The disturbing shift underway in early childhood classrooms
August 02, 2013
Increasingly we hear that academic work, including test prep, is reaching down into the lowest grades, even preschool. Here's a post with teacher concerns on the issue, written by Geralyn Bywater McLaughlin, Nancy Carlsson-Paige, and Diane E. Levin. They run the nonprofit called Defending the Early Years, which seeks to rally educators to take action on policies that affect the education of young children. DEY is a non-profit project of the Survival Education Fund, a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt educational organization based in Watertown, Massachusetts. You can read more stories from teachers at the DEY website, on the "Voices from the Field" page.
"We spend the majority of the day testing one way or another." - A second grade public school teacher from North Carolina
A disturbing shift is underway in early childhood classrooms around the country. Many classrooms, especially those that depend on public funds, look more and more like classrooms for older children where standards, testing, and accountability rule. Federal and state mandates are pushing academic skills and testing down to younger children, even preschoolers. These days, there is less and less emphasis on promoting child development, active, play-based learning, and hands-on exploration for our nation's youngest learners.
At our nonprofit project, Defending the Early Years (DEY), we launched an online survey to find out what teachers think about how current education mandates are affecting their classrooms, their teaching, and children's learning. Over the course of the 2012-2013 school year, 185 early childhood classroom teachers (Pre-K - 3rd Grade) from across 31 states voluntarily came to our website to document their experiences. Overwhelmingly, these teachers reported that recent policy changes have hindered - not helped - their young students. Although they don't represent a randomly selected group, these teachers are from a variety of early childhood settings including public and private schools, Head Start classrooms, and center-based preschools who took their own time to share their experiences and stories with DEY. A large majority of the teachers completing this survey say that playful learning is disappearing from their classrooms, and that developmentally inappropriate activities and assessments are now at the forefront of daily classroom life. Teachers in public schools expressed the most concern.