Tuesday, June 21, 2016

A Sad Celebration | The Merrow Report

A Sad Celebration | The Merrow Report:
A Sad Celebration


In a few days, a  charter school organization will receive the $250,000 Prize for excellence from the Eli and Edyth Broad Foundation.  Three finalists– IDEA Public Schools, Success Academy Charter Schools and YES Prep Public Schools–were announced weeks ago. The winner will be made public at the annual meeting of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, in Nashville on June 27.  The four previous winners of the prize are KIPP, Noble Network, Uncommon Schools and Yes Prep.  
But there’s another, more important piece of the story.  Without much publicity and for the second year in a row, the Broad Foundation is not awarding the $1,000,000 Broad Prize for Excellence in Urban Education, which has been given to a public school district. It turns out that the NAEP scores of most of the Broad Prize winners have been flat for years. These districts have been living and dying by test scores, and it’s not working, or not working well enough for the Foundation’s judges.
Ben Weider of the blog 538 deconstructed the issue in a well-reasoned piece, “The Most Important Award in Public Education Struggles to Find Winners.” Not long after, the Foundation decided to ‘pause’ the $1 million award, citing ‘sluggish’ changes in urban schools.  No prize was awarded in 2015, nor will one be this year, the Foundation’s Director of Communications told me.  As Howard Blume of the Los Angeles Times has reported, billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad has shifted his focus to charter schools.
But that’s not really new news, as the Foundation’s own pie chart reveals. Since 1999, the Foundation has made $589,500,000 in education-related grants, and 24% of the A Sad Celebration | The Merrow Report:


Charter Advocates Demand that States Reform Failing Online Academies | janresseger

Charter Advocates Demand that States Reform Failing Online Academies | janresseger:

Charter Advocates Demand that States Reform Failing Online Academies

When the largest pro-charter school advocacy organizations publish a report demanding major reforms in the sector for which they are themselves the primary advocates, you have to pay attention. The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, and 50 CAN (the pro-charter, pro-school “reform” network of state astro-turf advocacy groups) just published a scathing report on the abysmal performance of virtual, online academies.
These pro-charter organizations explain that the huge online academies are failing to educate students at the same time they are cheating taxpayers:  “(T)he well-documented, disturbingly low performance by too many full-time virtual charter… schools should serve as a call to action for state leaders and authorizers across the country.  It is time for state leaders to make the tough policy changes necessary to ensure that this model works more effectively for the students it serves. It is also time for authorizers to hold full-time, virtual charter schools accountable for performance, using measures and metrics suited to their programs and closing those that chronically fail their students.”
The new report presents facts about the growth of the online charter sector: “Of the 43 states and D.C. that have enacted charter school laws, 35 states plus D.C. allow full-time virtual charter schools. The eight that do not allow these schools are Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Tennessee, and Virginia…  As of August 2014, according to National Alliance research, there were 135 full-time virtual charter schools operating in 23 states and D.C….  According to National Alliance research, enrollment in full-time virtual charter schools is highly concentrated in three states—Ohio, Pennsylvania, and California—which collectively enroll over half of full-time virtual charter school students nationwide… Full-time virtual charter schools serve a higher percentage of white students (69 percent vs. 49 percent), a lower percentage of Hispanic students (11 percent vs. 27 percent), and roughly the same percentage of black (13 percent vs. 15 percent), Asian/Pacific Islander (2 percent vs. 5 percent), Native American (1 percent vs. 1 percent), and multi-racial (4 percent vs. 3 percent) students as compared with traditional public schools.”
The report’s scathing critique of online charter schools is grounded in a trio of reports by Charter Advocates Demand that States Reform Failing Online Academies | janresseger:

Schools Matter: Our Reform Proposal

Schools Matter: Our Reform Proposal:

Our Reform Proposal




by Stephen Krashen, Susan Ohanian, and Jim Horn

Research studies over the past half-century show the effects of poverty and segregation as major factors determining school achievement. Our proposal would protect children who are being harmed by the impact of poverty, segregation, and standardized tests. 

In order for no children to be left behind, then, we propose, 



No child left unfed: proper nutrition for all children for breakfast and lunch. No child without proper health care; 
No child segregated by ethnicity, ability, or economic class;
No child without access to a well-supplied library with a credentialed librarian; 
No child exposed to unsafe and unsecured technologies;
No unnecessary testing.
The best teaching in the world will have a severely limited effect if children are hungry, ill, segregated, and without learning resources.
AND of course we recommend: free espresso available in the teachers' lounge.



References
When we control for the effect of poverty, American test scores are near the top of the world: 

Payne, K. and Biddle, B. 1999. Poor school funding, child poverty, and mathematics achievement.
Educational Researcher 28 (6): 4-13. 

Bracey, G. 2009. The Bracey Report on the Condition of Public Education. Boulder and Tempe: Education and the Public Interest Center & Education Policy Research Unit. http://epicpolicy.org/publication/Bracey-Report

Berliner, D. 2011. The Context for Interpreting PISA Results in the USA: Negativism, Chauvinism, Misunderstanding, and the Potential to Distort the Educational Systems of Nations. In Pereyra, M., Kottoff, H-G., & Cowan, R. (Eds.). PISA under examination: Changing knowledge, changing tests, and changing schools. Amsterdam: Sense Publishers.

Tienken, C. 2010. Common core state standards: I wonder? Kappa Delta Phi Record 47 (1): 14-17. Carnoy, M and Rothstein, R. 2013, What Do International Tests Really Show Us about U.S. Student Performance.Washington DC: Economic Policy Institute. 2012. http://www.epi.org/

Negative effect of poverty on school achievement: 

Berliner, D. 2009. Poverty and Potential:  Out-of-School Factors and School Success.  Boulder and Tempe: Education and the Public Interest Center & Education Policy Research Unit. Retrieved [date] fromhttp://epicpolicy.org/publication/poverty-and-potential 

No unnecessary testing: 

Kohn, A. 2000. The Case Against Standardized Testing. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann Publishing Company.Nichols, S., Glass, G., and Berliner, D. 2006. High-stakes testing and student achievement: Does accountability increase student learning? Education Policy Archives 14(1) 
 http://epaa.asu.edu/epaa/v14n1/

Segregation:

Rumberter, R. and Palardy, G. 2005. Does segregation still matter? The impact of student composition of academic achievement in high school. Teachers College Record 107(9): 1999-2045.

Rothstein, R.  2014.The Racial Achievement Gap, Segregated Schools, and Segregated Neighborhoods – A Constitutional Insult.  Economic Policy Institute. http://www.epi.org/publication/the-racial-achievement-gap-segregated-schools-and-segregated-neighborhoods-a-constitutional-insult/
  
Johnson, R.C. 2011. Long-run Impacts of School Desegregation & School Quality on Adult Attainments. NBER Working Paper No. 16664. Revised August 2015


 Schools Matter: Our Reform Proposal:

How to make a good teacher | The Economist

How to make a good teacher | The Economist:

How to make a good teacher

What matters in schools is teachers. Fortunately, teaching can be taught



 FORGET smart uniforms and small classes. The secret to stellar grades and thriving students is teachers. One American study found that in a single year’s teaching the top 10% of teachers impart three times as much learning to their pupils as the worst 10% do. Another suggests that, if black pupils were taught by the best quarter of teachers, the gap between their achievement and that of white pupils would disappear. 

But efforts to ensure that every teacher can teach are hobbled by the tenacious myth that good teachers are born, not made. Classroom heroes like Robin Williams in “Dead Poets Society” or Michelle Pfeiffer in “Dangerous Minds” are endowed with exceptional, innate inspirational powers. Government policies, which often start from the same assumption, seek to raise teaching standards by attracting high-flying graduates to join the profession and prodding bad teachers to leave. Teachers’ unions, meanwhile, insist that if only their members were set free from central diktat, excellence would follow.
The premise that teaching ability is something you either have or don’t is mistaken. A new breed of teacher-trainers is founding a rigorous science of pedagogy. The aim is to make ordinary teachers great, just as sports coaches help athletes of all abilities to improve their personal best (see article). Done right, this will revolutionise schools and change lives.
Quis docebit ipsos doctores?
Education has a history of lurching from one miracle solution to the next. The best of them even do some good. Teach for America, and the dozens of organisations it has inspired in other countries, have brought ambitious, energetic new graduates into the profession. And dismissing teachers for bad performance has boosted results in Washington, DC, and elsewhere. But each approach has its limits. Teaching is a mass profession: it cannot grab all the top graduates, year after year. When poor teachers are fired, new ones are needed—and they will have been trained in the very same system that failed to make fine teachers out of their predecessors.
By contrast, the idea of improving the average teacher could revolutionise the entire profession. Around the world, few teachers are well enough prepared before being let loose on children. In poor countries many get little training of any kind. A recent report found 31 countries in which more than a quarter of primary-school teachers had not reached (minimal) national standards. In rich countries the problem is more subtle. Teachers qualify following a long, specialised course. This will often involve airy discussions of theory—on ecopedagogy, possibly, or conscientisation (don’t ask). Some of these courses, including masters degrees in education, have no effect on how well their graduates’ pupils end up being taught.
What teachers fail to learn in universities and teacher-training colleges they rarely pick up on the job. They become better teachers in their first few years as they get to grips with real pupils in real classrooms, but after that improvements tail off. This is largely because schools neglect their most important pupils: teachers themselves. Across the OECD club of mostly rich countries, two-fifths of teachers say they have never had a chance to learn by sitting in on another teacher’s lessons; nor have they been asked to give feedback on their peers. 
Those who can, learn
If this is to change, teachers need to learn how to impart knowledge and prepare young How to make a good teacher | The Economist:

Tennessee comptroller lists online test issues in every state

Tennessee comptroller lists online test issues in every state:

Tennessee comptroller lists online test issues in every state


Online standardized testing in a few states has seen first- and second-year implementation problems, with some of those states deciding to part ways with vendors after the issues.
That's the major takeaway from a Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury report released Monday detailing the status of online student testing across the nation.
Most states have seen no or minor issues in online testing, with only a limited number of states seeing problems to the level of Tennessee, where issues derailed TNReady assessments for grades 3-8 in the 2015-16 school year.
In February Tennessee decided to cancel online testing and move to paper and pencil tests after the network of its vendor, Measurement Inc., couldn't handle the number of students taking online assessments at one time. The decision led to the state eventually ending Measurement Inc.'s contract and a cancellation to the elementary and middle school grade TNReady tests.
Tennessee recently contracted with Pearson Education for $18.5 million to grade high school tests taken during the year.
Alaska also canceled testing in the 2015-16 school year after two years of issues with its vendor. It is searching for a new testing company, according to the report.
Twelve states are searching for new vendors, although not every search is tied to testing issues. And numerous vendors haven't been immune to problems with online standardized assessments.
Along with Measurement Inc., companies such as testing giant Pearson, Measured Progress and Data Recognition Company have seen states move on to other vendors.
Nonetheless, Pearson has successfully administered tests in many other states where it has contracts. The other two vendors don't operate at a widespread level.
The data was pulled together by the Office of Research and Education Accountability and details only federally required tests, including English and math for Grades 3-11.
Reach Jason Gonzales at 615-259-8047 and on Twitter @ByJasonGonzales.
Tennessee comptroller lists online test issues in every state:

Georgia school district hiring 450 teachers, no education degree required | NBC4i.com

Georgia school district hiring 450 teachers, no education degree required | NBC4i.com:

Georgia school district hiring 450 teachers, no education degree required


SAVANNAH, GA (WSAV) – Savannah-Chatham schools are feeling the hurt of a growing problem nationwide.As more students flow into Savannah-Chatham classrooms, fewer teachers are around to meet their needs
Across the United States, there is a huge drop in the number of students pursuing education degrees.
So right now, Savannah-Chatham schools are holding up the help wanted sign—with 450 openings. To make sure they get those positions filled, the district is using a new program called Alternative Pathways to Teaching.
The program allows anyone with a Bachelor’s degree in any field to become a teacher in Georgia through a work-as-you-go certification program that takes one to three years to complete.
“We want to bring in those people who have a lot of field knowledge and a lot of skills,” SCCPSS Human Resources Heather Bilton said.
Those hiring see advantages to second-career teachers–they bring a variety of experiences that can help shape students for the real world. But this group is also filling a dire need for a district that’s growing at a rate of one school a year as colleges around the nation deal with a 50% drop in students who want to be teachers.
“We’re always concerned but that concern has hopefully motivated us to really work hard,” Bilton said of the recruitment process.
Colleges blame the 2007 recession for changing students’ minds about entering the education field.
To learn more about the program, tap/click here.
 Georgia school district hiring 450 teachers, no education degree required | NBC4i.com:



Ex-teacher found guilty on 3 counts for leading walkout in Allentown School District - The Morning Call

Ex-teacher found guilty on 3 counts for leading walkout in Allentown School District - The Morning Call:

Ex-teacher found guilty on 3 counts for leading walkout in Allentown School District

Michael Frassetto
Former charter school teacher Michael Frassetto speaks to supporters before entering the old Lehigh County Courthouse for a hearing before District Judge Karen C. Devine on Monday, June 20, 2016.  (HARRY FISHER / The Morning Call)
LENTOWN — During four hours of testimony, two pictures emerged of the former charter school teacher who carried a bullhorn and marched with hundreds of students in Allentown as they left their schools last fall.
In one, painted by attorney Gary Asteak, former teacher Michael Frassetto was like Ghandi and Nelson Mandela when he encouraged students to stand up for their rights and peacefully demonstrate against the Allentown School District. If it is criminal to give students a voice, then Frassetto will "proudly wear the badge of criminal," Asteak said.
But the school district's attorneys, Jonathan Huerta and John Freund, said Frassetto was an irresponsible adult who enticed teenagers to leave school, causing disruptions and putting students at risk by leaving school grounds. They argued that if Frassetto was going to promote civil disobedience like Ghandi and Mandela, he should take responsibility for his actions.
District Judge Karen Devine of Allentown heard both descriptions Monday and found Frassetto guilty of three out of 417 counts of corruption of youth the district filed against him — one for reach student who walked out — for his involvement in student walkouts last September.
The charges are summary offenses, similar to criminal mischief, and carry fines. Frassetto, 29, was ordered to pay $100 for each offense for which he was found guilty.
Attending school is mandated by law and the district believed that Frassetto broke the corruption of youth law that deals with abetting truancy. But at the conclusion of the summary trial, Devine said she could only find evidence of Frassetto's direct involvement in three instances.Ex-teacher found guilty on 3 counts for leading walkout in Allentown School District - The Morning Call:

Why Handwriting Is Still Essential in the Keyboard Age - The New York Times

Why Handwriting Is Still Essential in the Keyboard Age - The New York Times:

Why Handwriting Is Still Essential in the Keyboard Age

Do children in a keyboard world need to learn old-fashioned handwriting?
There is a tendency to dismiss handwriting as a nonessential skill, even though researchers have warned that learning to write may be the key to, well, learning to write.
And beyond the emotional connection adults may feel to the way we learned to write, there is a growing body of research on what the normally developing brain learns by forming letters on the page, in printed or manuscript format as well as in cursive.
In an article this year in The Journal of Learning Disabilities, researchers looked at how oral and written language related to attention and what are called “executive function” skills (like planning) in children in grades four through nine, both with and without learning disabilities.
Virginia Berninger, a professor of educational psychology at the University of Washington and the lead author on the study, told me that evidence from this and other studies suggests that “handwriting — forming letters — engages the mind, and that can help children pay attention to written language.”
Last year in an article in The Journal of Early Childhood Literacy, Laura Dinehart, an associate professor of early childhood education at Florida International University, discussed several possible associations between good handwriting and academic achievement: Children with good handwriting may get better grades because their work is more pleasant for teachers to read; children who struggle with writing may find that too much of their attention is consumed by producing the letters, and the content suffers.
But can we actually stimulate children’s brains by helping them form letters with their hands? In a population of low-income children, Dr. Dinehart said, the ones who had good early fine-motor writing skills in prekindergarten did better later on in school. She called for more research on handwriting in the preschool years, and on ways to help young children develop the skills they need for “a complex task” that requires the coordination of cognitive, motor and neuromuscular processes.
“This myth that handwriting is just a motor skill is just plain wrong,” Dr. Berninger said. “We use motor parts of our brain, Why Handwriting Is Still Essential in the Keyboard Age - The New York Times:


They are Murdering Teachers in Mexico and We Will Not Be Silent! - Badass Teachers Association

Badass Teachers Association:

They are Murdering Teachers in Mexico and We Will Not Be Silent!

By Dr. Michael Flanagan, Co-Director BATs Action Team



As of the writing of this blog piece, at least six teachers have been killed by the government of Mexico while protesting the privatization of education, and the testing of teachers. The local and federal police have also been locking up teacher union leaders and terrorizing our colleagues. The teachers killed were members of the group known as the National Coordinator of Education Workers, or CNTE.   http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/06/mexico-teachers-protest-160620042629755.html

There are many things wrong with the reporting of the events in Oaxaca, Mexico. First, in the article I have linked in this piece, the Associated Press refers to, “clashes with the police”. When there are six teachers’ dead and dozens more wounded those are not “clashes”. They are executions. The government of Mexico killed 43 student teachers in September of 2014, and as of now not a single person has been held accountable. The bodies of the victims were never found. The government lies.

Secondly, the AP article consistently refers to the CNTE as “radical teachers union”. This is another propaganda technique to minimize and vilify those who are fighting for their rights. History is always written with the blood of such radicals. The slaughter of educators will be spun into a heroic effort to save society. The spin will become the ultimate “bad teacher” narrative.

We in the U.S. are no strangers to the oppression of corporate privatizers and anti union fascists who target teachers for various reasons. Chief among them are that teachers are now, and always have been, the voice for social change. We educate and enlighten the next generation. We lead by example. We encourage our students to strive to make a difference in the world. That is a threat to the elites who refuse to relinquish their power. Teachers are a danger to those who seek to condition our children into being the next wage slaves. All that the corporatists and their political lackeys want is the next heard of sheep to be led to the slaughter. They will stop at nothing to silence dissent, especially by educators. I know there is no comparison to the murders in Mexico, but just this past week on June 15th, we saw 14 teachers arrested protesting the Governor McCrory of North Carolina’s anti-teacher education policies. We have had teacher strikes in Chicago, and sick outs in 
Badass Teachers Association:



Malloy’s 2015-2016 state budget off by nearly a billion dollars - Wait What?

Malloy’s 2015-2016 state budget off by nearly a billion dollars - Wait What?:

Malloy’s 2015-2016 state budget off by nearly a billion dollars


When Governor Dannel Malloy signed THIS YEAR’S state budget he said it was balanced…but he wasn’t telling the truth.
In fact, it was off by nearly a billion dollars.  Budget cuts and layoffs have reduced some of the gap, but when the year ends in ten days – on June 30, 2016 – the state will need to grab much of Connecticut’s “rainy day” fund to balance the books.
Connecticut’s budget deficit has grown to $315.8 million and the state will have to use more of the Rainy Day Fund than expected to cover the shortfall in this year’s budget.
Office of Policy and Management Secretary Ben Barnes said Monday that the deficit has increased by about $56.7 million from last month’s estimates. It means the state will only have about $90.2 million left in its Rainy Day Fund because it will have to use $315.8 million of the $406 million Rainy Day Fund to close the deficit.
In his monthly letter to state Comptroller Kevin Lembo, Barnes said that revenues continue to decline. The personal income tax is down about $75 million and the sales tax is down about $28.2 million.
But the even more serious problem is with the budget that begins on July 1, 2016 and runs Malloy’s 2015-2016 state budget off by nearly a billion dollars - Wait What?:


Goodbye 'Core Subjects,' Hello 'Well-Rounded Education'

Goodbye 'Core Subjects,' Hello 'Well-Rounded Education':

Goodbye ‘Core Subjects,’ Hello ‘Well-Rounded Education’

essa well-rounded education
Photo: Norman Lono/National Education Association

Ryan Ruelas, a social studies teacher in Anaheim, California, started his career at an inauspicious time – in 2004, at the outset of the No Child Left Behind era.
“It’s hard entering the teaching profession just as high-takes testing was becoming so dominant,” Ruelas says. “Test scores were everything. I wanted to be a creative history teacher – to cover topics and dig deep into the material, but we had little flexibility. The limitations of NCLB and the emphasis on accountability made that very difficult.”
NCLB’s rigid testing regime forced school across the country to focus their time and energy on preparing for tests in a narrow range of subjects – namely English Language Arts and Math – or at least compel teachers to tailor instruction to the test. Although no policymaker or school leader would publicly say that this was optimal or that ELA and Math were the only subjects worth teaching, NCLB tied classrooms up in knots for more than a decade. Under a threat of sanctions for failing to meet unrealistic proficiency levels, schools felt they had no choice: instruction in other subjects was squeezed out or at least marginalized in many schools, particularly in disadvantaged communities. Social Studies, arts, science, foreign languages, physical education – all the tenets of a well-rounded education took a back seat.
“Every student deserves access to a curriculum that is broad and rich in content—not just reading and math, but the arts, physical education, civics, hands-on career and technical education, and more,“ says National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen García.
Secretary of Education John King agrees. Speaking to the Las Vegas Academy of the Arts in April, King declared that while literacy and math skills were “necessary for success in college and in life…they’re not by themselves sufficient. A more well-rounded education is critical for a safe, supportive and enjoyable learning environment.”
The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), passed by Congress in December to replace NCLB, has the tremendous potential to open the door to this new environment.
“If we’re smart about it, ESSA could really help create classrooms where teachers in the social sciences can focus on the four C’s – collaboration, communication, creativity and critical thinking. We can really make the material relevant for our Goodbye 'Core Subjects,' Hello 'Well-Rounded Education':

What Digital Games Miss—Socialization

What Digital Games Miss—Socialization:

What Digital Games Miss—Socialization

Children spend a game of chess . Proceeds blitz chess tournament in the palace .
Today, I approach the closet I have been dreading, for there, perched on the shelves are the games my family has played for years. These aren’t digital games, though we have not been opposed to some of those when alone. But these are games I can actually touch and hold in my arms. I can hear the laughter and shrieks when someone won, or lost.
These games brought us together during holidays, as homework breaks, on weekends, during boredom, and even illness. These games hold a bit of our treasured past.
We are getting ready to move across country, from Tennessee to Virginia, and armed with Marie Kondo’s The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, I have been sorting and letting go of belongings to downsize and make the move less costly. I’ve easily gotten rid of old clothes. It was harder to let go of books, but I did that too.
Now I have come to the games. I put it off until last.
As a teacher, games were vital to my classroom organization. I might not get brownie points from the anti-reward folks, but games helped me survive as a teacher.
On Fridays, if my students had done their work and not broken my three rules, respect yourself, respect others, and complete assigned work, games were on the menu.
My students were diagnosed with learning disabilities, but no matter what learning What Digital Games Miss—Socialization:

It’s a school, not a plantation: Five ways to end black teachers’ disengagement in the classroom - The Hechinger Report

It’s a school, not a plantation: Five ways to end black teachers’ disengagement in the classroom - The Hechinger Report:

It’s a school, not a plantation: Five ways to end black teachers’ disengagement in the classroom

Changes to consider

Pamela Lewis
Meeka’s teachers used to always tell her that staring at the clock would only make time move slower. Now grown up and a teacher herself, Meeka couldn’t help glaring at it as if it were responsible for how bored she was listening to Mrs. Brown painstakingly review the senseless rubric her group would be assessed with. Seemed like white teachers needed a manual to even breathe. Meeka looked at the clock again. She spotted Mrs. Brown heading toward her table to “check in.” Attempting to look busy, Meeka doodled on her agenda sheet:
Thirteen years, two months, three days, and twenty-two minutes until retirement …
I provide this bit of expository writing to illustrate an oft-overlooked point: Teachers of color are often as disengaged as their students in our nation’s urban classrooms.
While there are more students of color than white students currently attending public schools, teachers of color still only make up 18 percent of the teaching population.
What’s worse is that is has become exceptionally difficult to retain the few teachers of color that remain.
Many black and brown teachers are just as disengaged with our current school system as that of their students, and like many of the children that they teach, many will eventually drop out.
So how can we increase retention rates for teachers of color?
There are several adjustments that policy makers and administrators can make.  Here are my top five:
1. Stop making us feel like we work at the plantation.
One shouldn’t compare any job to slavery.


More Testing, Less Play: Study Finds Higher Expectations For Kindergartners : NPR Ed : NPR

More Testing, Less Play: Study Finds Higher Expectations For Kindergartners : NPR Ed : NPR:

More Testing, Less Play: Study Finds Higher Expectations For Kindergartners



 This summer, millions of excited 4-, 5- and 6-year-olds will be getting ready for their first real year of school. But some of them may be in for a wake-up call when that first bell rings.

If you have young kids in school, or talk with teachers of young children, you've likely heard the refrain — that something's changed in the early grades. Schools seem to be expecting more of their youngest students academically, while giving them less time to spend in self-directed and creative play.
A big new study provides the first national, empirical data to back up the anecdotes. University of Virginia researchers Daphna Bassok, Scott Latham and Anna Rorem analyzed the U.S. Department of Education's Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, which includes a nationally representative annual sample of roughly 2,500 teachers of kindergarten and first grade who answer detailed questions. Their answers can tell us a lot about what they believe and expect of their students and what they actually do in their classrooms.
The authors chose to compare teachers' responses from two years, 1998 and 2010. Why 1998? Because the federal No Child Left Behind law hadn't yet changed the school landscape with its annual tests and emphasis on the achievement gap.
With the caveat that this is a sample, not a comprehensive survey, here's what they found. Among the differences:
  • In 2010, prekindergarten prep was expected. One-third more teachers believed that students should know the alphabet and how to hold a pencil before beginning kindergarten.
  • Everyone should read. In 1998, 31 percent of teachers believed their students should learn to read during the kindergarten year. That figure jumped to 80 percent by 2010.
  • More testing. In 2010, 73 percent of kindergartners took some kind of standardized test. One-third took tests at least once a month. In 1998, they didn't even ask kindergarten teachers that question. But even the first-grade teachers in 1998 reported giving far fewer tests than the kindergarten teachers did in 2010.
  • Less music and art. The percentage of teachers who reported offering music every day in kindergarten dropped by half, from 34 percent to 16 percent. Daily art dropped from 27 to 11 percent.
  • Bye, bye, brontosaurus. "We saw notable drops in teachers saying they covered science topics like dinosaurs and outer space, which kids this age find really engaging," says Bassok, the study's lead author.
  • Less "center time." There were large, double-digit decreases in the percentages of More Testing, Less Play: Study Finds Higher Expectations For Kindergartners : NPR Ed : NPR:

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