Monthly Archives: February 2015

A Mince of Words… Part Two. Duck Duck Goose!

“If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, looks like a duck, it must be a duck”

Or is it a Goose?

I awoke Friday morning excited to be facing a four day weekend.  Cup of coffee in hand, I sat down to my computer to catch up on news and here is the first post I read:

I am baffled, perplexed, confused, and a little dumb-founded that a research-based approach to teaching young children, to age 8, is being dismissed by educators who are also advocates for these same young children. Spending the last year, or more, entrenched in the national board professional teaching standards, DAP (Developmental Appropriate Practice) was absolutely important. Teaching on the edge of a child’s understanding is important. Knowing where a child is developmentally so you know what question to ask to get them to the next level is important. Asking children to do something they can’t do or are not ready for yet is disrespecting a child. Help me understand why this is even an issue.”

I looked at the comment tab and already the responses were flying.

I know this well respected, veteran, accomplished teacher personally.  Our history goes way back to our work at the state level.

As I scrolled, I found the comment made by another accomplished primary level teacher, inquiring if any of us saw the district post about “Developmentally Appropriate Practice” and the “scolding” it entailed.

What? 

I instantly went to the district webpage and found this post for the week of Feb. 11 – 17:Goose 1

“What is developmentally appropriate practice? This phrase gets thrown around a lot in the educational community. This short article summarizes the current research on the topic. Teachers that we have shared this with commented that they found it insightful given the recent adoption of standards and curricular materials.”

My blood pressure went up a notch.  I had been sent the very same article to read in response to my letter to the District Elementary Curriculum Coordinator two weeks prior.  The teacher’s inquiry and feelings hit me hard enough, I could do very little else for the rest of my day, but write. My original retort, “A Mince of Words… I see a Duck… I hear a Duck,” can be read (here).

It seems it is thought the phrase ‘developmentally appropriate’ gets thrown around a lot in the educational community… and it appears those who have read the short article have found it “insightful”.

I’m a bit fascinated by this, as I consider the many, many, MANY teachers in Spokane who are beginning to express their grave concerns with both the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), and the current mathematics curricular materials.  The term we use is most definitely “developmentally inappropriate”.

As mentioned in Part One, we teachers are not alone in our concerns… 500 Early Childhood Specialists seem to agree with us…  many who are psychologists too, just like the author of the short article referenced by Daniel T. Willingham of University of Virginia.

Let’s do a little background check of Dr. Willingham… shall we?

For starters, Dr. Willingham (bio) is a professor at the very same university as the founder of Core Knowledge, E.D. Hirsch.  Two Peas in a Pod.

Eric Donald Hirsch, Jr. (born March 22, 1928) is an American educator and academic literary critic. He is professor emeritus of education and humanities at the University of Virginia.[1] He is best known for writing Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know (1987),[2] and is the founder and chairman of the Core Knowledge Foundation. 

Interestingly, Dr. Willingham also serves on the Board of the Core Knowledge Foundation.

Honk.

Dr. Willingham Seems to Think Learning Styles Don’t Exist

He writes:

“But don’t you think it’s a good idea to teach to all the styles? It might be, but there’s not much reason to think it’s because kids have different learning styles. Maybe it’s always good for kids to experience any idea in several different ways, even if all the experiences were in the same style. Maybe one of the experiences is especially well-suited to help kids understand the concept. Maybe the repetition is good. If it’s a good idea to teach to all styles, great, but I’d like to figure out why kids are learning more that way, given that other predictions of styles theories aren’t supported. The notion of learning styles is dated. No one believes VAK (Visual, Auditory, Kinesthetic) anymore. It’s been superseded by more sophisticated theories.”

Goose 3No one believes in Visual, Auditory, or Kinesthetic learning styles anymore?

No one believes?!!

There are more “sophisticated theories”?

Well.  I believe.  So do many of my colleagues.

We work with real children in actual classrooms.

No Goose is going to convince me otherwise.

If you’d like to learn more about his “sophisticated” theories and research on this topic read (here).

Hmmmmmm…

Honk. Honk.

Dr. Willingham’s Articles and Books DISCOUNT Piaget’s Theories of Child Development.

The short article posted on the districts webpage clearly shines the light on his view of the topic.  If you read the article clearly, he is discounting years of research of the renowned Piaget.  He was able to further express his views in (the article) entitled, “What is Developmentally Appropriate in Learning,” found in The Washington Post.

He writes: The New York State Education Department has a website that is meant to help teachers prepare for the Common Core State Standards. Author Chris Cerrone posted a bit of a 1st grade curriculum module on early civilizations. Here it is:

Core Knowledge words

 Cerrone, writing @ The Chalk Face, asked primary grade educators to weigh in: “What do you think of the vocabulary contained in this unit of study?”

The responses in the 78 comments were nearly uniformly negative. As you might expect from that volume of commentary, the criticisms were wide-ranging, much of it directed more generally at standardized testing and the idea of the CCSS themselves.”

Is it surprising K-3 early childhood educators might be a teensie weensie negative?

Noteworthy, for those of you starting to catch on, the ELA version of EngageNY is based specifically on Core Knowledge and the vocabulary in the picture above comes directly from one of the Modules.

Hmmmmmm…

Honk. Honk. Honk.

He equates Core Knowledge to the Montessori Philosophy.

And Core Knowledge is not alone. Another curriculum has had first-graders learning about ancient civilizations not for a decade, but for about a century: Montessori.”

This is laughable because my son attended Montessori through Kindergarten.  Walking into a Montessori Classroom and a Kindergarten Core Knowledge Classroom are unmistakably night and day. Heck… in a Kindergarten Core Knowledge Classroom they aren’t even allowed to engage with books until January.  My son was surrounded by books and encouraged to pour over books from 10 months through Kindergarten at the local Montessori School he attended.

Montessori philosophy believes children have their own, special individual developmental levels, and honors each child where they are, and builds from there.

Hmmmmmm…

Honk. Honk. Honk. Honk.

Dr. Willingham Unravels Howard Gardener’s Multiple Intelligences

The infamous Harvard University professor Howard Gardner, who is best known for his theory of multiple intelligences, has been a long-time critic of Hirsch. Gardner described one of his own books, The Disciplined Mind (1999), as part of a “sustained dialectic” with E.D. Hirsch, and criticized Hirsch’s curriculum as “at best superficial and at worst anti-intellectual”.[22] In 2007, Gardner accused Hirsch of having “swallowed a neoconservative caricature of contemporary American education.”  Is this also true of Willingham?

Willingham said of Gardener: “In the end Gardener’s theory is simply not all that helpful.  For scientists, in the end the theory of the mind is almost certainly incorrect.”  See his full unraveling of Gardener’s work (here).

Dr. Willingham also states in his critique of Dr. Gardener, “The soul general implication he supports is that children’s minds are different, and an educational system should take account of those differences, a point developed in diverse ways by his many followers.”

Ahhhhhh…clearing my throat…

Those of us that actually work with children, do just happen think children’s minds are different, and we should take these differences into account.

Yeppers.  We do.

Goose 4In the last district mathematics coaches meeting we were taken through an activity led by an experienced math coach.   We were asked to choose an EngageNY lesson and list on a cross referenced chart, the cognitive learning levels found, as well as the multiple intelligences.

For each pair of instructional coaches dissecting a lesson, can you guess what was discovered?

The Lions share of each EngageNY lesson fell in the lower levels of cognitive complexity, and few multiple intelligences were addressed within the lessons.

Hmmmmmm…

Honk. Honk. Honk. Honk. Honk.

Others Believing in Developmental Appropriateness.

Ahhhhh…. How could I forget the infamous Grant Wiggins? Grant Wiggins is the co-author of Understanding by Design and the author of Educative Assessment and numerous articles on education. He is the President of Authentic Education in Hopewell NJ. You can read more about him and his work at the AE site (click here) He writes:

“Over the years I have grown increasingly tired of Hirsch’s one-note samba about reading.  But I’ve kept my peace because the reading wars are endless, polemical, and easily bog one down in foolish debates. But these latest posts are just too over the top for me to remain mum.

For those unfamiliar with Hirsch’s critique, the only thing he thinks that truly matters is content knowledge. All of our ills – in reading, in learning generally, and in civic life – come down, in his view, to a failure of schools to teach a core and standard set of content.”

Is this what many of us are seeing in EngageNY?

Dr. Wiggins even points out how Willingham refutes Hirsh on a few points, even though they are bedfellows.  For Wiggin’s full critique click (here).

In Wiggin’s (backward design), the teacher starts with classroom outcomes and then plans the curriculum, choosing activities and materials that help determine student ability and foster student learning.  Wiggins, however, quotes Willingham, when trying to establish the importance of conceptual understanding of math in this article: (here).  Willingham proposes children learn concepts and skills simultaneously.  One does not necessarily come before the other…  Long debated topic in math circles.

Hmmmmm…

Honk. Honk. Honk. Honk. Honk. Honk.

Other Critics… Spokane Teachers

The following discussion thread included two veteran, accomplished teachers of primary aged children:

Teacher A: There is a great article by Grant Wiggins (Understanding by Design) that talks to this. Also E.D. Hirsch and Daniel Willingham attack Lucy Calkins over and over again, who doesn’t love Lucy ? Last year I emailed both Richard Allington and Regie Routman about Core Knowledge. They both responded with opt out of it at all costs. Regie’s recommendation was to get out of the former school as fast as possible.

Teacher B: I remember the article well. Lucy could teach circles around either one of them with the new units of study. Reader’s workshop units of study coming this summer. Can’t wait.

Teacher A: Yes, Regie also said to ask where the data was around the use of ALL the worksheets stating there is NO data that connects worksheets with retention of a concept.

Amen.

And Honk! Honk! Honk! Honk! Honk! Honk! Honk!

Who is Richard Allington?

Richard Allington is the author many books on reading instruction. He even came to Spokane. He wrote, “What Matters Most to Struggling Readers?” He is the one that basically says students need to be reading in a leveled text they can read at a 95% independent level accuracy rate.

Who is Regie Routman?

Regie Routman is a woman from Seattle who has worked closely with the IRA (International Reading Association). She says kids need to follow the gradual release of responsibility. She has a background in Reading Recovery.

Spokane School District has invested thousands and thousands (probably millions) of dollars into Reading Recovery.  They are also investing thousands and thousands of dollars into Math Recovery.  BOTH of these programs are embedded with the practice of what is “developmentally appropriate” for children.  BOTH programs target where a child is, and then challenges them from there.

Hmmmmmm…

Honk. Honk. Honk. Honk. Honk. Honk. Honk. Honk.

How “Insightful” was the Daniel T. Willingham’s Article?

From the mouths of accomplished, veteran teachers… (sharing just a few)…

Many teachers were baffled, perplexed, confused and a little dumb-founded by the districts blurb, as the first quote captured at the beginning of this blog post.

The discussion thread continued…

“I don’t understand why any of these things are needing to be addressed. We know so much about stages of development…why are the ‘decision makers’ choosing to ignore what we know to be true and push forward with high stress, developmentally inappropriate standards…?  Completely baffling and a waste of everyone’s time. (Especially the children’s!!) You can buy an infant a two wheel bike and even set them on it every single day…they still will not ride it until they’ve learned everything that they need to learn first…until THEY are ready!! Seems so simple!!”

“I often think about how important the skills of your Plan-Do-Review were! There are so many critical thinking skills, creativity skills, and life skills that students need to learn along the way to become successful. I loved those times when we could connect the Art room to the classroom… integrating the arts is so important to cement learning! Unfortunately, those skills are currently being ignored because reading and math are more important. When do you think the pendulum will swing back the other way?”

“They keep changing/raising the standard, but kids are essentially the same as they have always been. They are humans, not robots that can be reprogrammed at the whim of a given standard. It’s great, even important, to set and reach for high standards as long as we recognize that children develop at different rates because each one is a unique and precious creation that was never meant to fit into an idealistic matrix of rigid, time bound demands.”

“We are provided scripted developmentally inappropriate lessons with no repercussions, and the principal doesn’t seem to mind. As some teachers who do care have their careers on the line, teachers who JUST WANT TO TEACH and LOVE CHILDREN and have great PASSION, are sometimes either run out or throwing in the towel.”

I’m a bit confused myself.

Why would an article like this be posted on our district’s webpage?

It seems counter intuitive.

It goes against everything we know about DAP (Developmentally Appropriate Practice). One teacher expressed, “It wasn’t very smart to post an article like this for seasoned, veteran teachers to read.  We know better than this.”

From the premise the author is making… all the way to the background of the author… it seems much the opposite of the professional development and training we’ve been offered throughout the district’s history and currently.

Is it the goal here to promote more “insight” from an author who:Question Mark

  • Claims there is no such thing as learning styles
  • Shirks Piaget’s research around child development
  • Discounts Developmental Appropriate Practice (DAP)
  • Argues Gardener’s Multiple Intelligences

Hmmmmmm…

Honk. Honk. Honk. Honk. Honk. Honk. Honk. Honk. Honk.

What does “Developmentally Inappropriate” Practice Look Like?

In (Part One), I posted a (video) of a little girl struggling in tears, trying to do her homework from the EngageNY program.  It is astounding to me 6 year old children are being sent home pages of homework to complete with very little understanding of what they are doing.  I have witnessed this directly in my own neighborhood.  First graders coming home with 6 pages of homework.  They are throwing fits and having stressful breakdowns. There is a preponderance of evidence around the value of homework and what kind of homework should be sent home.  If parents need to be watching videos to help their Kindergarten – 3rd grade children at home, we have a huge problem as an educational system.

Furthermore, what children have parents who can access these “helpful” videos at home?

In my school, less than four children per class have access to the internet in their homes.

This is discriminatory and lacks the educational equity required for all our children to be successful.Goose 2

Sadly, this story came my way, “Another child literally bangs his head on his desk, because he’s not developmentally ready, or it’s not developmentally appropriate in the scripted EngageNY program, and the teacher is at a loss because she can’t REALLY adjust for him, because of the “benchmarks”. He feels like a failure, that’s what is going on…in 2nd grade. Bravo to the system. He could be made to love math, accepted where he is, and WHO he is, and moved from there… instead so many are learning to hate it.”

“If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, looks like a duck, it must be a duck”

Developmentally Inappropriate IS Developmentally Inappropriate

My Own Take on the Article

Daniel T. Willingham’s article is a Goose.

As a veteran, (accomplished 25 year educator), I found this post on the district webpage demeaning to my intelligence, as well as a slap to my years of experience working with children from pre-school through 8th grade.

The in-between the lines implications and wording by the post, paint early childhood educators as professionals who don’t have brains.  We just throw out the term “developmentally inappropriate” to blow smoke up each other’s Patooties…  We are about making excuses for ourselves because our students aren’t getting what we are teaching them through the “Goose” Programs we are handed.

EngageNY, aka Eureka Math, aka The Story of Units, aka Great Minds has some history worth learning.  The program is not well differentiated, is over peppered with worksheets, and lacking many necessary components in order to make it “developmentally appropriate”.

I think of Kathy Fosnot and her research around learning landscapes.  “Developmentally Appropriate”.

I think of Van De Walle’s research and the essential building blocks children need to gain mathematical understanding.  “Developmentally Appropriate”.

I think about the brain research in the book, How the Brain Learns Mathematics, by David Sousa. “Developmentally Appropriate”.

So… ultimately, what did I think of Dr. Willingham’s short article filled with “current” research?

Hmmmmmm…

This Goose did not lay anything golden.

Honk! Honk!

Goose 6 Honking

Passionately Submitted,

RAZ ON FIRE

For more information on the history of EngageNY click (here).

For more history on EngageNY click (here).

For information about how Core Knowledge and Amplify are connected click (here).

If your interested in following the money regarding Amplify and Core Knowledge click (here).

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A Mince of Words… I Hear a Duck… I See a Duck.

“If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, looks like a duck, it must be a duck”

Developmentally Inappropriate IS Developmentally Inappropriate

No two children are alike… all are in different places, learn at diverse rates, and deserve to be challenged at their instructional level.

Duck 3On January 31st, I wrote my District Elementary Curriculum Coordinator a letter expressing my concerns around the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and the  EngageNY curricular materials.   I sited my references and explained how my thinking has shifted in regards to K-3 standards. I do find flaws and believe some to be developmentally inappropriate.   The response to my letter was warm and well received.  Return communication came with links to articles for me to consider.  (One article, referenced in the direct quote from the district webpage below).

On February 8th, I sent a letter to my son’s principal opting him out of tests I determined to be developmentally inappropriate. You can read the letter to my son’s principal (here). I sited many of the same references, and gave many of the same reasons for my growing concerns with the CCSS and the testing that follows on the coattails.

Teachers

Many, many, MANY of my colleagues are expressing their concerns with the mathematics curricular materials, whether it is called EngageNY, A Story of Units, Eureka Math, or Great Minds… it is still the same curricular materials with the same basic lessons being presented to students. Many, many, MANY of my colleagues are using the term “developmentally inappropriate”.   I will go one step farther to say that many, many, MANY educators across the state of Washington and the United States are raising their voices claiming the “developmental inappropriateness” of the K-3 standards as well as the EngageNY Math Program… aka A Story of Units, Eureka, now Great Minds… aka another Duck?

Just one short week after my letter to the district elementary curriculum coordinator and my son’s principal,  this appears on the district’s webpage for the week of Feb. 11 – 17:

 “What is developmentally appropriate practice? This phrase gets thrown around a lot in the educational community. This short article summarizes the current research on the topic. Teachers that we have shared this with commented that they found it insightful given the recent adoption of standards and curricular materials.”

This “current research” written in the summer of 2008, before the birth of the CCSS machine.

I happened to be on a teacher discussion thread this weekend when this statement was brought to my attention.   This veteran, dynamic teacher expressed, “Did you see the article in this weeks SPS newsletter “scolding” us for using the term developmentally appropriate? I guess that’s the new ‘no no’ word in our district!!”

Duck 4Well.

It certainly is not a “no no” word for me.

Developmentally Inappropriate.

Couldn’t help it… it just rolled off my tongue.

Who else is using this term?  Is it just a group of early childhood educators who have worked with children for years and years and years?  Are we alone?

Let’s examine the use of this term… “developmentally appropriate” or “developmentally inappropriate”.  Shall we?

 Doctors

Has anyone ever taken their small baby to a doctor?  Did you discuss anything about development?  Did you ask any questions in regards to what is developmentally appropriate?  Were milestones discussed?  Did you want to know when you could expect your baby to hold his/her head up?  Did you want to know when it was normal for them to sit up, take first steps, walk?

Did the term developmentally appropriateness come up at all?

Did you ever discuss when your child would be expected to say his first word?  Did the doctor discuss ranges of what was normal?

I had a friend whose son wasn’t gaining language acquisition.  He did not fall within developmentally normal ranges.  She took him to the doctor to find out why his language was delayed.  No first words.  Only grunts.  Because it was past the developmental range, they did further testing and determined he was hearing impaired.

Quack.

Therapists

My son saw a child play therapist when he was three years old.  He went to three sessions.   She reassured me my son was totally within all ranges of developmental appropriate behavior for his age.   In fact, she found his ability to make analogies to his life experience at a level she hadn’t seen before.  He was functioning above the developmental normal continuum.

During this same time period, The Montessori School he attended shared a checklist of my son’s abilities.  He was cutting with scissors, knew his letters, was coloring and drawing, and much more. I think the term used with me was, “Your son is within all the developmental appropriate ranges for children at his age.”

Did the child therapist use the term developmentally appropriate?

Oops.

Did the Montessori teacher use the term developmentally appropriate?

Oops.

Quack. Quack.

Psychologists

 A local mother shared she had been taking her son to a psychologist to figure out some behaviors her son was exhibiting.  They discussed many aspects of her son’s life.   At the end of one of the sessions they got into a discussion about how children in elementary school are expected to type their solutions to math problems into the computer as well as lengthy paragraphs in the reading and writing portions of the state test.

The psychologist gasped, “Developmentally Impossible!”

His concern was the fine motor ability of children and their hand spans over the computer keys.  Children’s mastery of the keyboard happens at different times for different children.  It also involves practice.  Who will be the better keyboarders when computer access is considered… home verse nothing at home.  Will better keyboarders be able to type more?  Does this mean they KNOW more?

My colleague and I agreed children can learn to type and do in class projects where they are typing papers and importing graphics… but on a high stakes test to measure their cognitive abilities and comprehension of text… no.

Developmentally Inappropriate.

Oops.

Slid off my tongue again.

What about Dr. Megan Koschnick, an early childhood psychologist?  What does she have to say about this idea of developmental inappropriateness?  As I listen to her 23 minute presentation, I am fascinated by the title of her presentation: “Common Core is Developmentally Inappropriate.”  Listen (Here)

She starts her speech in this way, “I was asked to give a presentation about whether or not I thought the common core standards were developmentally appropriate.”

There’s that word again.

In the first minute and a half, the term developmental inappropriate is seen or heard five times.   It would be interesting to watch the video through and tally the number of times she uses the term.

Quack. Quack. Quack.

 Early Childhood Specialists

It seems 500 early childhood specialist have grave concerns with the standards too.   They believe they conflict with the compelling new research in cognitive science, neuroscience, child development, and early childhood education about how young children learn, what they need to learn, and how best to teach them in kindergarten and the early grades.  It seems 500 early childhood specialists were concerned with developmental appropriateness too.  See their four concerns and all 500 specialists who signed the joint statement (here).

Quack. Quack. Quack. Quack.

 Licensed Clinical Social Workers and Psychotherapists

Mary Calamia, LCSW, CSASC speaks at the New York State Assembly, Minority Education Committee at the Forum on Common Core.   This is a passionate 13 minute presentation about the impacts of Common Core and programs like Engage NY… aka Eureka, Story of Units, Great Minds… another Duck? Watch it (here).

This clinician works with parents, children, and half of her clients are teachers.  Her case load represents 20 different school districts in Suffolk County.  In the summer of 2012 her teachers started to express increased anxiety for having to learn two entirely new curricula for math and ELA.

She says, “This is the first time I heard of the one size fits all taking the imagination and innovation out of the hands of the teacher.”

She says, “You can’t regulate biology, young children cannot engage in this type of critical thinking the common core calls for.  This would require a fully developed prefrontal cortex, a part of the brain that is not fully functional until adulthood. The prefrontal cortex is responsible for critical thinking, rational decision making, and abstract thought… All things required of the Common Core Prematurely.”

Developmentally Inappropriate.

Quack. Quack. Quack. Quack. Quack.

Principals

Carol Burris, Principal of the Year, New York, 2013, said:

“I do not believe that any of the players in this project are evil people trying to control the minds of kids.  Rather they are true believers with an ideological allegiance to untested curriculum. The Common Core has some features that are good and others that are awful.”

The awful part is the one size fits all approach demanding all children meet the same learning goals and targets at the same exact time.  Our children are not robots or machines spewing forth correct information on the spot lickety split.

Developmentally Inappropriate.

Quack. Quack. Quack. Quack. Quack. Quack.

The Children Themselves

Have you ever heard the cliché… “from the mouth of babes”?  Watch the following 2 minute video taken of this 2nd grade little girl.  Her tears may move you like they did me.  Pay particular attention to the worksheet she refers to…  pause the video if you have to, and look at the very bottom.  Do you recognize the mathematics program by chance?  See the video (here).

There are many more stories from children that can be told.  I have a pile.  For now… this second grade girl will speak for the rest of them.

Homework like this, from math programs like this, to meet the “rigorous” CCSS standards…

Developmentally Inappropriate.

  • What are we doing to our children in the name of rigor?
  • In the name of College and Career Ready?
  • What are we sacrificing to Get. Them. There.?
  • Are years and years and YEARS of developmental research being ignored?

In this compelling talk, Dr. Peter Gray brings attention to the reality that over the past 60 years in the United States there has been a gradual, but overall dramatic decline in children’s time to play.  The impact is staggering.  Watch the 16 minute TEDx entitled, “The Decline of Play and the Rise of Mental Disorders” (here).

QUACK. QUACK. QUACK. QUACK. QUACK. QUACK. QUACK.

Educators

It is interesting to me how doctors, therapists, psychologists, and children can show us the absolute picture of what is developmentally appropriate and what is developmentally inappropriate.  I find it demeaning, as a 25 year, accomplished educator, to hear I’m not supposed to use the words “developmentally inappropriate.”

It’s like saying… erase the education you received from University of Washington, Whitworth University, and Gonzaga University.  Erase the years of experience you have working with early childhood children.  “Developmentally Appropriate” does not exist anymore.  Erase the term.  It’s a “no no”.

Developmental Appropriate has been replaced with a new famous term…  RIGOR.

Those of us who question if something may be developmentally inappropriate are looked down upon as if we don’t believe in rigor or high expectations for our students. 

Bunk.

Book Cover... Developmentally Appropriate (2)

Is it really going to be suggested Early Childhood Teachers are not supposed to say “Developmentally Inappropriate”?  Doctors can.  Clinicians can. Therapists can.  Early childhood Psychologists can. Award winning Principals can.  Montessori Teachers can.  The tears in our children’s eyes can.

But… “no no” to any public school K- 3rd grade teacher?

Bunk again.

Even teacher’s resources claim the term “Developmentally Appropriate”.


My Banner:  Developmentally Inappropriate IS Developmentally Inappropriate.


Teaching a Kindergartener how to do long division with the traditional algorithm is _________________?

Don’t say it.

Spending time teaching 6th grade students how to count from 1 – 100 is _____________________?

Don’t say it.

Don’t slip.

Developmentally Inappropriate.

Oops.

Extreme examples to make a point.  However, what other term are us lil’ ole early childhood teachers suppose to use?


“If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, looks like a duck, it must be a duck”

Developmentally Inappropriate IS Developmentally Inappropriate.

QUACK!

Duck 1

 Passionately Submitted,

RAZ ON FIRE

To be Continued… Part Two… A Mince of Words… Duck Duck Goose! (Here)

The Data Addiction… Is The Data Really About Our Children’s Learning?

I am all for the use of appropriate data to inform instruction… data that comes from the classroom and can be used immediately by the teacher to enhance learning.  However, this wave of data addiction has children taking so many tests… “desktops” are piled high with spreadsheets collecting “dust”.  We have begun to collect data just for the sake of collecting data.

How much is this data informing the instruction of teachers and improving student learning?

Who is examining this data and for what purpose?

Is the data: Reliable? Valid? Accurate? A true, authentic measure of what our children know and understand?

I have become more and more concerned with the amount of data being uploaded to Data Collection Systems on many aspects of our children’s responses to test questions and surveys.  In Washington State, CEDARS is the Data Collection System.   This system is linked directly to the Federal Data Bank.  The FERPA laws have continued to be loosened and our children’s data is being leaked to third party vendors for profit making.  See (here) how our children are being given National IDs with the plan to track our children from womb to work.

Alarmingly, several states and districts have agreed to turn over their student data. Last year, the U.S. Department of Education quietly changed the FERPA regulations so that the data could be released. According to this article, the data will be available to entrepreneurs to market products to children.

If interested start researching inBloom, a company that created a database meant to hold all student data in a “cloud” managed by Amazon.com.  Click (Here).  Learn more about inBloom’s connection to Amplify, the company producing the Interim Assessments and Checkpoints now being used throughout Spokane and Seattle Public schools.  Click (Here) and (Here) and (Here) and (Here).

Murdoch… Gates… Carnegie Corporation… Klein… inBloom… Amplify…

ALL CONNECTED.

Amplify isn’t hiding it’s connections….Check out their homepage (Here).

A Brief Audit of Bill Gates’ Common Core Spending

Bill Gates money has bought off many organizations to win them to his cause.  How many of these organizations have endorsed the CCSS Standards?

Guess.

Follow the money…

deutsch29

This is a post about Bill Gates and his money, a brief audit of his Common Core (CCSS) purchases. Before I delve into Gates accounting, allow me to set the stage with a bit of CCSS background.

A Bit of CCSS Background

It is important to those promoting CCSS that the public believes the idea that CCSS is “state-led.” The CCSS website reports as much and names two organizations as “coordinating” the “state-led” CCSS: The National Governors Association (NGA), and the Council for Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). Interestingly, the CCSS website makes no mention of CCSS “architect” David Coleman:

The Common Core State Standards Initiative is a state-led effort coordinated by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO).  The standards were developed in collaboration with teachers, school administrators, and experts, to provide a clear and consistent framework to prepare our…

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Short Form Opt Out Letter to My Son’s Principal

February 8th, 2015

Dear Mr. D,

I would like to begin this letter by commending H Elementary for the education my son has been offered to this date. He has had a wonderful experience with both of his teachers. Their ability to communicate with me about my son’s progress has been consistent, clear, and based on classroom evidence. This classroom based evidence is the most critical component in showing me the strengths of my child as well as the areas to focus upon for future improvement.

I have concerns with the SBAC test and I do not believe it will measure what my son really knows and understands. Many of the questions on the SBAC I believe are developmentally inappropriate. I personally took the practice test and it was an eye opener.

I am writing this letter to opt my son out of the following tests:

  1. Although my son is in 2nd grade, I wanted to establish my legal right to opt him out of the SBAC test in his 3rd through 6th grade elementary career.  (If it still exists).
  2. If H is considering giving the end of the year 2nd grade Interim Amplify Test, or any portion of the Amplify Test, I am utilizing my parental right to opt him out of all Amplify Testing. I am a proponent of classroom based assessments and classroom based evidence of his learning.  Computerized assessments at young ages do not typically show what a child truly knows and understands.  I trust his teacher completely to share his academic growth.
  3. I believe my son missed the WaKids assessment as he was not full day Kindergarten.  For this, I am very thankful. I will be opting him out of all like assessments that involve survey questions regarding his emotional health, his feelings, his thoughts on bullying, sex, drugs or the like.   As a parent, it is my responsibility to educate my son on these matters.   I do not want him to participate in these surveys.

My son is a bright, intelligent, curious boy.   What I value most in education for his age group happens within the walls of his classroom.   His teacher is the expert and knows him extremely well.  I honor her expertise above any mandate, policy, flawed curricular materials, and especially a standardized test.

I sincerely thank you for taking the time to read this letter of concern and my decision to opt my son out of testing.

With the Utmost Respect,

Parents

My Son is More Than a Score…My Reasons for Opting Out of Testing

Information of how to go about opting your child out of the testing can be found (here).

I emailed the following rational for opting out of testing to my son’s principal.  The next day I sent a paper copy of a shortened version of what is contained herein:

I would like to begin by commending my son’s elementary school for the education he has been offered to this date. He has had a wonderful experience with both of his teachers. Their ability to communicate with me about my son’s progress has been consistent, clear, and based on classroom evidence. This classroom based evidence is the most critical component in showing me the strengths of my child as well as the areas to focus upon for future improvement.

As a parent, I have had growing concerns with the K-3 Common Core Standards as well as the emphasis on high stakes tests. I believe the standards are flawed, and therefore the test (SBAC) to measure them invalid and unreliable.   I have spent just over a year researching and reviewing the standards as well as the history behind them.  My mindset has shifted.

The most concerning aspect of the writing of the CCSS is that no early childhood educators or early childhood specialists were a part of writing or reviewing the CCSS Standards. The following link shows the joint statement signed by 500 Early Childhood Specialists and Educators expressing their concerns with the K-3 Standards: Click (Here).  Diffferent Butterflies!

I concur with these early childhood specialists and would add my name to this document if I could. I have also listened to many of these early childhood specialist speak as they point to the specific areas in which the standards are inappropriate. Often times, if children are given the appropriate amount of time, they will naturally learn ELA and Math content.   Forcing it too soon does more harm than good. Dr. Megan Koschnick, a child psychologist, addresses the specific reasons the Early CCSS are not age appropriate in the following 24 minute video: Click (Here). 

I am finding the Kindergarten – 3rd Grade CCSS to be developmentally inappropriate, and are not based on well-researched child development knowledge about how young children learn.   Many of the skills mandated by the CCSS erroneously assume that all children develop and learn skills at the same rate and in the same way.  I also think it is erroneous to assume that if children learn something earlier, it will then lead them to greater success later.  There is very little to support this premise.  The “pushing down” of ELA and Math Content to lower grades will not work to a child’s advantage in preparing them for their future… rather… this “pushing down” will more likely frustrate many and erode their confidence as learners.

I remember when my son was two and we were at a neighborhood swim party.  One of the parents was going on and on and on about how her child already knew all of his letters of the alphabet.  I asked her how this came to be.  She said, “Oh, every time he takes a bath we make him put all the sticky bath letters up on the tile in order and then he has to say each letter in order.”

Okay.

I smiled, but inside I silently rolled my eyes.   I could care less if my son knew all his letters at two.   He is now living proof it did not matter.  He is reading well above grade level today.

I think it would be advantageous to read the following short article because it captures the 6 reasons the CCSS K-3 standards are inappropriate, as well as some guiding principles for the future.   I believe children grow dendrites in their brains by moving, playing, examining, experiencing, asking questions, curiosity, and using their imaginations.  Of all the reading I have been doing to evaluate the standards, this one stands out as one of the most concise and clear pieces exposing the flaws of the standards as well as many references: 6 Reasons To Reject Common Core K-3 Standards and 6 Rules to Guide Policy.

With all this being shared, the questions I pose are: The Borg

  • How then can a high stakes test be useful in any way to measure what my son knows?
  • How does a one day test show me he loves reading?
  • How does a one day test measure those things I find the most important for my son at 8 years old? 9 years old? 10 years old?
  • How will this test measure his ability to be creative or his level of curiosity?
  • What are we sacrificing in the classroom in regards to instruction in order to “get” kids to pass? Considering the article above, are important experiences being squeezed out for the sake of pushing all children to show mastery at the same exact time?
  • How do we put children in front of computer screens to type their explanations when they are just learning the keyboard and how to type?
  • Why are we forcing them to try to conquer items that expect them to be able to explain their reasoning and do comparison analysis tasks when the neuroscience clearly shows the frontal cortex of the brain is developing these abilities?
  • And finally, how can I, in all good conscience, allow my son to take a test that is neither valid nor reliable? Why waste his time?   And may I ask, why waste any child’s time taking an invalid test based on flawed standards?

The cost of this assessment is exponential and I believe the state of Washington needs to do away with it. Iowa has. Other states will follow, I am sure.   Of those in the PARCC system, of the original 24 states, only 9 remain. There is more and more evidence showing this test is not reliable or valid. See: SBAC Tests Show No Validity or Reliability

Another interesting article reveals: What new Common Core Tests Really Show

Look to New York’s testing trends within the article… they have been in this situation for about three years longer than our state.   Will Washington state repeat what they have experienced or learn from it?

Carol Burris, New York State Principal of the Year 2013, is quoted in the article as saying:

Principal “However, all of the above could not compensate for tests that were inappropriate measures of the performance of all of New York’s children. Nor could the above compensate for flawed Common Core standards based on assumptions not based on research and sound educational practice.

It is time for Ms. Tisch and the Board of Regents to alter the course, re-examine the Common Core standards and its tests, and courageously stand for the children of New York. The original embrace of the Race to the Top reforms was understandable and forgivable. The continuation of the reforms — despite the mounting evidence of failure — is not. This is not a game of baseball.”

I courageously stand for my own child, the children of Washington State, and all children in the U.S.A.

I cannot, with all good conscience, allow my son to participate in tests that attempt to measure flawed standards. Just like I didn’t care if he knew his letters at two… I don’t care anything about how he would potentially perform on the SBAC test.   It does not measure those things I find most important for elementary aged children. The SBAC test will not be a true measure of what children know and are able to do. Many of the questions they encounter will be developmentally inappropriate. I personally took the SBAC practice test and encourage others to do the same.  It is eye opening.  (Practice Test)

“If you want to be intelligent, read fairytales.  If you want to be more intelligent, read more fairytales.” -Albert Einstein

Test before the testI am opting my son out of the tests because they do not emphasize what is important in the elementary years.  We have way too many assessments and tests at this time, and most are not informing or shifting instruction.  Rather, they are taking away from instruction time, and it is instruction time our children most need.  I am a proponent of classroom based assessments and classroom based evidence of my child’s learning.  Computerized assessments at young ages do not typically show what a child truly understands.  I trust his teacher completely to share his academic growth.

The specific tests I opted my son out of can be found in my shortened letter to the principal (here).

The Data Addiction

I am all for the use of appropriate data to inform instruction… data that comes from the classroom and can be used immediately by the teacher to enhance learning.  However, this wave of data addiction has children taking so many tests… “desktops” are piled high with spreadsheets collecting “dust”.  We have begun to collect data just for the sake of collecting data.

  • How much is this data informing the instruction of teachers and improving student learning?
  • Who is examining this data and for what purpose?
  • Is the data: Reliable? Valid? Accurate? A true, authentic measure of what our children know and understand?

I have become more and more concerned with the amount of data being uploaded to Data Collection Systems on many aspects of our children’s lives.  Their responses to test questions and surveys are being logged into computers and followed… tracked… over time… uploaded to state databases… and then transferred to federal databases.  FERPA laws continue to be loosened, giving third party vendors access to our children’s information.

My apprehensions about how our children’s data is being used can be found (here).

The Heart Prick of Conscience Reigns

I can no longer, in good conscience, support the current direction the reform efforts are taking our public schools .  I do not believe they are what is best for our children, including my own.   The following links expose the flaws in the standards, the lack of transparency involved in the writing of the CSSS, and the validation process:

  1. Common Core Standards: Ten Colossal Errors, by Anthony Cody, National Board Certified Teacher.
  2. Dr. Stotsky, the only ELA Specialist on the CCSS Validation Committee, refused to sign approval of the CCSS standards. She speaks clearly here: Invalid Process of Common Core Development
  3. Interestingly, the only Math Specialist on the CCSS Validation Committee, Dr. James Milgram, also refused to sign his approval of the CCSS Standards. View his reasons here: (here)

My son is a bright, intelligent, curious boy.   What I value most in education for his age group happens within the walls of his classroom.   His teacher is the expert and knows him extremely well.  I honor her expertise above any mandate, policy, flawed curricular materials, and especially a standardized test…. A standardized test with cut scores set to fail nearly 70% of our children.

How could any parent, educator, or school lead children to troughs of failure in computer labs?  Over 250,000 parents are expected to opt their children out of the testing this spring in New York alone.  The wave is just now hitting Washington State.  Many superintendents, principals, and teachers are starting to speak out and write letters of conscience regarding the ethics surrounding the practice of administering these high stakes tests to our youngest children.

 My Son is worth more.

I am more than a ScoreI am more than standardized

He is more than a score.

Passionately Submitted,

RAZ ON FIRE

 

How do I Opt My Child Out of Testing?

It was interesting for me to learn the process for opting a child out of testing is quite simple in Washington State.   I believe many other states are the same, however, a few are becoming stricter.  For Washingtonians, all it entails is writing a letter to your school’s principal.   It can be a short one paragraph letter or a lengthier letter explaining your reasons. This is up to you.  I suggest sending it as an attachment through email because it becomes a public record.  Include your child’s teacher too.

The following link contains answers to most questions parents have about opting a child out of testing, as well as a sample opt out letter:  Click (here).

My letter opting my son out of the SBAC, Amplify Testing, and Student Surveys can be found by clicking (here).

StandardizedI opted to send a lengthier letter because it is important for me to spread information to everyone I can regarding the flaws in the Common Core State Standards, the history of the writing of the standards, the process the standards went through to be validated, as well as the invalidity and lack of reliability of the SBAC test itself.  Many educators are just beginning to become aware of these things.

It is surprising to learn how few really know the truth behind the Common Core Machine. If you need a little more history this 40 minute video may be helpful:  Building The Machine.

“Many parents have little or no awareness that they have the right to opt their student(s) out of taking standardized tests. At this time, no child may legally be forced to take a state standardized test if his or her parent writes a letter saying that they refuse to have their child take the test and why. Students who are 18 or older may write the letter themselves. There is no penalty to the child if they do not take assessments in grades 3-8. In high school, students will be required to take the Smarter Balanced Tests (once implemented) in 11th grade in order to graduate. If the student attempts to take the test and fails, there are alternate options available to them.” – WEA

The Washington Education Association voted to support the rights of parents/guardians to choose to opt their children out of standardized tests.   WEA members are being encouraged to collaborate with parents/guardians to assist parents with assessment options.  I personally just became a rep for the Spokane Education Association because of my deep convictions in regards to what is happening to our children as a result of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), the SBAC Test, and other assessments seeping in to prepare the students for the BIG Test.  Test before the test

In fact, the push to “get kids to pass” the SBAC test often has districts scrambling, and many are purchasing Interim Assessments with Checkpoint Assessments that go in between the Interim Assessments to prepare them for the SBAC.

No Kidding.

Our schools are becoming Test Prep Factories… unless of course, more of us speak up and opt out.  I opted my son out of the Amplify Interim and Checkpoint Assessments too.  This is a vicious cycle.

I also have grave concerns for the teachers navigating through a tremendous workload because of the CCSS and the impacts the high stakes tests are having upon their classrooms.  Quality instruction time is being robbed in order to prepare for the High Stakes Test (SBAC).  Many teachers are expressing their concerns.  I speak for them.

Justification of Failure in the Name of Rigor

Understanding the kind of questions our children are facing in the name of rigor is another reason to opt out.  To me, rigor is not 5 feet over their heads.  Rigor stretches children from their personal developmental level, considers normal ranges, and challenges them to take next steps.

Try this problem.  Guess the grade level and the Common Core Standard it is meant to mirror.

Good Luck:

5th Grade Amplify 4 pt

A text box was underneath this problem where students needed to type the answers to this layered question.  No drawing tools were available.  The rubric associated with this problem was on a 4 point scale.  If, and only if, the child answered every question correctly with an explanation for each question were they scored a 4.  For this entire problem, students were given 0, 1, 2, 3, or 4 points.  They faced this problem after answering 25 other questions, and anywhere from an hour to an hour and 30 minutes into the test.

What age?

Guess.

The rubric associated with this problem was vague and hard to follow.  Of the 75 student responses I scored, not one… not one… scored proficient or higher. (Level 3 or 4).  The majority scored 0s.  There were a small number of 1s and 2s.

Encouraging Awareness

WEA is encouraging their locals to connect with and work alongside student and parent leadership groups to raise awareness about opting out of standardized tests including the Smarter Balanced Assessments whenever possible.

I’m a local, mommy, and educator raising awareness in every way I can.

Our children are more than scores.

The following link will take you to the WEA Page.   They have several resources to help raise awareness about the issue and to help families navigate the complexities associated with opting students out.

WEA Opt Out Awareness Page… Click (Here).

Do not feel fear in doing this.  It is your legal right to do what is best for your child.  If you feel threatened in any way, contact WEA.  Your child should experience no repercussions as a result of this decision.

Respectfully Written for Parents and Teachers,

RAZ ON FIRE

No Fear