People are beginning to wake up to the Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSI). And, people are saying, they’re just standards, what’s the harm? In fact, in some states, including Wyoming, the new standards are better than the standards we had according to Sandra Stosky , Professor Emerita at the University of Arkansas, as stated at the Round Table event in Cheyenne. Educational standards got their start in the 1990’s. They are not good or bad, they are like a road map; their purpose is to help you get to where you want to go. However, is that always the case?
You see, people have always known that kids are not grown-ups. They have to learn to walk, talk, color in the lines, share, etc. In fact, a well-known psychologist, Piaget, has determined that there are certain phases we all go through as we develop:
- Sensorimotor Stage (about 18-24 months): Young ones at this age are only aware of what is right in front of them. That’s why they like “peek-a-boo.” They are learning how things react-which is why they drop their cup 10,000 times. They are learning by trial and error. As they learn to speak, they begin to grasp that symbols mean something. This is clearly illustrated in the movie, “The Miracle Worker,” when Helen finally gets that spelling out water is equal to the same stuff as what comes out of the pump. Memory is beginning to develop.
- Preoperational Stage (2-ish–approximately the age of 7 years): Children begin to think about things symbolically. They love to use their new found imaginations. They are NOT ready to grasp cause and effect, time or comparisons (Which is bigger? Is not understandable yet).
- Concrete Operational Stage (7-12-ish years): This is when logic develops. Children begin to be aware of things beyond themselves and they are able to “get” that 3+4=7 so 4+3=7 and 7-3=4 so 7-4=3.
- Formal Operational Stage (around 12 and on up): This is the final, formal stage. Here children can link symbols to abstract ideas. This is when algebra can be taught. They also begin to think about abstract ideas such as love, relationships, fairness, etc.
It has been determined by many childhood development experts that several of the standards are in fact not developmentally appropriate, especially at the primary level. This can in fact harm children. What some people call “rigor” others would call impossible and/or cruel. One such group of people are the Alliance for Childhood. In their “Joint Statement of Early Childhood Health and Education Professional on the Common Core Standards Initiative,” they had 4 points of contention with the CCSI:
- “Such standards will lead to long hours of instruction in literacy and math. Young children learn best in active, hands-on ways and in the context of meaningful real-life experiences. New research shows that didactic instruction of discrete reading and math skills has already pushed play-based learning out of many kindergartens. But the current proposal goes well beyond most existing state standards in requiring, for example, that every kindergartner be able to write “all upper- and lowercase letters” and “read with sufficient accuracy and fluency to support comprehension.”
- They will lead to inappropriate standardized testing. Current state standards for young children have led to the heavy use of standardized tests in kindergarten and the lower grades, despite their unreliability of assessing children under age eight. The proposed core standards will intensify inappropriate testing in place of broader observational assessments that better serve young children’s needs.
- Didactic instruction and testing will crowd out other important areas of learning. Young children’s learning must go beyond literacy and math. They need to learn about families and communities, to take on challenges, and to develop social, emotional, problem-solving, self-regulation, and perspective-taking skills. Overuse of didactic instruction and testing cuts off children’s initiative, curiosity, and imagination, limiting their later engagement in school and the workplace, not to mention responsible citizenship. And it interferes with the growth of healthy bodies and essential sensory and motor skills-all best developed through playful and active hands-on learning.
- There is little evidence that such standards for young children lead to later success. While an introduction to books in early childhood is vital, research on the links between the intensive teaching of discrete reading skills in kindergarten and later success in inconclusive at best. Many of the countries with top-performing high-school students do not begin formal schooling until age six or seven. We must test these ideas more thoroughly before establishing nationwide policies and practices.”
They then go on to say that they desire the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CSSO) to suspend the CCSI for primary grades. Where upon, many states, including Wyoming, are pushing to make preschool mandatory. This document was signed by over 130 childhood experts from all over the country.
Okay…so which standards are considered developmentally inappropriate? Thanks to Dr. Karen R. Effrem, Md, and others (such as Sandra Stotsky) for researching the standards to determine their appropriateness. Here are a few examples:
- Math.Content.K.OA.A.5 (kindergarten) Fluently add subtract within 5 Problem: Skips teaching of counting and one to one correspondence
- MACC.1.MD.1.1 (first grade) Measure lengths indirectly and by iterating length units-order three objects by length; compare the lengths of two objects indirectly by using a third object. Problem: This ought to come after the age of 7.
- MA.CC.1.NBT.3.4 (first grade) Place value understanding and properties of operations to add and subtract –Add within 100, including adding a two-digit number and a one digit number, and adding a two-digit number and a multiple of 10, using concrete models or drawings and strategies based on place value, properties of operations, and/or the relationship between addition and subtraction; relate the strategy to a written method and explain the reasoning used. Understand that in adding two-digit numbers, one adds tens and tens, ones and ones; and sometimes it is necessary to compose a ten. Problem: Confusing and open to interpretation.
- LACC.K.RL.2.4 (kindergarten) Ask and answer questions about unknown words in a text. Problem: How does one urge a first grader to ask about a word they don’t know? They don’t have that reasoning yet.
- LACC.1.RL.2.5 (first grade) Explain major differences between books that tell stories and books that give information, drawing on a wide reading of a range of text types.) Problem: They haven’t really learned to read yet and so how would they know genre?
- LACC>2.RI.3.8 (second grade) Describe how reasons support specific points the author makes in a text. Problem: I don’t understand what they are looking for….
- LACC.910>RI.1.3 (third grade) Analyze how the author unfolds an analysis or series of ideas or events, including the order in which the points are made, how they are introduced and developed, and the connections that are drawn between them. Problem: Dr. Stotsky says: Ninth graders can’t do this.
- RI..5.5 (fifth grade) Compare and contrast the overall structure (e.g. chronology, comparison, cause/effect, problem/solution) of events, ideas, concepts, or information in two or more texts. Problem: This is confusing because kids are asked to compare two texts or more and asked to do two or more tasks. Kids at this age can only handle three directions at a time.
- L.K.1 (kindergarteners) (When speaking) Produce and expand complete sentences in shared language activities. Problem: Nouns and verbs in kindergarten? They are just at the very beginning of understanding symbols: /b/ = b as in boy. A complete sentence needs a noun and verb: Sam eats. They can’t understand the definition of these terms.
Another good source of information is Dr. Megan Koschnick, a child psychologist who is against the standards for their inappropriateness and their potential damage to children. I urge you to watch her You Tube presentation (She is sucking on a cough drop because she was about to lose her voice, forgive her for that).
In sum, it is clear that the writers of the standards, at least at the early grades, did not have child development experts involved. The standards are asking children to perform tasks that they simply are not ready for. This is not rigor, it is cruel and unacceptable. I wonder if Piatget is taught to educators anymore…
- Side note, there was a vote to provide funding to add an addition to the Capital to house the preschool administrators as well as other expansions (told to me by the WDE (Wyoming Department of Education)). Currently, preschool is under the umbrella of the Department of Health. There is a push to make preschool mandatory so the government can have your children from the age of four.
“Give me 4 years to teach the children, and the seed I have sown, will never be uprooted” -Vladimir Lenin