Federalized Dataless Education Reform Impacting Kindergarten

Education Week last week ran an article entitled “Kindergarten Assessments Begin to Shape Instruction.” Here’s an excerpt:

But in recent years, the school has tried to shift instruction in a way that they say works better for young children. And they credit the use of a comprehensive method of evaluating kindergarten students, called kindergarten entry assessment, as one of the tools that allowed them to do that.

Kindergarten entry assessments, which some states call “kindergarten readiness assessments” or “kindergarten entry inventories,” are intended to guide a teacher’s instructional practice. They may include direct assessment of children’s skills, teacher observations, or both. They’re intended to give teachers a well-rounded picture of the whole child, including his or her academic, social, and physical development.

While these assessments are becoming more widespread—boosted by federal support during the Obama administration—they’re offering mixed results for teachers and for school districts.

Supporters say they’re useful in supporting all elements of a child’s development during their important early school days.

Others have criticized the assessments as an additional burden that doesn’t let teachers know what they should do with all the data they’re expected to collect. And the assessments also raise concerns for some that they’ll be used for high-stakes purposes, like evaluating teachers or sorting children into educational tracks.

These were pushed through Race to the Top as the article notes:

Kindergarten entry assessments or inventories are not new, but they received a big push through the federal Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge grants, which required applicants to outline a plan of how they were going to use these assessments to promote school readiness. The assessments were required to measure “language and literacy, cognition and general knowledge, approaches to learning, physical well-being and motor development, and social-emotional development,” the grant said.

The U.S. Department of Education also had a different grant program just to support state creation of kindergarten-entry assessments.

Researchers have raised questions about whether the assessments meet one goal of providing an academic boost for students. In 2016, the Regional Educational Laboratory Northeast & Islands wrote a report saying that using kindergarten entry assessments did not produce statistically significant improvements on students’ early reading or math skills.

But the students in that study would have started school well before the Education Department started giving money to states to create or improve their entry assessments.

Have to love the spin here. If the study authors looked at students using kindergarten entry assessments does it really matter whether there were federal dollars? Education Week also makes the assumption that the assessments were poor before the RTTT dollars. Evidence of that?

No, what we see here is another education reform pushed onto states through federal money that had absolutely no basis in evidence.

But sure, let’s continue to assess kindergartners because that’s what all the trendy educrats are doing.

The Challenge of Being a Kindergarten Teacher

An NPR News education blog called Mindshift has an interesting story that illustrates concerns Kindergarten teachers have had with the Common Core State Standards.

An excerpt:

Lisa Minicozzi was an elementary school principal before she went back to school for her doctorate in early childhood education. She’s now a professor of education at Adelphi University, where she instructs teachers in-training and studies effective teaching practice in classrooms. She recently published an article in the Global Studies of Childhood journal entitled “The garden is thorny: Teaching kindergarten in the age of accountability,” in which she documents how veteran kindergarten teachers navigate more rigorous expectations for students along with their own deeply held beliefs about how young children should learn.

“I have witnessed the changes myself and have felt the frustrations as an administrator and as a parent of a young child myself,” Minicozzi said of the “academic trickle down” that has affected day-to-day kindergarten routines. In classrooms that seemed to be navigating the shift well Minicozzi saw some common themes: first, the kindergarten educators had the support of administrators to determine what was developmentally appropriate.

Second, veteran teachers saw themselves as experts and were confident dissecting the standards and designing units that met them, without giving up their beliefs about how young children learn. In exemplar classrooms Minicozzi never saw kids sitting in rows for long periods of time or doing worksheets. Rather, teachers held exploration and movement at the center of the practice, essentially designing thematic project-based learning units.

“We know from educational theory what works,” Minicozzi said. “Kids should be actively engaged. They should be outside. They should be moving, exploring. They should have multiple opportunities to explore at different times.” She worries that as schools adopt Common Core State Standards school administrators will continue to push more content and direct instruction into kindergarten. She sees veteran teachers who are successfully navigating the shift as important mentors for novice teachers who will need that same strength and skill when they get into classrooms.

“I feel that most of the programs that have come out of alignment to Common Core have academic challenges that are way above what they should be doing,” said kindergarten teacher Mojdeh Hassani. She co-teaches at a public school on Long Island. She says she believes in challenging students, but the difference is that now there are many more discrete units that have to be crammed into each day, forcing her young students to move too quickly between tasks.

Read the rest.

Common Core is Killing Kindergarten

The Boston Globe published an article over the weekend that dealt with how the Common Core State Standards were impacting kindergarten students.

Here is one excerpt dealing with the impact of the ELA standards:

In two reports published earlier this year, the Boston-based nonprofit Defending the Early Years took aim at the kindergarten standards in ELA (focused on literacy at this age) and math. The first report singled out the expectation that kindergartners should be able to “read emergent-reader texts with purpose and understanding.”

Emergent-reader texts include repetitive lines like, “Brown bear. Brown bear. What do you see?” or, “The fat cat sat on a mat.” These are no trouble for some 5-year-old kindergartners and even some 4-year-olds, says Nancy Carlsson-Paige, an emeritus professor of early-childhood education at Lesley University and the report’s lead author. But, Carlsson-Paige adds, many normally developing kids won’t read these books on their own until age 7. “When we require specific skills to be learned by every child at the same time, that misses a basic idea in early childhood education,” she says, “which is that there’s a wide range to learning everything in the early years.”

Take walking as an example. An average child might learn to walk at 1 year, while some will be walking at 8 months and others might not take their first steps until they’re 15 months. They all end up walking just fine.

What does earlier reading in kindergarten predict for reading proficiency and academic success in later grades? Not much, according to the report, which cites study findings that by fourth grade, children who were reading at age 4 were not significantly better at reading than their classmates who’d learned to read at age 7. The report also points out that in Finland and Sweden, kids don’t even start formal schooling until they are 7 years old. Yet, Finnish and Swedish teenagers regularly trounce their American counterparts in international tests of reading, math, and science.

Given the wide developmental variation in young learners and the evidence that early reader advantages fade, the report concludes that a kindergarten literacy standard will simply crush the spirits of the late bloomers, linking school with “feelings of inadequacy, anxiety, and confusion.”

Here is another excerpt dealing with the math standards:

That’s the argument of Constance Kamii, a longtime professor of early-childhood education at the University of Alabama. Kamii wrote the second DEY report, published last month, attacking several of the Common Core’s kindergarten math standards, including that students should be able to count to 100 by ones and 10s, as well as compose and decompose numbers from 11 to 19 into 10 ones plus some further ones.

Kamii notes that the foundation of math is the ability to think abstractly about numbers — what five really means, beyond the numeral 5, or its place in a memorized sequence from one to 10 — as well as the logical relationships between numbers. “Not many 5- and 6-year-olds understand words like ‘forty’ and ‘fifty,’ ” Kamii writes in the report. So, while kindergartners can memorize the numbers from 1 to 100 with enough repetition, Kamii says that’s, “like making them memorize nonsense syllables.”

This leads to the other major criticism of the kindergarten standards — the pressure to meet them will intensify a push that began with No Child Left Behind for more academic drills, more lecture-style instruction and work sheets, and more testing in kindergarten.

“Young children learn best in active, hands-on ways and in the context of meaningful real-life experiences,” notes a statement of “grave concerns” about the kindergarten standards signed by hundreds of teachers and education scholars, including Howard Gardner, the Harvard developmental psychologist known for his theory of multiple intelligences and their importance in learning. “Overuse of didactic instruction and testing cuts off children’s initiative, curiosity, and imagination, limiting their engagement in school,” according to the statement.

Read the whole article.

Take time to read Defending the Early Year’s papers on the Common Core ELA Standards and Math Standards.

Don’t Turn Kindergarteners Into Test-Taking Minions

WFTV 9 in central Florida reports that Florida plans to implement means-testing of Kindergarteners.

Yes you read that right.


An excerpt:

Channel 9’s Lori Brown found out that the state is requiring districts to develop tests for every subject taught in kindergarten.

The state law requires Orange County to develop 15 different tests for kindergarteners.

The subjects 5-year-olds will be tested on will range from physical education to art.

Most kindergarteners will be required to take seven of the tests.

“Turning a child into a test taking minion at the age of 6 or 7 is not good for a child,” said parent Kathleen Oropeza.

That is absolutely horrifying.  State Legislators who think that is a good idea should first have their head examined, and then drummed out of office when they are up for reelection.

On a similar note, there are schools in Iowa, starting this school year will start teaching kindergarteners how to code.  I kid you not.

All of this on top of standards that are developmentally inappropriate.

This is not the Kindergarten of my childhood, and it is no wonder that child psychologists, child development experts and social workers have shown concern about the developmental appropriateness of the standards.  They are causing stress as New York teachers have seen.   It will happen in your state ass well.