Tag Archives: Early Childhood Development

University of Illinois report: Distinctions between academic versus intellectual goals for young children

12 Apr

Preschool is a portal to the continuum of lifelong learning. A good preschool stimulates the learning process and prompts the child into asking questions about their world and environment. Baby Center offers advice about how to find a good preschool and general advice to expectant parents. At the core of why education is important is the goal of equipping every child with the knowledge and skills to pursue THEIR dream, whatever that dream is. Christine Armario and Dorie Turner are reported in the AP article, AP News Break: Nearly 1 in 4 Fails Military Exam which appeared in the Seattle Times:

Nearly one-fourth of the students who try to join the U.S. Army fail its entrance exam, painting a grim picture of an education system that produces graduates who can’t answer basic math, science and reading questions, according to a new study released Tuesday.
Many children begin their first day of school behind their more advantaged peers. Early childhood learning is an important tool is bridging the education deficit. https://drwilda.wordpress.com/2012/01/03/early-learning-standards-and-the-k-12-contiuum/

Nancy Carlsson-Paige, professor emerita at Lesley University and an author of several books; Diane E. Levin, professor of early childhood education at Wheelock College; and Geralyn Bywater McLaughlin, founding teacher at the Mission Hill School in Roxbury, Ma., as well as the director of the Defending the Early Years coalition and founder of Empowered by Play wrote a provocative Washington Post article. In, How ed policy is hurting early childhood education, Carlsson-Paige, Levin, Bywater McLauglin opine:

1. Current standards are not based on knowledge of child development — both how children learn and what they learn.
The standards require that children learn specific facts and skills — such as naming the letters — at specified ages. This has led to more teacher-directed “lessons,” less play-based activity and curriculum, and more rote teaching and learning as children try to learn what is required.
Yet decades of research and theory tell us that young children learn best through active learning experiences within a meaningful context. Children develop at individual rates, learn in unique ways, and come from a wide variety of cultural and language backgrounds. It is not possible to teach skills in isolation or to mandate what any young child will understand at any particular time.

2. Current policies support an over-emphasis on testing and assessment at the expense of all other aspects of early childhood education.
Already strapped for time and money, schools turn valuable attention and resources toward preparing teachers to administer and score tests and assessments rather than meet the needs of the whole child. As teachers strive to raise test scores, they increasingly depend on scripted curricula designed to teach what is on the tests. We know, however, that children learn best when skilled and responsive teachers observe them closely and provide curriculum tailored to meet each child’s needs. Standardized tests of any type do not have a place in early childhood education, and should not be used for making decisions about young children or their programs. Individualized assessments of each child’s abilities, interests and needs provide teachers with the information they require to individualize teaching and learning.

3. Cumulatively, current policies are promoting a de-professionalization of teachers.
The growing focus on standards and testing disregards the strong knowledge base early childhood teachers have. It undermines teachers’ ability to teach using their professional expertise, to provide the optimal, individualized learning opportunities they know how to offer. Instead, teachers are often required to follow prescribed curricula taught in lock step to all children. At the same time, more teachers without strong backgrounds in early childhood education are being hired, increasing the dependence of teachers on standardized tests and scripted curricula.

As one of their first initiatives, Defending the Early Years (DEY) is conducting a national survey of early childhood professionals — teachers, child care workers, program and school directors — on the ways their work is currently affected by federal, state, and local policies, such as standards for learning and mandated tests. Responses are anonymous. The data are being collected and tabulated by an independent opinion research firm. The results of this research will be used to inform the efforts of the DEY group to advocate for more child-centered, humane, and effective policies in the education and care of young children. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/how-ed-policy-is-hurting-early-childhood-education/2012/05/24/gJQAm0jZoU_blog.html

The Defending the Early Years group has a blog http://deyproject.org/

Valerie Strauss of the Washington Post reported in Report debunks ‘earlier is better’ academic instruction for young children:

The debate about appropriate curriculum for young children generally centers on two options: free play and basic activities vs. straight academics (which is what many kindergartens across the country have adopted, often reducing or eliminating time for play).

A new report, “Lively Minds: Distinctions between academic versus intellectual goals for young children,” offers a new way to look at what is appropriate in early childhood education.
The report was written by Lilian G. Katz, professor emerita of early childhood education at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she is on the staff of the Clearinghouse on Early Education and Parenting. She is past president of the National Association for the Education of Young Children and the first president of the Illinois Association for the Education of Young Children. Katz is currently the editor of the online peer-reviewed trilingual early childhood journal Early Childhood Research & Practice, and she is the author of more than 100 publications about early childhood education, teacher education, child development and the parenting of young children.

In her report, published by the nonprofit group Defending the Early Years, Katz says that beyond free play and academics, “another major component of education – (indeed for all age groups) must be to provide a wide range of experiences, opportunities, resources and contexts that will provoke, stimulate, and support children’s innate intellectual dispositions.” As the title of the paper indicates, Katz makes a distinction between academic goals for young children and intellectual goals…. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2015/04/12/report-debunks-earlier-is-better-academic-instruction-for-young-children/

Here is the blog post from Defending the Early Years regarding their report, Lively Minds:

Lively Minds: Distinctions between academic versus intellectual goals for young children
Posted on April 9, 2015

In the wake of the Common Core academic push down on America’s kindergartners, a new report by Lilian G. Katz argues that excessive and early formal instruction can be damaging to our youngest children in the long term. Today, Defending the Early Years is proud to release Lively Minds: Distinctions between academic versus intellectual goals for young children.

Author Lillian G. Katz, Professor Emerita of Early Childhood Education at the University of Illinois, argues that the common sense notion that “earlier is better” is not supported by longitudinal studies of the effects of different kinds of preschool curriculum models. Furthermore, her report maintains that a narrow academic curriculum does not recognize the innate inquisitiveness of young children and ultimately fails to address the way they learn.
“Young children enter the classroom with lively minds–with innate intellectual dispositions toward making sense of their own experience, toward reasoning, predicting, analyzing, questioning and learning,” says Dr. Katz.

“But in our attempt to quantify and verify children’s learning, we impose premature formal instruction on kids at the expense of cultivating their true intellectual capabilities – and ultimately their optimal learning.”

While the report concludes that an appropriate curriculum for young children is one that focuses on supporting children’s in-born intellectual dispositions, some basic academic instruction in early years is needed. “Academic skills become necessary for students to understand and report on their own authentic investigations,” explains Katz. “These skills can then serve as a means to the greater end of fostering and advancing children’s intellectual capabilities.”

Watch and share this video about this new report!
Download and read the full report here: Lively Minds: Distinctions between academic versus intellectual goals for young children
Help us spread the word about the importance of intellectual pursuits for young children using social media!
Consider tweeting:
#CCSS replaces wonder with worksheets, investigation with memorization. Preserve the lively minds of children! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e53S8dnh0IM
Premature academic instruction comes at a cost for youngest students @dey_project https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e53S8dnh0IM #2much2soon
Earlier is not better. The lively minds of children are dulled by mindless bubble filling @dey_project #2much2soon. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e53S8dnh0IM
We are rethinking academic vs. intellectual goals. Earlier is not always better. @dey_project #2much2soon https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e53S8dnh0IM http://deyproject.org/

Our goals should be:

A healthy child in a healthy family who attends a healthy school in a healthy neighborhood. ©
Think small, Not small minded ©

Money spent on early childhood programs that foster intellectual development is akin to yeast for bread. The whole society will rise.

Where information leads to Hope. © Dr. Wilda.com

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©

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Coalition says federal policy is bad for early childhood education

25 May

In Early learning standards and the K-12 contiuum, moi said:

Preschool is a portal to the continuum of life long learning. A good preschool stimulates the learning process and prompts the child into asking questions about their world and environment. Baby Center offers advice about how to find a good preschool and general advice to expectant parents. At the core of why education is important is the goal of equipping every child with the knowledge and skills to pursue THEIR dream, whatever that dream is. Christine Armario and Dorie Turner are reporting in the AP article, AP News Break: Nearly 1 in 4 Fails Military Exam which appeared in the Seattle Times:

Nearly one-fourth of the students who try to join the U.S. Army fail its entrance exam, painting a grim picture of an education system that produces graduates who can’t answer basic math, science and reading questions, according to a new study released Tuesday.

Many children begin their first day of school behind their more advantaged peers. Early childhood learning is an important tool is bridging the education deficit. https://drwilda.wordpress.com/2012/01/03/early-learning-standards-and-the-k-12-contiuum/

Nancy Carlsson-Paige, professor emerita at Lesley University and an author of several books; Diane E. Levin, professor of early childhood education at Wheelock College; and Geralyn Bywater McLaughlin, founding teacher at the Mission Hill School in Roxbury, Ma., as well as the director of the Defending the Early Years coalition and founder of Empowered by Play have written a provocative WashingtonPost article. In, How ed policy is hurting early childhood education, Carlsson-Paige, Levin, Bywater McLauglin opine:

The educational leaders met recently to discuss growing concerns that federal Race to the Top policy mandates on early childhood education are undermining education practice that research tells us is in the best interest of young children’s optimal development and learning. Their concerns fell into three major categories.

1. Current standards are not based on knowledge of child development — both how children learn and what they learn.

The standards require that children learn specific facts and skills — such as naming the letters — at specified ages. This has led to more teacher-directed “lessons,” less play-based activity and curriculum, and more rote teaching and learning as children try to learn what is required.

Yet decades of research and theory tell us that young children learn best through active learning experiences within a meaningful context. Children develop at individual rates, learn in unique ways, and come from a wide variety of cultural and language backgrounds. It is not possible to teach skills in isolation or to mandate what any young child will understand at any particular time.

2. Current policies support an over-emphasis on testing and assessment at the expense of all other aspects of early childhood education.

Already strapped for time and money, schools turn valuable attention and resources toward preparing teachers to administer and score tests and assessments rather than meet the needs of the whole child. As teachers strive to raise test scores, they increasingly depend on scripted curricula designed to teach what is on the tests. We know, however, that children learn best when skilled and responsive teachers observe them closely and provide curriculum tailored to meet each child’s needs. Standardized tests of any type do not have a place in early childhood education, and should not be used for making decisions about young children or their programs. Individualized assessments of each child’s abilities, interests and needs provide teachers with the information they require to individualize teaching and learning.

3. Cumulatively, current policies are promoting a de-professionalization of teachers.

The growing focus on standards and testing disregards the strong knowledge base early childhood teachers have. It undermines teachers’ ability to teach using their professional expertise, to provide the optimal, individualized learning opportunities they know how to offer. Instead, teachers are often required to follow prescribed curricula taught in lock step to all children. At the same time, more teachers without strong backgrounds in early childhood education are being hired, increasing the dependence of teachers on standardized tests and scripted curricula.

As one of their first initiatives, Defending the Early Years (DEY) is conducting a national survey of early childhood professionals — teachers, child care workers, program and school directors — on the ways their work is currently affected by federal, state, and local policies, such as standards for learning and mandated tests. Responses are anonymous. The data are being collected and tabulated by an independent opinion research firm. The results of this research will be used to inform the efforts of the DEY group to advocate for more child-centered, humane, and effective policies in the education and care of young children.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/how-ed-policy-is-hurting-early-childhood-education/2012/05/24/gJQAm0jZoU_blog.html

The Defending the Early Years group has set-up a blog:

This is what Defending the Early Years says at their blog:

This web site is a public forum managed by Defending the Early Years, a nonprofit project whose purpose is to encourage educators to speak out about current policies that are affecting the education of young children.

Our principal concern is defending children’s right to play, grow, and learn in an era of so-called standards and accountability. For years we have worked with organizations like the Alliance for Childhood, Teachers Resisting Unhealthy Children’s Entertainment (TRUCE), the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, Concerned Educators Allied for a Safe Environment (CEASE), and others to promote play-based early education and common-sense policymaking. In 2010 we joined hundreds of other educators in issuing a joint statement of concern about the Common Core Standards for the early grades (see http://www.edweek.org/media/joint_statement_on_core_standards.pdf.)

Now we are seeing a new wave of standards and testing about to wash over preschool. Though it has become fashionable to give lip service to the importance of children’s play, the reality is that play continues to disappear in many schools, even for the youngest children.

Enough is enough. Defending the Early Years was launched to pursue these goals:

  • to track the real effects of these new preschool standards;
  • to promote appropriate guidelines for early childhood educators;
  • to mobilize the early childhood community to speak out with well-reasoned arguments against inappropriate standards, assessments, and classroom practices.

We are collecting evidence from across the country and will be surveying teachers, program directors, and child development experts, publishing our findings, and doing everything we can to make our collective voices heard. Let us hear from you. Tell us what is happening in your classroom, in your school, in your community.

http://deyproject.org/

As state legislatures and Congress try to craft budgets, what may look to some like an empty cash drawer, this is a plea to fully fund basic education at all levels. We need more educated people, not just people who sat in chairs, either passively or unwillingly, until they in their own mind received their parole as evidenced by a meaningless diploma. We need more people who have the critical facilities and independence of mind to not be swayed by the wackos at either end of the political spectrum. People who do not simply spout meaningless platitudes based upon their own empty thoughts, which are unchallenged by either facts or reflection, but people who pragmatically consider the available options. Finally, the nasty trend that we do not live in community with others but live at the expense of others must be challenged. Education and learning should start early.

Our goals should be: A healthy child in a healthy family who attends a healthy school in a healthy neighborhood. ©

Think small, Not small minded ©

Money spent on early childhood programs is akin to yeast for bread. The whole society will rise.

Related:

The state of preschool education is dire https://drwilda.wordpress.com/2012/04/10/the-state-of-preschool-education-is-dire/

Resources:

Why Preschool Matters?

Why Preschool is Important?

The Benefits of Preschool

Will Preschool Education Make a Child Ready for Kindergarten

Preschool, Why it is the Most Important Grade

National Conference of State Legislatures Resources on Kindergarten

Education Commission of the States, Full Day Kindergarten: A Study of State Policies in the United States

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©

The state of preschool education is dire

10 Apr

In Early learning standards and the K-12 contiuum moi said:

Preschool is a portal to the continuum of life long learning. A good preschool stimulates the learning process and prompts the child into asking questions about their world and environment. Baby Center offers advice about how to find a good preschool and general advice to expectant parents. At the core of why education is important is the goal of equipping every child with the knowledge and skills to pursue THEIR dream, whatever that dream is. Christine Armario and Dorie Turner are reporting in the AP article, AP News Break: Nearly 1 in 4 Fails Military Exam which appeared in the Seattle Times:

Nearly one-fourth of the students who try to join the U.S. Army fail its entrance exam, painting a grim picture of an education system that produces graduates who can’t answer basic math, science and reading questions, according to a new study released Tuesday.

Many children begin their first day of school behind their more advantaged peers. Early childhood learning is an important tool is bridging the education deficit.

The National Institute for Early Childhood Research has released its 2011 report, Pre-K Spending Per Child Drops to Levels of Nearly a Decade Ago:

Low Quality of Many State Preschool Programs Threatens Nation’s Progress

Washington, D.C. — Funding for state pre-K programs has plummeted by more than $700 per child nationwide over the past decade — keeping the quality of many states’ preschools low even as enrollment has grown, a new report from the National Institute of Early Education Research (NIEER) shows.

Parents would be outraged if we had such low expectations for the first grade or kindergarten,” said Steve Barnett, the longtime director of NIEER, a nonpartisan center at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J. “As economic conditions improve, states need to provide more adequate funding, step up quality, and make pre-K available to all children.”

The State of Preschool 2011 Yearbook ranks states on funding of pre-K programs and their availability to children. The report finds that most states fail to adequately fund their programs, and only five meet NIEER’s 10 benchmarks for preschool quality standards. Only seven states require pre-K teachers to have the same level of preparation and pay as kindergarten teachers, the report explains. 

High-quality early learning is arguably the greatest investments we can make, which is why our Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge supports states committed to providing this important opportunity to more children,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “Raising the quality of early learning and expanding access to effective programs plays a pivotal role in improving our children’s chances at being successful in grade school through to college and careers. It’s the kind of investment that benefits us all.”

The Yearbook findings, which include NIEER’s data over the past 10 years and recommendations for policymakers, were released at 10 a.m. today at Bancroft Elementary School in Washington, D.C.

Though enrollment in state pre-K programs has soared over the past 10 years, just 28 percent of all 4-year-olds and only 4 percent of all 3-year-olds are enrolled. Many states expanded enrollment without maintaining quality, Barnett said.

Pre-K funding has dropped by $715 per student, when adjusted for inflation, between the 2001-2002 and 2010-2011 school years. Per-student funding dropped by $145 in 2010-2011 alone compared with the previous year.

Overall funding for state pre-K programs, when adjusted for inflation, dipped for the second straight year, by $60 million nationally in 2010-2011.

The falling levels of funding for preschool are having a major impact on program quality. Only five states met all 10 NIEER benchmarks for state quality standards in 2010-2011, the new report shows. Fifteen states met eight or more quality standards. These standards include important basics such as having well-trained teachers and monitoring quality.

Some states are making progress, while others have taken steps back. Maine, Kentucky, and Nebraska all raised per-child and total pre-K funding by more than 5 percent over the previous year. In addition, five states — Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, West Virginia, and Wisconsin — increased total funding by more than 5 percent from the previous year.

Twenty-two states increased pre-K enrollment, ranging from small gains in California, Connecticut, Georgia, and Minnesota to 24 percent in Vermont.

But Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Pennsylvania cut total state pre-K spending by 10 percent or more from the previous year.

Nine states cut pre-K enrollment, from 1 percent in Kentucky, Nebraska, and North Carolina, to 12 percent in New Mexico. Arizona entirely eliminated its program. Counting Arizona, 11 states do not offer pre-K: Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming.

In 2010-11, two states gained benchmarks on NIEER’s quality standards, New York and Georgia. Four states — California, Kansas, New York, and South Carolina — lost benchmarks, all for reducing program monitoring.

In addition, several battleground states face additional threats to pre-K programs in 2012:

  • California cut spending per child by 10 percent for 2010-2011. The state’s program, which achieves only three of NIEER’s 10 benchmarks for quality, is under threat of further budget reductions.
  • Florida ranks first in the nation in pre-K access, with 76 percent of all 4-year-olds attending. But it ranks near the bottom in program quality and spending per child. It has repeatedly cut funding and has not raised per-child spending to adequate levels. Class sizes have been raised, and more funding cuts may be ahead.
  • Georgia, the first state to adopt a goal of state pre-K for all children, and which met all 10 NIEER quality standards in 2010-2011, subsequently cut its pre-K school calendar from 10 months to nine, reduced teacher salaries, and increased maximum class sizes to 22 children. Experienced teachers fled the program. Bringing quality back will require a new revenue source because lottery proceeds are no longer sufficient.
  • Illinois launched its Preschool for All program in 2006 with the goal of achieving universal access by 2012. Instead, it has cut total enrollment and has seen no appreciable funding increase.
  • Massachusetts has cut per-child funding by about 45 percent from 2001-2002 levels and operates two new programs using federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds that will go away. Without new funding, these programs are threatened.
  • North Carolina moved its well-regarded More at Four program from the Department of Public Instruction to Health and Human Services to align it with child care, renamed it, and reduced staff and enrollment. The program faces additional possible cuts.
  • Texas, which ranks in the bottom half of states for spending per child, reduced spending per child in 2010-2011 and faces the prospect of further cuts.

Barnett praised the federal $500 million Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge that is providing grants to nine states for improving quality, but said more needs to be done. President Obama has called on Congress to increase the federal commitment to states for early childhood education.

The National Institute for Early Education Research (www.nieer.org), a unit of the Graduate School of Education, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, supports early childhood education policy by providing objective, nonpartisan information based on research.

http://www.nieer.org/news-events/news-releases/pre-k-spending-child-drops-levels-nearly-decade-ago


Go to 2011 Yearbook Homepage

View Full Report PDF
Full Report (PDF)

View Executive Summary
Executive Summary (PDF)

Table of Contents
Table of Contents

State DataState
Data

Charts
Charts

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Archives


Multimedia

News
News

See, Study Points to Drop in Per-Pupil Spending for Pre-K http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2012/04/10/28prek.h31.html?tkn=UNRFxUnNrL3edER%2FCdofTxr4Myujm07PFBxT&cmp=clp-edweek

Moi is using “preschool” to mean the same thing as “nursery school,” the schooling for children around three and four years of age. Professionals sometimes use the term “early childhood education” to mean the same thing.

There is an important distinction, however, between preschool and child care. Child care refers to the day-to-day, routine care of children from birth to three years, and to those parts of an older child’s day in which the primary focus is not on education. Preschool, on the other hand, refers to the portion of the day in which the main goal is developmentally appropriate education. (This isn’t to say that there isn’t some overlap, of course. A lot of what goes on in a preschool classroom involves taking care of a child’s physical and emotional needs, and a lot of what goes on in a good child-care setting is, in fact, educational.)

Kayla Webley has written an excellent report in Time magazine about Pew Charitable Trusts’ findings on a studies of preschool. In Rethinking Pre-K:5 Ways to Fix Preschool

Our goals should be: A healthy child in a healthy family who attends a healthy school in a healthy neighborhood. ©

Think small, Not small minded ©

Money spent on early childhood programs is akin to yeast for bread. The whole society will rise.

Resources:

Why Preschool Matters?

Why Preschool is Important?

The Benefits of Preschool

Will Preschool Education Make a Child Ready for Kindergarten

Preschool, Why it is the Most Important Grade

National Conference of State Legislatures Resources on Kindergarten

Education Commission of the States, Full Day Kindergarten: A Study of State Policies in the United States

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©

‘Redshirting’ kindergarteners

5 Mar

Morley Safer of 60 Minutes reported the excellent story, Redshirting: Holding kids back from kindergarten:

Kindergarten “redshirting” is on the rise. That’s the practice of parents holding their children back from kindergarten so they can start school at age 6 – older, bigger, and more mature than their 5-year-old peers. Some research shows that redshirting will give these youngsters an edge in school, and maybe even in life. But is it fair? After all, as Morley Safer reports, boys are twice as likely to be held back as girls. Whites more than minorities. And the rich redshirt their kids more than the poor.

http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-18560_162-57390128/?tag=currentVideoInfo;videoMetaInfo

Web Extras

Parents consider “redshirting” in the hope that they will give their children an advantage.

Tom Matlock writes in the Huffington Post article, Redshirting Kindergarten:

It reminded me of what a kindergarten teacher at a private school in Boston recently told me: “I was cornered by an applicant’s father who asked that if he sent his child to me in pre-K, could I promise that his child would get into to Harvard in 14 years.”

Most particularly it made me think of the increasing number of families who are holding back their sons at the age of five, particularly in private schools, in order to increase their competitive advantage, following, perhaps without knowing it consciously, the line of thinking that has been used to produce professional hockey players.

“I got paid $100 for that shot,” one of my players told me as we warmed up for our basketball game, referring to a close-range layup the prior week. No, I’m not an NBA coach. The player wasn’t referring to some elaborate point shaving scheme cooked up by would-be sports agents to high school prodigies. The player was six years old.

The kid’s parents had paid him to make a basket. I was floored. Speechless. He said it in passing like it didn’t really matter, like even he thought it was kind of weird.

Pretty soon the boys were laughing and chasing each other around cones I had set up, trying without much success to dribble the miniature balls while playing tag. Clearly, having fun was way more important to this kid than any parent’s $100 payout. But it stuck with me as a sign of something profoundly wrong with our generation of parents, and a potential danger to the generation of kids, especially boys, that we are raising.

It reminded me of what a kindergarten teacher at a private school in Boston recently told me: “I was cornered by an applicant’s father who asked that if he sent his child to me in pre-K, could I promise that his child would get into to Harvard in 14 years.”

Most particularly it made me think of the increasing number of families who are holding back their sons at the age of five, particularly in private schools, in order to increase their competitive advantage, following, perhaps without knowing it consciously, the line of thinking that has been used to produce professional hockey players.

In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell discusses the odd distribution of birth months among NHL players. In Canada, youth hockey is a highly policed sport where players are registered strictly by calendar year. The oldest, therefore, at each level are those born earliest in the year. Just by virtue of age they tend to be bigger and stronger. Gladwell argues convincingly that a disproportionate number of successful hockey players end up being born in the first few months of the year (see graph below). This selection process starts as early as age 8, and the effect persists all the way up to the NHL. It has been very consistent over time.

So if it is true of youth hockey players in Canada why wouldn’t it be true of kindergarten boys in Boston, or San Francisco, whose parents are hoping they will grow up to be President one day. That makes sense right?

I asked one admissions officer what he says to the parents of boys entering kindergarten about the idea of holding their son back. He said, “I often tell parents that if allowing their children to be on the older end, rather than the younger end, results in any of the following: starting for a sports team as opposed to sitting on the bench; being one of the first to drive as opposed to one of the last (huge social advantage); the possibility they will be an A and B student as opposed to a B and C student; (for the dads) getting the girl or not getting the girl, then it is worth considering.” (All the sources for this article asked to remain anonymous given the sensitive nature of their day-to-day relationships with children and their parents.)

But a different admissions officer disagreed strongly: “The trend is disgusting, but it fits with any arms race or conflict cycle model. I’ve been wondering more broadly about what age we push kids through all the school factories. All they have in common is age and since they all develop at different ages, that system often makes little sense anyway.” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/tom-matlack/redshirting-kindergarten_1_b_859824.html

There is a huge debate regarding “redshirting.”

Sam Wang, an associate professor of molecular biology and neuroscience at Princeton, Sandra Aamodt, a former editor in chief of Nature Neuroscience. Wang and Aamodt have written “Welcome to Your Child’s Brain: How the Mind Grows From Conception to College.” They have written an interesting New York Times opinion piece, Delay Kindergarten at Your Child’s Peril:

Teachers may encourage redshirting because more mature children are easier to handle in the classroom and initially produce better test scores than their younger classmates. In a class of 25, the average difference is equivalent to going from 13th place to 11th. This advantage fades by the end of elementary school, though, and disadvantages start to accumulate. In high school, redshirted children are less motivated and perform less well. By adulthood, they are no better off in wages or educational attainment — in fact, their lifetime earnings are reduced by one year.

In short, the analogy to athletics does not hold. The question we should ask instead is: What approach gives children the greatest opportunity to learn?

Parents who want to give their young children an academic advantage have a powerful tool: school itself. In a large-scale study at 26 Canadian elementary schools, first graders who were young for their year made considerably more progress in reading and math than kindergartners who were old for their year (but just two months younger). In another large study, the youngest fifth-graders scored a little lower than their classmates, but five points higher in verbal I.Q., on average, than fourth-graders of the same age. In other words, school makes children smarter.

The benefits of being younger are even greater for those who skip a grade, an option available to many high-achieving children. Compared with nonskippers of similar talent and motivation, these youngsters pursue advanced degrees and enter professional school more often. Acceleration is a powerful intervention, with effects on achievement that are twice as large as programs for the gifted. Grade-skippers even report more positive social and emotional feelings.

These differences may come from the increased challenges of a demanding environment. Learning is maximized not by getting all the answers right, but by making errors and correcting them quickly. In this respect, children benefit from being close to the limits of their ability. Too low an error rate becomes boring, while too high an error rate is unrewarding. A delay in school entry may therefore still be justified if children are very far behind their peers, leaving a gap too broad for school to allow effective learning.

Parents want to provide the best environment for their child, but delaying school is rarely the right approach. The first six years of life are a time of tremendous growth and change in the developing brain. Synapses, the connections between brain cells, are undergoing major reorganization. Indeed, a 4-year-old’s brain uses more energy than it ever will again. Brain development cannot be put on pause, so the critical question is how to provide the best possible context to support it.

For most children, that context is the classroom. Disadvantaged children have the most to lose from delayed access to school. For low-income children, every month of additional schooling closes one-tenth of the gap between them and more advantaged students. Even without redshirting, a national trend is afoot to move back the cutoff birthdays for the start of school. Since the early 1970s, the date has shifted by an average of six weeks, to about Oct. 14 from about Nov. 25. This has the effect of making children who would have been the youngest in one grade the oldest in the next-lower grade; it hurts children from low-income families the most.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/25/opinion/sunday/dont-delay-your-kindergartners-start.html

Most parents no matter their class or ethnicity want to give their children a good start in life. A key building block to a solid education foundation is early childhood learning. There are many different considerations. The overall considerations should center on the quality of the early childhood learning and whether it meets the needs of the child. For some, those concerns take a back seat to whether the preschool is the “right” place rather than the appropriate place. “Right” meaning where the parents and child can mingle with the “right” sort or type or meet the parent’s definition of a successful life. The focus of my comment is to urge parents to look at what will in the long term make a happy, healthy, well adjusted child who is secure enough to take on the challenges of life. Nothing in life is guaranteed, even to the most well connected. How one copes with survival in a world that often presents challenges, which upend what people thought they knew, depends on internal fortitude and a sense of security.  

Resources:

Kindergarten Redshirting http://www.education.com/topic/kindergarten-redshirting/

The Redshirting Debate Continues http://parenting.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/09/26/the-redshirting-debate-continues/

The Pros and Cons of Holding Out http://www.wceruw.org/news/coverStories/pros_cons_holding_out.php

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©

Jonathan Cohn’s ‘The Two Year Window’

18 Dec

Moi has got plenty to say about hypocrites of the conservative persuasion, those who espouse family values, but don’t live up to them or who support corporate welfare while tossing out that old bromide that individuals must pull themselves up by their bootstraps even if they don’t have shoes.

Because of changes in family structure and the fact that many children are now being raised by single parents, who often lack the time or resources to care for them, we as a society must make children and education a priority, even in a time of lack. I know that many of the conservative persuasion will harp on about personal responsibility, yada, yada, yada. Moi promotes birth control and condoms, so don’t harp on that. Fact is children, didn’t ask to be born to any particular parent or set of parents.

Jonathan Cohn reports about an unprecedented experiment which occurred in Romanian orphanages in the New Republic article, The Two Year Window. There are very few experiments involving humans because of ethical considerations.

Nelson had traveled to Romania to take part in a cutting-edge experiment. It was ten years after the fall of the Communist dictator Nicolae Ceauşescu, whose scheme for increasing the country’s population through bans on birth control and abortion had filled state-run institutions with children their parents couldn’t support. Images from the orphanages had prompted an outpouring of international aid and a rush from parents around the world to adopt the children. But ten years later, the new government remained convinced that the institutions were a good idea—and was still warehousing at least 60,000 kids, some of them born after the old regime’s fall, in facilities where many received almost no meaningful human interaction. With backing from the MacArthur Foundation, and help from a sympathetic Romanian official, Nelson and colleagues from Harvard, Tulane, and the University of Maryland prevailed upon the government to allow them to remove some of the children from the orphanages and place them with foster families. Then, the researchers would observe how they fared over time in comparison with the children still in the orphanages. They would also track a third set of children, who were with their original parents, as a control group.

In the field of child development, this study—now known as the Bucharest Early Intervention Project—was nearly unprecedented. Most such research is performed on animals, because it would be unethical to expose human subjects to neglect or abuse. But here the investigators were taking a group of children out of danger. The orphanages, moreover, provided a sufficiently large sample of kids, all from the same place and all raised in the same miserable conditions. The only variable would be the removal from the institutions, allowing researchers to isolate the effects of neglect on the brain….

Drury, Nelson, and their collaborators are still learning about the orphans. But one upshot of their work is already clear. Childhood adversity can damage the brain as surely as inhaling toxic substances or absorbing a blow to the head can. And after the age of two, much of that damage can be difficult to repair, even for children who go on to receive the nurturing they were denied in their early years. This is a revelation with profound implication—and not just for the Romanian orphans.

APPROXIMATELY SEVEN MILLION American infants, toddlers, and preschoolers get care from somebody other than a relative, whether through organized day care centers or more informal arrangements, according to the Census Bureau. And much of that care is not very good. One widely cited study of child care in four states, by researchers in Colorado, found that only 8 percent of infant care centers were of “good” or “excellent” quality, while 40 percent were “poor.” The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development has found that three in four infant caregivers provide only minimal cognitive and language stimulation—and that more than half of young children in non-maternal care receive “only some” or “hardly any” positive caregiving. http://www.tnr.com/article/economy/magazine/97268/the-two-year-window?page=0,0&passthru=YzBlNDJmMmRkZTliNDgwZDY4MDhhYmIwMjYyYzhlMjg

Because the ranks of poor children are growing in the U.S., this study portends some grave challenges not only for particular children, but this society and this country. Adequate early learning opportunities and adequate early parenting is essential for proper development in children.

 

Michael A. Fletcher reported in the Washington Post article, Nearly one in six in poverty in the U.S.; children hit hard, Census says:

The economic turmoil has pummeled children, for whom the poverty rate last year — 22 percent — was at the highest level since 1993. The rate for black children climbed to nearly 40 percent, and more than a third of Hispanic children lived in poverty, the Census Bureau reported. The rate for white children was reported as above 12 percent.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/us-poverty-rate-hits-52-year-high-at-151-percent/2011/09/13/gIQApnMePK_story.html

Cohn recognizes that in a time of economic distress it is difficult to call for massive spending on parent support and early learning programs, but that is what he says the implications of the Romanian study are if early damage to poor children is to be avoided. A conference where MIT was a participant described the economic benefit of early childhood programs NPR has an audio debate about the MIT report

Legislators are correct in their prudence about the budget, but the question is whether they are being, as the saying goes, “penny wise and pound foolish.” So much of economic development and full employment is based on an educated and skilled population. Third world countries are undeveloped for many reasons including unsustainable debt, corruption, and being disadvantaged in the world system of trade. One of the primary reasons that third world countries are third world is the limited education opportunity for the majority of their population.

Politics has always been a tough business, the Ides of March is one example of how brutal politics can be. Many times those who serve do so under tough conditions, often with little thanks. Still it is time to recognize that there must be some investments made for the future and early childhood programs are an example of necessary investment. Just as there are those who reflex ably say no to school choice, there are those who just as reflex ably say no to investing in this country’s future.

Cohn’s article is a must read.

Resources:

The changing face of poverty
Millions of Americans live in poverty, more families are suffering and hunger is seen growing. (more)

Hard at work but can’t buy food
While the ranks of the working poor grow in number, should employers step up to stop the trend? (more)

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©