Monthly Archives: August 2012


This is the platform for Early Childhood, presented at the Save Our Schools People’s Convention in Washington D.C..

Educators, parents, and anyone with concerns about the education of young children, what are your thoughts about this document?

DEY Early Childhood Platform
Posted on August 13, 2012 by geralyndeyproject
Note: DEY’s Senior Adviser Nancy Carlsson-Paige and our National Advisory Board member Deborah Meier recently presented our early childhood platform at the Save Our Schools People’s Education Convention, where folks were hugely supportive and helped to brainstorm ways to use the platform as we move forward.

Platform for Early Childhood Education

There has been an increasing pushdown of the academic skills to 3, 4 and 5 year olds that used to be associated with 1st – 3rd graders. This results in fewer of the direct play and hands-on experiences that lay the foundations for later academic success. At the same time, there is an increasing over-focus on rote academic skills in the early elementary grades. This includes more and more teacher talk rather than child talk in early childhood classrooms and often involves teacher-led instruction focused largely on memorizing facts and information. Young children need to see facts within meaningful contexts, to invent their own ideas and problems to explore and solve, to share their own solutions. These practices reflect a loss of trust in the intellectual capacities of young children – and an institutionalized crushing of their insatiable love of learning.

We’re forgetting that human beings are, from the moment they are born, experts at learning. Before they enter school, they have already discovered vast worlds of language and knowledge. Human beings are uniquely designed to be makers and creators – artists and craftsmen. And intellectuals.

The majority of early childhood classrooms today are driven by myriad of developmentally inappropriate standards-based tests and check lists that ignore children’s needs, capacities and cultures, and do not honor their uniqueness as learners. This brings great harm to our nation’s children by portraying them as deficient. The heaviest burden falls on those who live in poverty and with the fewest resources. As these trends take hold there has been a dumbing down of teaching and teacher knowledge, which is being increasingly replaced by commercial scripts that can be followed mindlessly. Less prepared teachers who are more willing to follow commercial scripts and manage data are entering the field of early childhood at the same time that increasingly frustrated experienced teachers are leaving. Older mentors who once wisely guided young teachers are fast disappearing.

If one purpose of public education, especially in a democracy, is to develop our capacity to exercise wise judgment when confronted with real world dilemmas, then we need to encourage young children to develop good judgment. They need adult models who demonstrate what exercising judgment is all about and who encourage children to ask questions, apply what they already know to new situations, use their imaginations, and think independently. In classrooms in which skills and knowledge are broken into small skill subsets and factlets and taught directly to kids, such judgment becomes suffocated from the start.

While many of the misguided practices we see in schools today took place in earlier times, especially in the education of poor children, they were not enforced by punitive state and federal policy or driven by frequent, costly, and inappropriate assessment tools, as is the case today—nor begun at such a young age.

What is the answer?
1. Eliminate labeling and ranking of children based on standardized tests. It’s long been known to experts that tests for young children have very low reliability, are dependent on too many random factors, and are impacted by class, race and home culture.

2. Use assessments that are ongoing and evolving and connected closely to observations of children, their development and learning, and to a child-centered curriculum.

3. Provide classrooms where teachers engage in well-thought out and intentional extensions/expansions of children’s play and learning in ways that demonstrate knowledge and respect for each child’s uniqueness.

4. Provide children with literacy experiences that include storytelling, quality children’s literature, and dramatic reenactments that grow out of their experiences rather than activities that isolate and drill discrete skills.

5. See and appreciate what children can do and understand without focusing on learning everything earlier. Offer classrooms where children are not praised, rewarded or criticized because they are slower or faster than others. Research tells us, earlier does not prove to be better.

6. Provide a school environment that respects the language and culture of children and their families, encourages families to take ownership, and insures that their history and experiences are included and valued.

7. Offer school schedules that provide ample time for families and school personnel to meet and work together. Including family members in meaningful ways in the school’s governance structure so that they and children feel their voices are being heard.

8. Realize the critical role of early childhood teachers, whose work is as important as that of those who teach PhD candidates, and compensate them as such. We must reverse the assumption that the younger the children we teach, the less knowledgeable and competent teachers need to be.

9. Implement a school pedagogy that understands that children are intrinsically active learners from the time they are born and that learning happens in and out of a school building in unique ways. Adults don’t need to get children “ready to learn”; they don’t have to reinforce skills and facts stressed in school at home.

10. Provide children and families with access to high quality, affordable child care and after-school care.

What Can We Do?

Take this platform to your neighbor, children’s teachers, parent groups, school board and legislative bodies. As them to support efforts to bring best practice back to the education of young children.

Stay informed and involved with the organizations that advocate for young children – such as Defending the Early Years (, Alliance for Childhood (, Save Our Schools ( and Parents Across America ( (Also check out local organizations such as Citizens for Public Schools in Massachusetts

Resist reinforcing the school’s agenda – drilling for skills – and replace it with what centuries of wisdom and research has taught us: children learn when they are deeply engaged in self-selected, self-directed and playful activities. Provide young children with space and time to play at home and in the neighborhood. You don’t need expensive toys or technology to support their development. They need the natural world, simple props, good friends and appreciative adults.

Notice and enjoy all the things the children you know CAN do.



Frustration: a feeling of dissatisfaction, often accompanied by anxiety or depression, resulting from unfulfilled needs or unresolved problems.

Frustration: to balk or defeat in an endeavor; to induce feelings of discouragement, to make ineffectual: bring to nothing. To impede, obstruct or to make invalid or of no effect

My right arm has been in a cast since the morning of July 7th when I tripped on my front step and clumsily crashed onto the pavement. Being right-handed, this restriction on almost every little detail of daily life has been, to put it mildly, frustrating and often humiliating.

Lucky for me, this shall pass. In a few weeks the cast will come off and I’ll begin physical therapy. I’m hoping that my physical therapist will be endowed with a wealth of patience. I know from past experience that I am no “jock” and that my body does not bounce back quickly. I hope the physical therapist will work with me on my own playing ground. I hope that I don’t experience feelings of humiliation and failure by not meeting a generically expected timeline on my road to recovery.

My experience makes me think of young children and the Common Core Standards. Should each kindergarten child be expected to “Compose and decompose numbers from 11 to 19 into ten ones and some further ones, e.g., by using objects or drawings, and record each composition or decomposition by a drawing or equation (such as 18 = 10 + 8); understand that these numbers are composed of ten ones and one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, or nine ones.” by the end of the school year?

What of the children who have different styles and rates of learning? Might we be creating an environment that leads to feelings of dissatisfaction, depression and anxiety for many children when we set a time-line, complete with a numerical rating of 1,2,3 and 4, for meeting standards that can be developmentally inappropriate expectations for all children to meet at the same time?

Don’t we want children (and adults going through physical therapy!) to feel supported and believed in? Isn’t it important that we let children, and their parents, know that we have confidence that they will “Read emergent-reader texts with purpose and understanding” and “Isolate and pronounce the initial, medial vowel, and final sounds (phonemes) in three-phoneme (consonant-vowel-consonant, or CVC) words” but not necessarily by a given date that has been selected by a group of people they have never met and who know nothing about each child’s particular likes, dislikes, strengths and challenges?

I know that, with time, practice, the support and encouragement of friends and family and the guidance of a patient, trained physical therapist, my hand will get strong again. It might take six months, a year or perhaps longer. But the diagnoses and expectation is that there will eventually be recovery.

Don’t we need to have similar expectations for children? We can and should have the high standards for children presented in the Common Core Standards without turning education away from the exciting challenge that it can be and into the frustrating race that it has become!