Jonathan Pelto, who served five terms in the Connecticut House of Representatives, called Wendy Lecker “one of the most powerful and important voices on behalf of public education and against the corporate education reform industry’s unending assault of public school teachers, public schools and the rights of students and parents.” Lecker is a columnist for the Hearst Connecticut Media Group and is senior attorney at the Education Law Center. Pelto said that while “many policymakers, education administrators and even the organizations responsible for protecting and promoting public education have turned a blind eye or engaged in the politics of appeasement, Wendy Lecker has continued to speak the truth and promote the notion that a just society strengthens not undermines its commitment to a comprehensive public education system.”
On his blog Wait What?, Pelto called attention to an article that Lecker had written for the Stamford Advocate earlier this month titled Common Core jeopardizes foundation of learning. In her article, Lecker said that proponents of the Common Core State Standards assert that “the standards do not dictate what is to be taught in school.” Lecker stated that the “claims are false: many of the standards are bad for education and demand developmentally inappropriate educational practices in schools.”
Recently, experts at the organization Defending the Early Years issued a report focusing on one of these bad standards: the standard calling for kindergartners to “read emergent-reader texts with purpose and understanding.” Translation: children must learn to read in kindergarten.
This mandate contradicts everything we know about child development and forces kindergarten teachers to engage in damaging practices. Play has been severely reduced or eliminated in favor of direct instruction, worksheets and frequent testing.
Becker continued by saying that “the milestones of child development have not changed in a century.” She said there is a wide range of development in children in kindergarten–but noted that most of them “are not ready to read.”
Reading requires understanding that symbols, letters, represent sounds and put together, in words, represent ideas or objects. Kindergartners’ brains cannot comprehend that kind of abstraction. They also typically do not recognize certain shapes and lines that are essential to understanding letters. This “lack” is normal, and it explains why play is essential in kindergarten.
Lecker said that Diane Levin, a child development expert at Wheelock College, told her that “through play, children develop the foundation for reading.”
When a child builds with blocks or engages in socio-dramatic play, s/he is making a representation of something in a different form — a step toward abstract thought. By painting and drawing, a child begins to understand that two-dimensional lines can represent three dimensional objects — a precursor to comprehending that letters can represent sounds and words can represent objects or ideas. By telling stories or putting on plays, a child understands sequencing. In playing with objects, s/he learns to categorize. These activities are intentionally designed to help children build a strong foundation for the kind of skills required for formal reading instruction later on. Children need to first build this foundation experientially, in the concrete world in which they live, in order for the skills to have meaning for them.
Last May, Valerie Strauss (Washington Post) posted information from a document that was published by Defending the Early Years. According to Strauss, the document was created in order “to help teachers and parents understand why the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are inappropriate for kindergarten through third grade and to help teachers and parents advocate against them while at the same time promote policies and classroom practices that will best meet the needs of young children.”
The document gave six reasons why the Common Core State Standards for K – Grade 3 should be rejected. I’m going to post the first and third reasons here:
- Many of the Kindergarten – 3rd Grade CCSS are developmentally inappropriate, and are not based on well-researched child development knowledge about how young children learn. 1, 2
The CCSS for young children were developed by mapping backwards from what is required at high school graduation to the early years. This has led to standards that:
- list discrete skills, facts and knowledge that do not match how young children develop, think or learn;
- require young children to learn facts and skills for which they are not ready;
- are often taught by teacher-led, didactic instruction instead of the experiential, play-based activities and learning young children need; 1, 2, 12
- devalue the whole child and the importance of social-emotional development, play, art, music, science and physical development.
An example of a developmentally inappropriate Common Core standard for kindergarten is one that requires children to “read emergent reader texts with purpose and understanding.” Many young children are not developmentally ready to read in kindergarten and there is no research to support teaching reading in kindergarten. There is no research showing long-term advantages to reading at 5 compared to reading at 6 or 7.6
3. Early childhood educators did not participate in the development of the standards.
The CCSS do not comply with the internationally and nationally recognized protocol for writing professional standards. They were written without due process, transparency, or participation by knowledgeable parties. Two committees made up of 135 people wrote the standards – and not one of them was a K-3 classroom teacher or early childhood education professional. When the CCSS were first released, more than 500 early childhood professionals signed a Joint Statement opposing the standards on the grounds that they would lead to long hours of direct instruction; more standardized testing; and would crowd out highly important active, play-based learning. All of this has come to pass. Notably, this important Joint Statement was not even reported in the “summary of public feedback” posted on the Core Standards website. 11
In January, Strauss wrote another Washington Post article about Common Core and early childhood education titled Report: Requiring kindergartners to read — as Common Core does — may harm some.
Two organizations that advocate for early childhood education — Defending the Early Years and Alliance for Childhood — issued the report titled “Reading in Kindergarten: Little to Gain and Much to Lose.” It says there is no evidence to support a widespread belief in the United States that children must read in prekindergarten or kindergarten to become strong readers and achieve academic success.
Nancy Carlsson-Paige, Geralyn Bywater McLaughlin and Joan Wolfsheimer Almon–the authors of the report , wrote the following:
Many children are not developmentally ready to read in kindergarten. In addition, the pressure of implementing the standards leads many kindergarten teachers to resort to inappropriate didactic methods combined with frequent testing. Teacher-led instruction in kindergartens has almost entirely replaced the active, play-based, experiential learning that we know children need from decades of research in cognitive and developmental psychology and neuroscience.
When children have educational experiences that are not geared to their developmental level or in tune with their learning needs and cultures, it can cause them great harm, including feelings of inadequacy, anxiety and confusion.
Reading Instruction in Kindergarten: Little to Gain, Much to Lose
Strauss said that Carlsson-Paige, a professor emerita of early childhood education at Lesley University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and the author of “Taking Back Childhood”, co-wrote a tough critique of the kindergarten Common Core standards.
Excerpt from Carlsson-Paige’s critique:
When the standards were first revealed in March 2010, many early childhood educators and researchers were shocked. “The people who wrote these standards do not appear to have any background in child development or early childhood education,” wrote Stephanie Feeney of the University of Hawaii, chair of the Advocacy Committee of the National Association of Early Childhood Teacher Educators.
The promoters of the standards claim they are based in research. They are not. There is no convincing research, for example, showing that certain skills or bits of knowledge (such as counting to 100 or being able to read a certain number of words) if mastered in kindergarten will lead to later success in school. Two recent studies show that direct instruction can actually limit young children’s learning. At best, the standards reflect guesswork, not cognitive or developmental science.
Moreover, the Common Core Standards do not provide for ongoing research or review of the outcomes of their adoption—a bedrock principle of any truly research-based endeavor.
Too many people who have no understanding of child development are proponents of the Common Core State Standards and the high-stakes testing that goes along with them. Isn’t it time we stood up for our kids and said “NO” to No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, Common Core, and the mania for high stakes testing?
Common Core jeopardizes foundation of learning (By Wendy Lecker) (Jonathan Pelto)
Wendy Lecker: Common Core jeopardizes foundation of learning (Stamford Advocate)
Our New Report! Reading Instruction in Kindergarten: Little to Gain and Much to Lose (Defending the Early Years)
Reading Instruction in Kindergarten: Little to Gain and Much to Lose (Defending the Early Years)