and fear in the children.

This section of the Post article best sums up Common Core for four and five year olds:

“For the most part, it’s way over their heads,” a Brooklyn teacher said. “It’s too much for them. They’re babies!”

In a kindergarten class in Red Hook, Brooklyn, three children broke down and sobbed on separate days last week, another teacher told The Post.

When one girl cried, “I can’t do it,” classmates rubbed her back, telling her, “That’s OK.”

“This is causing a lot of anxiety,” the teacher said. “Kindergarten should be happy and playful. It should be art and dancing and singing and learning how to take turns. Instead, it’s frustrating and disheartening.”

Teachers really do know what's best for their students, but the education reformers who developed the Common Core Federal Standards (and make no mistake, they are federal standards) and the politicians who put them into place don't particularly respect what educators have to say or think about anything important.

According to Edward Miller and Nancy Carlsson-Paige (published in Valerie Strauss's blog in the Washington Post), the people who developed the Common Core and put them into place didn't include teachers in any of their discussions about how these standards would affect students nor did they base the new standards for K-3 on any research.

They write:

Recent critiques of the Common Core Standards by Marion Brady and John T. Spencer have noted that the process for creating the new K-12 standards involved too little research, public dialogue, or input from educators.

Nowhere was this more startlingly true than in the case of the early childhood standards—those imposed on kindergarten through grade 3. We reviewed the makeup of the committees that wrote and reviewed the Common Core Standards. In all, there were 135 people on those panels. Not a single one of them was a K-3 classroom teacher or early childhood professional.

It appears that early childhood teachers and child development experts were excluded from the K-3 standards-writing process.

When the standards were first revealed in March 2010, many early childhood educators and researchers were shocked. “The people who wrote these standards do not appear to have any background in child development or early childhood education,” wrote Stephanie Feeney of the University of Hawaii, chair of the Advocacy Committee of the National Association of Early Childhood Teacher Educators.

The promoters of the standards claim they are based in research. They are not. There is no convincing research, for example, showing that certain skills or bits of knowledge (such as counting to 100 or being able to read a certain number of words) if mastered in kindergarten will lead to later success in school. Two recent studies show that direct instruction can actually limit young children’s learning. At best, the standards reflect guesswork, not cognitive or developmental science.

Moreover, the Common Core Standards do not provide for ongoing research or review of the outcomes of their adoption—a bedrock principle of any truly research-based endeavor.

How ironic that the education reformers who claim high school students must be able to write argumentative essays with a convincing thesis that is backed up with facts and data did not seem to do their research or homework on child development for K-3 nor did they seek out the opinions or thoughts of the child development professionals who might have helped guide them in a different direction for the standards.

Had the Common Core developers sought out the opinions and thoughts of those professionals, they would have learned the following:

The Joint Statement of Early Childhood Health and Education Professionals on the Common Core Standards Initiative was signed by educators, pediatricians, developmental psychologists, and researchers, including many of the most prominent members of those fields.
Their statement reads in part:

 We have grave concerns about the core standards for young children…. The proposed standards conflict with compelling new research in cognitive science, neuroscience, child development, and early childhood education about how young children learn, what they need to learn, and how best to teach them in kindergarten and the early grades….

The statement’s four main arguments, below, are grounded in what we know about child development—facts that all education policymakers need to be aware of:

1.  The K-3 standards will lead to long hours of direct instruction in literacy and math. This kind of “drill and grill” teaching has already pushed active, play-based learning out of many kindergartens.

2. The standards will intensify the push for more standardized testing, which is highly unreliable for children under age eight.

3. Didactic instruction and testing will crowd out other crucial areas of young children’s learning: active, hands-on exploration, and developing social, emotional, problem-solving, and self-regulation skills—all of which are difficult to standardize or measure but are the essential building blocks for academic and social accomplishment and responsible citizenship.

4. There is little evidence that standards for young children lead to later success. The research is inconclusive; many countries with top-performing high-school students provide rich play-based, nonacademic experiences—not standardized instruction—until age six or seven.

Edward Miller and Nancy Carlsson-Paige write that the Common Core developers were aware of the Joint Statement well before they published a summary of feedback they claimed they received from the public about the new standards.  That summary ignored the Joint Statement critique and instead published only glowing reviews of the new standards.

That's ironic, too, considering Common Core is very big on students being able to acknowledge conflicting viewpoints in their argumentative essays and push back against them with research, facts and data.

In the case of the Common Core developers, they simply ignored the critiques and made believe that the acclaim for the new K-3 standards was universal.

Edward Miller and Nancy Carlsson-Paige ask the following:

Why were early childhood professionals excluded from the Common Core Standards project? Why were the grave doubts of our most knowledgeable education and health experts missing from the official record of this undertaking? Would including them have forced the people driving this juggernaut to face serious criticism and questions about the legitimacy of the entire project?

The education reform movement in general likes to exclude criticism and varying opinions from its view.  Charter schools are always more successful than public schools, even though the research shows that most are about the same as public schools and many perform far worse.  Merit pay always works to improve student achievement even though research shows that is not the case and even Bloomberg's Great Merit Pay Experiment in NYC failed to show the results the education reformers claim merit pay will bring.

There are many other examples of the education reform movement simply promoting their own agenda, regardless of facts, data, research, community views or reality - and that is certainly what happened here with the K-3 standards.

Edward Miller and Nancy Carlsson-Paige say we must do this:

The Common Core Standards are now the law in 46 states. But it’s not too late to unearth the facts about how and why they were created, and to raise an alarm about the threat they represent.

The stakes are enormous. Dr. Carla Horwitz of the Yale Child Study Center notes that many of our most experienced and gifted teachers of young children are giving up in despair. “They are leaving the profession,” says Horwitz, “because they can no longer do what they know will ensure learning and growth in the broadest, deepest way. The Core Standards will cause suffering, not learning, for many, many young children.”

Our first task as a society is to protect our children. The imposition of these standards endangers them. To learn more about how early childhood educators are working to defend young children, see Defending the Early Years.

When even the education reform-friendly NY Post publishes articles showing the damage that Common Core is causing to children in K-3, you know that a groundswell against Common Core can build when people, particularly parents, see what Common Core is going to do to their children.

Common Core proponents can ignore the critiques, as they did with the Joint Statement, or they can go on the attack against them, as they sometimes do, but because these standards are so damaging to children, are completely bereft of any research support, and defy common sense for how we should treat and educate young children, they are going to increasingly find themselves on the spot trying to defend their new standards.

They did all their work in secret and thus were able to ram these standards through with little opposition.

But the opposition to these damaging standards will mount as people see just what they are and what they are doing to children.

1 comment:

  1. These standards were created in isolation from the real world of schools, students, and teachers and they operate in isolation from one another. They read like prescriptions for scripted teacher presentations and scripted student responses as if the only thing that matters in an educational environment is assessment, assessment, assessment (of students and teachers, often at the same time). There have been a multitude of criticisms of the standards, and it's just possible that at some point in the future, public education will settle into a way of presenting them to students so that real learning takes place. Even supporters of CC will admit that a period of "adjustment" is inevitable, but this period entails that: students and teachers will experience stress and anxiety; that all students will be "assessed" based on the standards irregardless of their potential abilities; that administrators will push for implementation and make demands on outcomes (test scores); and that good teachers and students, good classrooms and classes, good lessons and projects will be pushed aside so that CC lessons can be taught--and in this "testing" period, perhaps not taught well--to the exclusion of all of the old ways of constructing experiences for students in a classroom. What this means for public education is unknowable at this point. But already, the stress signs are showing in classrooms all over the nation. I'm a public school teacher with 27 years in the classroom and I see this as a turning point for public schools where acceptance is uncertain and resistance is building. But the major concern is how resources will be allotted, what will be cut, and how will our students--our children--come out at the end of the process. Will they continue to see benefit in the education that is supposed to be serving their needs? Or are we, in the end, shortchanging our students by inundating them with the types of "lessons" that school districts believe the CC requires?