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Saturday, January 17, 2015

Why Preschool Shouldn’t Be Like School

Preschool lessons: New research shows that teaching kids more and more, at ever-younger ages, may backfire.:

Why Preschool Shouldn’t Be Like School

New research shows that teaching kids more and more, at ever-younger ages, may backfire.

Illustration by Alex Eben Meyer. Click image to expand.
Illustration by Alex Eben Meyer
Ours is an age of pedagogy. Anxious parents instruct their children more and more, at younger and younger ages, until they're reading books to babies in the womb. They pressure teachers to make kindergartens and nurseries more like schools. So does the law—the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act explicitly urged more direct instruction in federally funded preschools.
There are skeptics, of course, including some parents, many preschool teachers, and even a few policy-makers. Shouldn't very young children be allowed to explore, inquire, play, and discover, they ask? Perhaps direct instruction can help children learn specific facts and skills, but what about curiosity and creativity—abilities that are even more important for learning in the long run? Two forthcoming studies in the journal Cognitionone from a lab at MIT and one from my lab at UC-Berkeley—suggest that the doubters are on to something. While learning from a teacher may help children get to a specific answer more quickly, it also makes them less likely to discover new information about a problem and to create a new and unexpected solution.
What do we already know about how teaching affects learning? Not as much as we would like, unfortunately, because it is a very difficult thing to study. You might try to compare different kinds of schools. But the children and the teachers at a Marin County preschool that encourages exploration will be very different from the children and teachers in a direct instruction program in South Side Chicago. And almost any new program with enthusiastic teachers will have good effects, at least to begin with, regardless of content. So comparisons are difficult. Besides, how do you measure learning, anyway? Almost by definition, directed teaching will make children do better on standardized tests, which the government uses to evaluate school performance. Curiosity and creativity are harder to measure.
Developmental scientists like me explore the basic science of learning by designing controlled experiments. We might start by saying: Suppose we gave a group of 4-year-olds exactly the same problems and only varied on whether we taught them directly or encouraged them to figure it out for themselves? Would they learn different things and develop different solutions? The two new studies in Cognition are the first to systematically show that they would.
In the first study, MIT professor Laura Schulz, her graduate student Elizabeth Bonawitz, and their colleagues looked at how 4-year-olds learned about a new toy with four tubes. Each tube could do something interesting: If you pulled on one tube it squeaked, if you looked inside another tube you found a hidden mirror, and so on. ForPreschool lessons: New research shows that teaching kids more and more, at ever-younger ages, may backfire.:

Education Writers Association: Independent Bloggers Need Not Apply - Living in Dialogue

Education Writers Association: Independent Bloggers Need Not Apply - Living in Dialogue:

Education Writers Association: Independent Bloggers Need Not Apply 

By Anthony Cody. 
The Education Writers Association has decided that, although I was awarded a first prize for my writing just last year, I am no longer permitted to submit my work for consideration for future awards. Leaders of the organization have decided that I do not meet their definition of a journalist. Investigative blogger and author Mercedes Schneider recently applied for membership, and was likewise denied on the same grounds.
I think this decision constricts the vital public discourse, and excludes those of us not on the payroll of mainstream corporate media.
The EWA has two forms of membership; Journalist and Community. I joined the EWA when I was still working full time as a teacher coach for the Oakland schools. Since writing about education was not my primary occupation, I signed up as a “community member.” This status did not prevent me from submitting my work for their award competition, or from participating in their events, though as a non-journalist I was not allowed to pose questions at their events.
In 2010, my work was awarded a “special citation” by EWA. Two years ago, my dialogue with the Gates Foundation won second prize. Last year, I was awarded first prize in the opinion category for my posts about the Common Core. The judges commented that:
Very good. This is by far the best and most rational coverage I’ve seen on Common Core in a long time. You can tell he knows his stuff and I appreciate his conversational tone. I’m sure part of that is because these are blogs but still, it’s a skill and one that few can do well.
Cody is clearly well-versed on these issues, writes in a comfortable cadence and provides some much-needed cool-headed rational balance to a very incendiary topic. I particularly liked the exchange with an articulate, reasoned reader — interactive journalism and blogging is best when it isn’t a one-way communication. … [R]eaders can dip in when they wish, dip out when they’ve had their fill or chase links down bunny holes if they wish. A valuable on-going contribution to discussion on this matter.
Acody2014EWASo I was surprised when my submission for this year’s award was rejected. I was told that going forward, only journalist members would be allowed to compete. I asked EWA to change my designation to that of journalist, since that is now my primary pursuit. At first I was told that I was in a “gray area,” and EWA leadership needed to consider the request. After several days, I received word that my request was denied. The EWA staffer wrote:
We found your work to be very important in promoting the conversation on education practices and policies, but it didn’t align with EWA’s stricter standards for independent news media. Among many factors, we look for is the media outlet’s independence from what is covered, institutional verifications, and editorial processes.
At this point in time, we hope to have you continue as an active EWA Community Member.
Investigative writer Mercedes Schneider likewise was informed:
Your blog is important in the conversation about education practice, policy, and 
Education Writers Association: Independent Bloggers Need Not Apply - Living in Dialogue:


Chairman Alexander Announces Plan to Fix No Child Left Behind - Press Releases - United States Senator Lamar Alexander:

Chairman Alexander Announces Plan to Fix No Child Left Behind


Posted on January 14, 2015

“During the last six years, this committee has held 24 hearings and reported two bills to the Senate floor to fix the law’s problems. We should be able to finish our work within the first few weeks of 2015 so the full Senate can act."   –Lamar Alexander
WASHINGTON, D.C., Jan. 13 –U.S. Senate education committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today announced on the Senate floor his plans to fix the No Child Left Behind law, wrapping up six years of committee work and sending a bill to the Senate floor within the first few weeks of 2015. [Click HERE for video of Alexander’s full remarks today.]
“No Child Left Behind has become unworkable—and fixing this law, which expired over seven years ago, will be the first item on the agenda for the Senate education committee,” Alexander said. “I look forward to input from all sides on this proposal as we move forward with a bipartisan process that will keep the best portions of the law, while restoring responsibility to states and local communities and ensuring that all 50 million students in our nation’s 100,000 public schools can succeed.”
Alexander also released a staff discussion draft of his bill to fix the problems with No Child Left Behind (NCLB) to begin discussion with his Senate colleagues, and also to solicit public feedback on the proposed draft. [Click HERE to access the discussion draft.]
Alexander announced the committee’s first hearing this year on No Child Left Behind, and said he would hold additional hearings after conferring with Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-Wash.) He also announced beginning this week bipartisan meetings in the Senate education committee to discuss the chairman’s discussion draft, consider changes and improvements, identify areas of agreement, and discuss options to proceed.
Chairman Alexander asked for input from the public on his staff discussion draft by Monday, February 2 Comments will be shared with all members of the Senate HELP Committee.
The first hearing will be scheduled as follows:
  • Wednesday, January 21 – “Fixing No Child Left Behind: Testing and Accountability”

NPE Calls for Congressional Hearings – PRESS RELEASE

Please join us for the Network for Public Education 2015 Conference in Chicago from April 24th – 26th – 2015! Click HERE to get the EARLY BIRD Registration rates now! These low rates will last for the month of January.

The Network for Public Education’s 2015 Conference will be the place to be this spring, in the historic city of Chicago, home of the Chicago Teachers Union. The theme of the conference is:
“Public Education: Our Kids, Our Schools, Our Communities.”

The event is being held at the Drake Hotel in downtown Chicago.  Here is the link for special hotel registration rates.  Here are some of the event details.

There will be a welcoming social event  7 pm Friday night, at or near the Drake Hotel — details coming soon.

Featured speakers will be:
  • Jitu Brown, National Director – Journey for Justice, Kenwood Oakland Community Organization, Network for Public Education Board of Directors
  • Tanaisa Brown, High School Senior, with the Newark Student Union
  • Yong Zhao, Author, “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Dragon?
  • Diane Ravitch in conversation with
    • Lily Eskelsen Garcia, NEA President and
    • Randi Weingarten, AFT President
  • Karen Lewis, President, Chicago Teachers Union
There will be a special optional luncheon on Saturday that will feature a conversation between Edushyster and surprise guests.
There will be dozens of workshops and panels offered by activists from coast to coast. Proposals for these sessions are being solicited by the NPE, and can be submitted HERE until the Jan. 20 deadline.
The organizers worked to make the conference as affordable as possible. Please be aware that the room reservations and food costs offset the use of the hotel space. This conference is priced as cheaply as possible so that the maximum number of people can attend. We are hoping to raise money to provide a limited amount of scholarships. HERE is the link for the scholarship application.
If you would like to make a donation to allow others to attend who otherwise could not afford participating, please go HERE and indicate that this is for the “NPE Conference Scholarship Fund”

NPE Calls for Congressional Hearings – PRESS RELEASE

Press Conference to be held in the Thompson Conference Center at 3:30 pm, Sunday, March 2.
AUSTIN, TX The Network for Public Education (NPE) closed out its first National Conference here with a call for Congressional hearings to investigate the over-emphasis, misapplication, costs, and poor implementation of high-stakes standardized testing in the nation’s K-12 public schools.
In a Closing Keynote address to some 500 attendees, education historian and NYU professor Diane Ravitch, an NPE founder and Board President, accused current education policies mandated by the federal government, such as President Barack Obama’s Race to the Top, of making high-stakes standardized testing “the purpose of education, rather than a measure of education.”
The call for Congressional hearings – addressed to Senators Lamar Alexander and Tom Harkin of the Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee, and Representatives John Kline and George Miller of the House Education and Workforce Committee – states that high-stakes testing in public schools has led to multiple unintended consequences that warrant federal scrutiny. NPE asks Congressional leaders to pursue eleven potential inquiries, including, “Do the tests promote skills our children and our economy need?” and “Are tests being given to children who are too young?”
“We have learned some valuable lessons about the unintended costs of test-driven reform over the past decade. Unfortunately, many of our nation’s policies do not reflect this,” stated NPE Executive Director Robin Hiller. “We need Congress to investigate and take steps to correct the systematic overuse of testing in our schools.”
“Our system is being rendered less intelligent by the belief that ‘rigor’ equates to ever more difficult tests,” warned NPE Treasurer Anthony Cody. “True intelligence in the 21st century depends on creativity and problem-solving, and this cannot be packaged into a test. We need to invest in classrooms, in making sure teachers have the small class sizes, resources, and support they need to succeed. We need to stop wasting time and money in the pursuit of test scores.”
About NPE:
The Network for Public Education is an advocacy group whose goal is to fight to protect, preserve and strengthen our public school system, an essential institution in a democratic society. We are many. There is strength in our numbers. Together we will save our schools.