Quality Counts 2007: From Cradle to Career: Connecting American Education From Birth to Adulthood, the 11th installment of Education Week’s annual report on state education reform was posted this week at the Education Week’s website.
From the Press Conference announcing the report, author Lynn Olson stated:
Quality Counts 2007 begins to track state efforts to create seamless education systems from early childhood to the world of work by looking at performance across the various sectors, and at state efforts to define students’ readiness to succeed from one stage to the next. He continues on to explain that the new Chance-for-Success Index ” provides a state-focused perspective on the importance of education throughout a person’s lifetime. It dramatically illustrates why states need to pay attention to human capital development at every step along the way if they want to have a vibrant economy.
School-to-Work, Outcome Based Education, Goals 2000, and reports such as Cradle to Grave continue to insist that the federal government can demand more of parents and pile more and more adult like responsibilities on babies through teens. Each year they continue to pile standard upon standard upon the backs of young people in an attempt to raise the bar and produce better workers. Within school reform many have attempted to imitate home education via the new public cyber schools, but even they are public schools at home that still fall under the NCLB mandated cast iron cookie cutter standards. These standards continue to weigh heavily on the backs of older children and to now insist on state standards for each state for preschoolers as well seems to border on abuse in my estimation. Do they have proof positive that these actions will cause no harm?
Before adding yet more standards, shouldn’t we stop and evaluate the affects that the already heavy standards have had on young minds and bodies?
A September 11, 2006 NEWSWEEK article, The New First Grade: Too Much Too Soon, by Peg Tyre reports that, “Kids as young as 6 are tested, and tested again, to ensure they’re making sufficient progress. Then there’s homework, more workbooks and tutoring.”
The article is five pages long and it is well worth the read. Here are just a few key points:
In the last decade, the earliest years of schooling have become less like a trip to “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” and more like SAT prep. Thirty years ago first grade was for learning how to read. Now, reading lessons start in kindergarten and kids who don’t crack the code by the middle of the first grade get extra help. Instead of story time, finger painting, tracing letters and snack, first graders are spending hours doing math work sheets and sounding out words in reading groups. In some places, recess, music, art and even social studies are being replaced by writing exercises and spelling quizzes. Kids as young as 6 are tested, and tested againsome every 10 days or soto ensure they’re making sufficient progress. After school, there’s homework, and for some, educational videos, more workbooks and tutoring, to help give them an edge.
Some scholars and policymakers see clear downsides to all this pressure. Around third grade, Hultgren says, some of the most highly pressured learners sometimes “burn out. They began to resist. They didn’t want to go along with the program anymore.” In Britain, which adopted high-stakes testing about six years before the United States did, parents and school boards are trying to dial back the pressure. In Wales, standardized testing of young children has been banned. Andrew Hargreaves, an expert on international education reform and professor at Boston College, says middle-class parents there saw that “too much testing too early was sucking the soul and spirit out of their children’s early school experiences.
In my opinion, there are many at our Federal and State Capitals who seem to believe that they have “the plan” that will best serve America’s children. It seems to me that it is our fundamental responsibility to make every effort to assure that no one, (not even those attempting to improve “human capital”) should, suck the soul and spirit from our children. Just as those objecting in Wales, many have been saying no as well in the U.S. via this petition calling for the dismantling of the No Child Left Behind Act.
Many times those in education reform refer to the successes they have seen in home education and some even attempt to duplicate them, but I’m afraid they keep missing WHY home education is so often successful. Home Education provides each individual child the opportunity to run, jump play and enjoy their childhood. They are not viewed as potential “human capital”, but as human beings with the fundamental right to live and learn in a way that best suits them. Home Education allows the child’s spirit and soul to soar and to grow. Home Education allows each family the freedom to nurture each individual child in a way that best meets their needs. The standard is what is best for the child, not a federally mandated one size fits all directive. The minute you try to legislate it something that replicates home education, you lose a basic fundamental freedom and begin to squash the joy that comes with following one’s heart, playing and learning when ready rather than when dictated how and when by the state.
Let’s just say no to any childhood experiments and say yes to what works – let’s just let them be little!
posted by Mary N.