Highlights from Facebook and the Twittersphere: 4/29/16

DEY takes a look at news making noise on social media.

Valerie Strauss reports on the kindergarten testing mess in Michigan. DEY weighs in:

Some bad news for kindergartners in Michigan

Via The New York Times:

Pearson Under Fire for Monitoring Students’ Twitter Posts

The Conversation on why play is vital to young children:

Kindergartners get little time to play. Why does it matter?

Psychology today reports on how electronics affect the developing brain:

Screentime Is Making Kids Moody, Crazy and Lazy

Senior Advisor Nancy Carlsson-Paige Reflects on the 2016 Network for Public Education Conference

The 2016 Network for Public Education Conference, held April 15-17 in Raleigh, NC, is truly an experience—something hard to describe.  For a few days in April, education and social justice activists from around the country come together in a burst of energy and synergy to share lives and ideas and to build an education movement for equity and justice for all children.

I was glad that Denisha Jones, DEY National Advisory Board member, and I attended because our session was the only one focused exclusively on young children.  Our panel was called T-E-S-T and Not PLAY is a Four-Letter Word:  Putting the Young Child and the Teacher at the Center of Education Reform.  Susan Ochshorn, early childhood author and journalNPE 2016 3ist, moderated, and we were joined by Michelle Gunderson, first grade teacher and early childhood leader in the Chicago Teachers Union. We covered many issues in a short time including the decrease in play and active learning in classrooms for young children, the disproportionate effects of corporate education reform on black and brown children and those in low-income communities, and the need to strengthen our advocacy for young children.  Lots of folks attended the session and I was really glad we were there to connect early childhood issues to the larger landscape of education reform that were the focus of the conference.

Many people came up to me over the course of the three days in Raleigh to tell me how they follow DEY, appreciate us, and benefit from using our materials.  It was really heNPE 2016 2artening to realize that we are voicing important ideas and issues that might otherwise not be accessible to teachers and parents.  People are using the papers we’ve put out in a variety of ways as well as our fact sheets, and many say they read our website regularly.

At the conference, we learned about many new documentary films being made about the current state of education in our country.  All of these films and how to order them are listed on the NPE website.   In a separate session we saw a “fine cut” preview of the almost finished documentary Backpack Full of Cash.  This film is being made by Sarah Mondale and Vera Aranow who made the PBS series called SCHOOL which received so much acclaim.   Their new film unwraps the movement to privatize our nation’s schools, telling a straightforward and understandable narrative through the eyes of the communities affected.   The film should be out in the coming year and I think its time is right.

On Saturday, we listened to a riveting keynote speech from Reverend William Barber, president of the North Carolina chapter of NAACP, about the history of racism in our schools and the continuing reality of systemic racism that permeates our society today.  Rev. Barber is a gifted orator who can move his listeners to new levels of awareness by his artistic crafting of words and powerful delivery.Themes of charter schools, over-testing, privatization, racial justice, poverty, global education, democracy, and public education ran through the speeches and sessions of the conference, helping all of us to heighten our understanding and also our resolve to continue our work.  I felt re-energized about our work at Defending the Early Years, proud of what we do, sure that we should keep on.

Maybe next year YOU will want to attend the Network for Public Education conference—you won’t be disappointed!

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Livestream DEY Session at the NPE Conference: Saturday, April 16 at 2:30 EDT

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DEY Senior Advisor Nancy Carlsson-Paige and DEY National Board member Denisha Jones will join Susan Ochshorn and Michelle Gunderson in a panel discussion entitled, “T-E-S-T, not P-L-A-Y is a Four-Letter Word: Putting the Young Child and the Teacher at the Center of Education Reform” during the third annual Network for Public Education conference, held in Raleigh, North Carolina.  The session will be held on Saturday, April 16 from 2:30 to 3:45 pm (EDT). Livestream their session by clicking here. Several other keynotes and sessions will be livestreamed as well.

Test Students on their Social Skills?

new york times

5th grade class

The Opinion Pages/Letters

To the Editor:
Re “Testing for Grit? Schools Pushed on Social Skills” (front page, March 1):

Our country’s educational leaders have turned schools into highly academic, test-driven pressure cookers. Now, finding that many children have difficulty working with enthusiasm and exhibit social deficits, many educators want to teach and test for social-emotional skills.

It would be far better if education officials and adults in general eased up on the tremendous pressure they are imposing on children. Give children more opportunities to play, socialize and work on projects they find exciting and meaningful. Give them a chance to work out social conflicts on their own. Give children the freedom to do their own growing.

WILLIAM CRAIN

New York

The writer is a professor of psychology at the City College of New York, CUNY, and author of “Reclaiming Childhood: Letting Children Be Children in Our Achievement-Oriented Society.”

Dr. Crain is also a member of the National Advisory Board of Defending the Early Years.

Here is the link to the original letter in the March 8th edition of the NY Times.

 

 

Parents and educators stand together against growing test stress in children

Parents Across America

PAA has also sent letters to the National Institutes of Health and the American Academy of Pediatrics asking that they investigate our concerns that high-stakes standardized testing has become a health hazard for our nation’s public school children.

According to Dr. Isabel Nuñez, Associate Professor in the Center for Policy and Social Justice, Concordia University Chicago:

“High-stakes testing is doing children grievous mental and emotional harm. Parents Across America has gathered overwhelming evidence of the destructive psychological impact of test anxiety. For your children’s sake, read and be outraged!”

Dr. Peter Gray, a research professor in the department of Psychology, Boston College, added:

“The evidence is overwhelming that our national mania for testing–and for so much time in school and at schoolwork–is damaging the physical and psychological health of our children. I appreciate the work of Parents Across America and sincerely hope that the educational 4 kids at deskspowers that be start to listen. What we have today is, essentially, state-mandated child abuse.”

Testing in the early years, which is strongly opposed by early childhood professionals, is taking a toll. According to Dr. Nancy Carlsson-Paige:

“As we see testing increasingly edge out play and active learning in classrooms for young kids, we also see more and more children who don’t like school, who feel way too much pressure, who don’t want to go to this place that feels so uncomfortable and out of synch with who they are and what they need.”

A research paper recently published in JAMA Pediatrics suggests a correlation between the increased academic pressure on young children and the significant increase in ADHD diagnoses (Brosco).

Coping skills, “stealth” assessments not the answer

Much of the literature on test anxiety focuses on how to help children cope with the stress. In contrast, PAA believes the cause of the stress itself must be addressed. No child should be exposed to prolonged, intense stress, which can inhibit brain function and take a toll on mental health.

PAA is not simply asking for an end to high-stakes, one-shot testing. Parents are demanding that no child be harmed in the assessment process. We know that test publishers and education entrepreneurs are already developing new ways to label, sort and profile students through high-tech devices now taking over classrooms. This may not create as much stress but carries other dangers such as:

  • Constant collection of student data via online websites, apps, and programs without parental notification.
  • Embedded or “stealth” assessments – students will not even be aware if their work is being used for high-stakes purposes.
  • A significant increase in the amount of screen time children are exposed to – the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a two hour per day screen time limit for children.

PAA has many other concerns about the misuse and overuse of standardized tests which we have detailed in previous position papers and fact sheets (see, for example, “Testing and ESEA,” http://parentsacrossamerica.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/TestingandESEA1-15-15.pdf and “Why More Standardized Tests Won’t Improve Education” http://parentsacrossamerica.org/2011/09/why-more-standardized-tests-wont-improve-education/.boy with glasses

Our full position paper with recommendations and endorsements can be found here: http://parentsacrossamerica.org/educator-endorsements-paa-test-stress-position-paper/

Our one-page fact sheet on test stress is here: http://parentsacrossamerica.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/Test-Stress-facts-2-1-16rev.pdf

and our background paper is here: http://parentsacrossamerica.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/Test-Stress-Doc-full1-28-16.pdf

A downloadable pdf version of our position paper is here: http://parentsacrossamerica.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/TestStressPositionrev2-1-16.pdf

To learn more about testing or PAA, please visit www.parentsacrossamerica.org or email us at:info@parentsacrossamerica.org.

Contacts:

  • Julie Woestehoff, Interim Executive Director, Parents Across America, 773-175-3989
  • Laura Bowman, leader of PAA-Roanoke Valley (VA), 540-819-6385
  • Danielle Arnold-Schwartz, leader of PAA- Suburban Philadelphia (PA), 215-498-2549

 

Testing for Joy and Grit? DEY And The Early Childhood Community Weigh In

On February 29th The New York Times published the following article: Testing for Joy and Grit? Schools Nationwide Push to Measure Students’ Emotional Skills. In an excerpt the article explains:
…starting this year, several California school districts will test students on how well they have learned the kind of skills like self-control and conscientiousness that the games aim to cultivate — ones that might be described as everything you should have learned in kindergarten but are still reading self-help books to master in middle age.
 
A recent update to federal education law requires states to include at least one nonacademic measure in judging school performance. So other states are watching these districts as a potential model. But the race to test for so-called social-emotional skills has raised alarms even among the biggest proponents of teaching them, who warn that the definitions are unclear and the tests faulty.
DEY’s Senior Advisor (and several other ECE experts) weigh in below:

 

Nancy Carlsson-Paige: 

Testing children’s social and emotional skills is a bad idea.  These skills are crucial to school success and life long happiness—we’ve seen this through many research studies. But skills such as self and social awareness, managing emotions, developing empathy, forming positive relationships, and learning conflict resolution skills grow over time in children and from the inside out.  They develop in children as the result of interactions with others in classrooms that foster these skills through the curriculum, relationships, and activities specifically designed to encourage social and emotional skill building.

Research shows that reward systems can influence social and emotional behavior, but the learning does not last once the rewards are removed.  We want children to be kind and feel empathy for others even when the teacher isn’t looking or the promise of earning points isn’t there.  Research has also shown that self reporting does not match up with actual behavior.  Most importantly, we learn from moral development theory that the more we try to control children from the outside, the less they learn to regulate themselves from within.
Building skills for social and emotional awareness and skill should permeate every classroom and be encouraged in every child.  It’s  essential for their success in school and in life.  But testing these skills will only undermine that vital goal.
Eric Schaps/Founder, Developmental Studies Center: 
The challenge of assessing SEL skills in any affordable, feasible, large-scale way is that such assessments are — inevitably — vulnerable to social desirability and social pressure influences. Those vulnerabilities become all the greater as the assessments become high stakes and as pressures mount on schools to “look good.”
Linda Lantieri/ Educator and Author of Building Emotional Intelligence:
It is helpful to have a sense of how much progress is made when social and emotional learning is taught in schools. However there are other creative ways besides testing to do that. For example, schools could use Portfolio Assessment to assess competence. Students could reflect and journal over time on how they approach certain conflict situations  or how they strengthen certain relationships and discuss how they are using their learned SEL skills to do that. Progress in this area is best when assessment is used  for the purpose of self improvement and differentiation of instruction.
William Crain; Professor of Psychology, The City College of New York: 
For over three decades, many of us have been concerned about the impact of the standards movement on children’s emotions.  Increasing academic and testing demands, imposed at younger and younger ages, have been producing considerable stress.  What’s more, the single-minded focus on academics has crowded out important areas of children’s lives—artistic activities, the exploration of nature, and the development of social and imaginative capacities through play.   I have often felt that children frequently seem so lethargic and unhappy not only because they are stressed out, but also because they haven’t had a chance to develop their full potentials. Their development atrophies, and they feel stagnant.
Recently, some standards advocates have become more alert to children’s social and emotional problems and needs.  They want to teach and test for social-emotional skills.  But I doubt that their approach will work.
They, like the standards movement in general, assume that it’s up to us, as adults, to decide what children should learn.  Standards advocates fail to see that children have an inner drive to develop different capacities at different ages, and when given a chance to do so, children spontaneously engage in activities with great enthusiasm and perseverance.
Educators need to take a more child-centered approach, taking their cues from children, seeing what children themselves are ready and eager to learn.  If educators did this, they would find that children naturally develop a wide-ranging passion for learning–for books, nature, and people. Educators would see that children naturally stick with tasks they care deeply about.  The need to teach and test for social-emotional skills wouldn’t arise.
Lastly, for more thoughts on “grit” we point you to Alfie Kohn’s piece Grit: A Skeptical Look at the Latest Educational Fad.

 

 

Defending Play with Nancy Carlsson-Paige

Bob Greenberg of Brainwaves Productions has interviewed many thought leaders in education: Noam Chomsky, Diane Ravitch, Sir Ken Robinson, Linda Darling-Hammond, and more. This week he gave Nancy Carlsson-Paige the opportunity to add an early childhood perspective to these voices. Her talk is titled “Defending Play” and is available on YouTube. “Play is at the root of learning, ” Nancy explains. However…

“In this era of focus on testing and accountability, and emphasis on standards, we’ve seen this increasing pressure in the early grades in elementary schools, kindergartens and even preschools to get children up to speed to learn specific skills and sub skills that are identified by standards. This has led to much more teacher-led instruction and much less play in school and there is a dramatic disappearance of play across the country.”