About Defending the Early Years

Defending the Early Years (DEY) seeks to rally educators to take action on policies that impact the education of young children. The principal goals of the project are:

  • To mobilize the early childhood community to speak out with well-reasoned arguments against inappropriate standards, assessments, and classroom practices.
  • To track the effects of new standards, especially those linked to the Common Core State Standards, on early childhood education policy and practice.
  • To promote appropriate practices in early childhood classrooms and support educators in counteracting current reforms which undermine these appropriate practices.

DEY’s Co-Directors are Geralyn Bywater McLaughlin and Blakely Bundy. Geralyn is the founder of Empowered by Play and is currently an early childhood teacher at the Mission Hill School in Boston, MA. Blakely is Director Emeritus and Senior Advisor to The Alliance for Early Childhood on the North Shore of Chicago, where she previously was its Executive Director for twenty-five years.

Senior Advisors:

  • Nancy Carlsson-Paige, Professor Emerita at Lesley University, Cambridge, MA
  • Diane Levin, Professor of Early Childhood Education at Wheelock College, Boston, MA

Other members of the DEY National Advisory Board:

  • Sherry Cleary, Executive Director, New York City Early Childhood Professional Development Institute, City University of New York, NY
  • Bill Crain, Professor of Psychology, City College of New York, NY
  • Stephanie Feeney, Professor Emerita, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Portland, OR
  • Doris Pronin Fromberg, Professor of Education, Hofstra University, NY
  • Ayla Gavins, Principal, Mission Hill School, Boston, MA
  • Marcy Guddemi, National Consultant, New Haven, CT
  • Denisha Jones, Assistant Professor of Early Childhood at Howard University, Washington, DC
  • Constance Kamii, Professor of Early Childhood Education, University of Alabama at Birmingham, AL
  • Lilian Katz, Professor Emerita & Clearinghouse on Early Education and Parenting, University of Illinois, IL
  • Edgar Klugman, Professor Emeritus Wheelock College & Co Founder of Playing for Keeps, Boston, MA
  • Deborah Meier, author and activist, NY
  • Ruth Rodriguez Ray, Save Our Schools and United Opt Out, Boston, MA
  • Maurice Sykes, Executive Director, Early Childhood Leadership Institute, University of the District of Columbia, Washington, DC
  • Judith Van Hoorn, Professor Emerita, University of the Pacific, El Cerito, CA

Defending the Early Years is a project of the Survival Education Fund, Inc., a 501(c) 3 tax-exempt educational organization.

15 thoughts on “About Defending the Early Years

  1. is anyone from the Bank St. College of Education (Columbia U., NYC) involved with your organization. hope i’ll hear from you. thank you.

    very much simpatico with your mission.

    norma simon


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  4. I think this is a wonderful thing that you are doing. Not all children will have high test results or scores. Certainly We do not want to ever, stifle creativity in our world by putting to much weight on test results, being the only measure to be successful in this world.


  5. I just read the excellent interview with Nancy Carlsson-Paige (AKA Matt Damon’s mom) in the Dec/Jan issue of The Progressive. I applaud your work and wish you the best of luck in bucking the destructive tide of standardized testing and over-testing to the detriment of real learning. Keep up the good fight!


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  9. As a graduate of Lesley College 🙂 I am thrilled beyond words to FINALLY have an organization lead us back to what we know is essential for children to acquire knowledge. The unending, hyper focus on standardized testing has taken away a teacher’s ability to truly observe, listen and evaluate students as they rely on “data” to dictate what a child needs. Today, there are teachers in early childhood who simply do not have the ability or techniques to teach using play, art, games etc. but rely on pencil/paper tasks. This movement towards testing, measuring goes against everything I was taught at Lesley! Look forward to empowering teachers with the information/resources on this site!


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  11. I first became concerned with early childhood development several years ago when full day kindergarten became the fashion. School districts seem to believe if they got their hands on the kids earlier the kids would be smarter….plus it fulfilled many parents day care needs. Then standardized testing was implemented and academic kindergartens emerged with no consultation with developmental specialists. A couple of years ago I saw my first full day academic preschool (referred to as K1) and it made me cringe.

    As a Speech Language Pathologist with over 30 years experience you all know what I’ve witnessed. It makes me sad to go into kindergarten classes these days. Another piece of fall out from this whole trend is that more and more students who are at the far end of normal development are being referred for special education services. Teachers are then being blamed for high special education numbers. Interacting with kindergarten students I often experience more guarded interactions rather than the expected silly language and word play I use to see.

    I’ve been following your posts on fb for some time now and just looked at your mission. If you are ever looking for a Speech Language Pathologist to talk about the impact I’ve experienced or concerns I’ve raised please feel free to contact me. I’ve often asked “Where are the developmental specialists on this?” I realize that none were consulted. I doubt that anyone making educational decisions has even researched child development, understands it’s impact on future skills or that child development goes far beyond the preschool years.

    At the very least I would be glad to highlight your group and your mission on my blog.

    Teresa Sadowski M.A., SLP-ccc


  12. Having retired a mere three years ago after 39 years teaching kindergarten I have been schocked recently to see what is happening. Choice time, which was the center of our day with choices from easel painting to sand table, has been reduced to 20 minutes at the end of the day with some manipulatives on tables. This is SO wrong, and flies in the face of everything we know about how young children learn. As a member of MenTeach, an organization of men working with young children I am trying to push this issue to the forefront. Please let me know if my years of experience, photos and anecdotal observations can be of help


    • Thanks for your thoughts, James. For sure we are interested in hearing more from you. Your experiences and observations would make an excellent guest blog post and addition to our ‘Voices from the field.”


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