Thursday, August 7, 2014

Child's Play vs Common Core

This story aired recently on National Public Radio. It reports on a study of children by Canadian scientists that finds that unstructured play may be more important to a child's healthy brain development than much of the highly structured curriculum being mandated in our schools today for very young children. The problem for schools is that now with the forced implementation of highly structured Common Core compliant lessons, many very young children are losing unstructured play time. The Canadian scientists believe that unstructured play with other children may be part of a genetically directed maturation process that occurs in humans that is crucial to proper brain development. The researchers believe that any restriction or redirecting of these natural developmental activities may stifle or stunt healthy brain development.

The researchers found that school systems that provide regular time for recess within the school day, had students who performed better on standardized academic tests. They concluded that the students who were allowed adequate time to participate in unstructured play with other children  seemed to have superior brain development because of the natural development of effective social strategies. The trend in the U.S. with more and more emphasis on strict academic skills, is that recess time is being shortened to provide more time for test prepping.

To further complicate the problem, over 500 early childhood educators sounded the warning very early during the consideration of Common Core that much of the material required by Common Core for very young children is not age appropriate. Many parents have complained that their children have been unnecessarily traumatized by being pushed to do school work well beyond their maturity and comprehension level.

Some educators believe that much of what is expected of young children in Common Core seems to clash with the findings of highly acclaimed French Psychologist Jean Piaget. See this article by Arthur  Getzel from the blog, The Public Educator.

The more I learn about the development of the Common Core State Standards and about the primary authors of this scheme, the more I realize that our teachers and students are being victimized by this experiment in the implementation of questionable education theories.  These self assured academics led by David Coleman have created standards based upon what they think all students should know as a prerequisite to attending college going back as far as kindergarten! They have no data whatsoever that demonstrates that these systems will be effective with all students. But as academics who will never personally have to demonstrate their theories in a real classroom, they can simply blame the real teachers when their system fails to provide the intended results. The creators of Common Core have set up a scenario where only the teachers and students can fail but the designers of the system are never held accountable. Since the Common Core is simply a set of standards and not a curriculum, the authors of Common Core can always claim that if teachers had just used the right methods and really held all children to high expectations, all students should have achieved the standards! Arne Duncan now also believes that students with all types of disabilities will thrive in an environment of high expectations and more testing.

But the most frustrating thing for experienced educators is to witness the takeover of public education in our country by these self appointed elites funded by some of the most powerful philanthropists in the world. Arne Duncan has appointed Gates Foundation operatives to top positions at the US DOE, and here in Louisiana,  LABI (the big business lobby) now directs the actions of BESE and the State Superintendent who faithfully order the implementation of the CCSS without ever once questioning the educational soundness of the program. John White is now determined that he will implement some type of Common Core testing next Spring no matter what!

I don't often agree with Governor Jindal, but I totally agree with him on this quote in today's Common Core story in The Advocate:
“Common Core and PARCC supporters are now arguing that without a test in place for the upcoming school year, teachers don’t know what to teach,” Jindal said in a prepared statement. “If Common Core is just about standards though, then why would the superintendent and BESE president be worried about one test? The answer is because it’s about curriculum. Tests drive curriculum for the school year.”
Well for once Governor, you've finally hit upon the truth!

To hear our BESE president Chas Roemer proclaim confidently that Common Core will help our children to excel and compete with the best scholars in the world makes my head spin! Roemer thinks "The biggest cancer in our state is low expectations".  He apparently thinks that children, no matter their background and innate abilities will somehow respond magically to the CCSS expectations. What an amazing scientific discovery! The ignorance of the people who are trying to run education in our state never ceases to amaze me. Does anyone really believe that Chas Roemer has any idea about what is actually contained in the CCSS? Do the big business bosses at LABI have even an inkling of what is expected of children in meeting the Common Core standards?

Wouldn't it be a scream to find out that little children actually learn more by unstructured play with other children than they learn in the Common Core pressure cooker? Of course we hasten to explain that the study referred to at the beginning of this post really just emphasizes the need for a balance between structured instruction and unstructured play for healthy child development.

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