Would you consider sending your child to a pediatrician who was required to implement tests and procedures mandated by the state and created by businessmen?

Dear Bill and Melinda ~

As a teacher of kindergarten, I have been deeply concerned about the Common Core State Standards being inappropriate for early childhood.  After reading a post by Valerie Strauss, I realized I was not alone.  I talked this over with our team here and a question comes to mind:

Would you consider sending your child to a pediatrician who was required to implement tests and procedures mandated by the state and created by businessmen?

Teachers Letters to Bill Gates - Common Core for Babies

We liked the list of questions posed by the authors in Valerie’s post so we have included them here as well.

We too, are concerned about the un-democratic process that has been used to hatch the plans for the nation’s Early Learning Initiative.  We are also concerned about the Common Core State Standards initiative and the impact of these standards on young children.

The day the Common Core Initiative was announced you said:

“With the states’ release today of a set of clear and consistent academic standards, our nation is one step closer to supporting effective teaching in every classroom, charting a path to college and careers for all students, and developing the tools to help all children stay motivated and engaged in their own education. The more states that adopt these college and career based standards, the closer we will be to sharing innovation across state borders and becoming more competitive as a country.”
– Bill Gates, Co-Chair, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

And in a document, Common Core Solutions put out by McGraw-Hill, you were sourced as big funders of the Common Core Initiative:

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
As many people work to design curriculum and instructional materials for the common standards, the chief
challenges are to maintain the project’s focus on fewer, clearer, and higher standards and to ensure high-quality materials, according to Carina Wong, who oversees college-readiness grants at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
The philanthropy awarded $19 million in grants for development of such materials in February and expects to award another round by early next year.  They were involved in drafting, evaluating, and winning support for the standards.  [Teachers’ Letters to Bill Gates, emphasis added]

(From Curriculum Producers Work to Reflect Common Standards Nov 2010 EdWeek)
“The Foundation adds that the Common Core will become useful to teachers and policy makers only when it’s part of a larger system of next-generation assessments that track how much students know and how well they know it.

The Gates Foundation will spend an estimated $354 million between 2010 and 2014 to:
• Help states build a framework that could be the foundation for a common proficiency conversation.
• Develop syllabi that lay out a course that connects the standards, assessments, and instruction but depends on teachers using their own creativity in the classroom.
• Seed new intermediaries for validation and item bank development and designing new models of professional development.
• Develop specifications for new technology-based instructional platforms that would help states deliver high-quality assessments aligned to the core standards and help districts acquire time-relevant data to improve instruction.
• Develop new ways of thinking about psychometric rules that guide tests in order to get higher quality and more valid items that can be used for large-scale assessment and accountability systems.
• Develop new scoring technology and new forms of diagnostic assessments.
• Explore how to support student academic success, build their academic tenacity, and surround them with responsive education environments.”

(From Tying Together the Common Core of Standards, Instruction, and Assessments http://www.pdkintl.org/kappan/k_v91/docs/k1002phi.pdf )

We write to you to ask you some important questions because  as stated above, you “ were involved in drafting, evaluating, and winning support for the standards.” 

You have also invested in pilot programs in Washington State’s early childhood called WaKIDS that is likely to become the nation’s model program, and are pushing an early childhood initiative.  We will ask you more questions about this program in a subsequent post.

In her aforementioned recent blog, The Answer Sheet by Valerie Strauss of the Washington Post“A Tough Critique of Common Core on Early Childhood Education” she included a post by Edward Miller and Nancy Carlsson-Paige, two leading experts in the field of early childhood education.  Strauss introduced her post by introducing these professionals:

The debate on the Common Core State Standards has in recent months centered around the issue of how much fiction high school students should read. Here’s a tough critique on the standards and how they relate to early childhood education. It was written by Edward Miller, a writer and teacher who lives in Wellfleet, Massachusetts. He is the co-author of “Crisis in the Kindergarten: Why Children Need to Play in School,” and you can reach him t ed@ed-at-large.com. Nancy Carlsson-Paige is professor emerita of early childhood education at Lesley University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She is the author of “Taking Back Childhood” and you can reach her ncarlsso@lesley.edu.

We, here at Teachers’ Letters to Bill Gates would like you to answer the following additional questions that were written earlier by these two outstanding early childhood experts, Edward Miller and Nancy Carlsson-Paige in Strauss’ Answer Sheet post:

  1. Why were early childhood professionals excluded from the Common Core Standards project?
  2. Why were the grave doubts of our most knowledgeable education and health experts missing from the official record of this undertaking?
  3. Would including them have forced the people driving this juggernaut to face serious criticism and questions about the legitimacy of the entire project?

Teachers Letters to Bill Gates - Edward Miller and Nancy Carlsson-Paige

Why were early childhood professionals excluded from the Common Core Standards project?  [Miller and Carlsson-Paige]

Recent critiques of the Common Core Standards by Marion Brady and John T. Spencer have noted that the process for creating the new K-12 standards involved too little research, public dialogue, or input from educators.

Nowhere was this more startlingly true than in the case of the early childhood standards—those imposed on kindergarten through grade 3. We reviewed the makeup of the committees that wrote and reviewed the Common Core Standards. In all, there were 135 people on those panels. Not a single one of them was a K-3 classroom teacher or early childhood professional.

It appears that early childhood teachers and child development experts were excluded from the K-3 standards-writing process.

When the standards were first revealed in March 2010, many early childhood educators and researchers were shocked. “The people who wrote these standards do not appear to have any background in child development or early childhood education,” wrote Stephanie Feeney of the University of Hawaii, chair of the Advocacy Committee of the National Association of Early Childhood Teacher Educators.

Miller and Carlsson-Paige go on to report on grave concerns over the fact that these standards are developmentally inappropriate for early childhood.  They have grave concerns about the K-3 Common Core State Standards, as to over 500 early childhood professionals.

But they don’t even mention a critically important statement opposing the K-3 standards, signed by more than 500 early childhood professionals. The Joint Statement of Early Childhood Health and Education Professionals on the Common Core Standards Initiative was signed by educators, pediatricians, developmental psychologists, and researchers, including many of the most prominent members of those fields.

Their statement reads in part:

 We have grave concerns about the core standards for young children…. The proposed standards conflict with compelling new research in cognitive science, neuroscience, child development, and early childhood education about how young children learn, what they need to learn, and how best to teach them in kindergarten and the early grades….

The statement’s four main arguments, below, are grounded in what we know about child development—facts that all education policymakers need to be aware of:

1.  The K-3 standards will lead to long hours of direct instruction in literacy and math.This kind of “drill and grill” teaching has already pushed active, play-based learning out of many kindergartens.

2. The standards will intensify the push for more standardized testing, which is highly unreliable for children under age eight.

3. Didactic instruction and testing will crowd out other crucial areas of young children’s learning: active, hands-on exploration, and developing social, emotional, problem-solving, and self-regulation skills—all of which are difficult to standardize or measure but are the essential building blocks for academic and social accomplishment and responsible citizenship.

4. There is little evidence that standards for young children lead to later success. The research is inconclusive; many countries with top-performing high-school students provide rich play-based, nonacademic experiences—not standardized instruction—until age six or seven.

The National Association for the Education of Young Children is the foremost professional organization for early education in the U.S. Yet it had no role in the creation of the K-3 Core Standards. The Joint Statement opposing the standards was signed by three past presidents of the NAEYC—David Elkind, Ellen Galinsky, and Lilian Katz—and by Marcy Guddemi, the executive director of the Gesell Institute of Human Development; Dr. Alvin Rosenfeld of Harvard Medical School; Dorothy and Jerome Singer of the Yale University Child Study Center; Dr. Marilyn Benoit, past president of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry; Professor Howard Gardner of the Harvard Graduate School of Education; and many others.

And so we ask:  

Why were the grave doubts of our most knowledgeable education and health experts missing from the official record of this undertaking? [Miller and Carlsson-Paige]

We also wonder, like Miller and Carlsson-Paige:

Would including them have forced the people driving this juggernaut to face serious criticism and questions about the legitimacy of the entire project? [Miller and Carlsson-Paige]

Common Core State Standards are receiving bi-partisan push-back now that word has begun to spread.  Today, over 10,000 teachers, parents, students, and community members protested in Albany, New York against the states’ ELA tests, created by your partner Pearson for Common Core.  This is the first state to roll-out the CCSS testing.  It has received a great deal of criticism from all of the people who were NOT included in the democratic process of creating these standards in the first place, the professionals.  So once again, we come back to our question that came to mind after we read Miller and Carlsson-Paige:

Would you consider sending your child to a pediatrician who was required to implement tests and procedures mandated by the state and created by businessmen?

Which leads us to ask a common sense question about the uncommon sense of Common Core:

If not, then why in the world would professional teachers want to implement Common Core State [sic] Standards?

Sincerely,

Teachers’ Letters To Bill Gates

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We are running for the following Renton Education Association positions because we believe in the following planks: Becca Ritchie, Candidate for REA President, Nelsen Middle School, Computer Tech Susan DuFresne, Candidate for Primary Executive Board, Maplewood Heights Elementary, Integrated Kindergarten ✅  Demanding a healthy work-load/life balance. ✅  Bargaining competitive professional compensation. ✅  Challenging the status quo test culture with: Less is more! ✅  Emphasizing our professional expertise. ✅  Prioritizing equity and access for all. ✅  Utilizing 2-way 21st century communication tools. ✅  Acting in solidarity with all unions. ✅  Supporting ALL members. ✅   Implementing developmentally appropriate K-3 curriculum/assessment.
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7 Responses to Would you consider sending your child to a pediatrician who was required to implement tests and procedures mandated by the state and created by businessmen?

  1. Naomi Katz says:

    Ironically, the analogy with pediatricians brings to mind another painful problem. The fact that we DO allow, our children’s doctors to impose tests and procedures mandated by a higher power and created by businessmen. It is called “managed care” any anyone in an HMO knows what this is like. The Common Core appears to be the HMO of education! No regard for truth when it com

    • livingbehindthegates says:

      Naomi, thank you for responding to our blog. Yes, there are many other areas impacted by privatization and austerity that have parallel issues with corporate education reforms. Your analogy is a good one! Please share our blog with teachers and encourage them to write letters to Bill and Melinda Gates here. We do hope that they will begin to reply to teachers’ questions here on our blog!

      Teachers’ Letters to Bill Gates

    • Karen R says:

      It is also called VACCINES.

  2. Dana Doyle says:

    As a seasoned early childhood educator and now professional development specialist, I applaud the content of this letter to Bill Gates. Because I am involved in Pre-k, I have recently attended many train the trainer presentations regarding implementation of the NY State Pre-k CCSS. I was horrified by the content of the presentations and fear deeply how this is going to change what we KNOW is developmentally appropriate practice. I am now involved in designing a training to link the Pre-k CCSS to DAP. I think it can be done, but would take a very savy teacher who knows how to facilitate play in a meaningful way. My experience so far is most pre-k teachers are not interpreting the standards in this way and have been forced to spend much of their day implementing drill and grill activities that are rote and teacher driven. When I ask teachers why they are doing this when they know it is not appropriate, the answer is, “that is what the parents want” or “we have to in order to meet the new kindergarten standards”. The push down into pre-k is in full force and early childhood education is under attack by those that have no clue. Thank you so much for your efforts to save early ed.

    Dana Doyle

    • livingbehindthegates says:

      Dana, thank you for your thoughtful reply to our blog. Please feel free to write your own letter with questions to Bill and Melinda Gates. You can type it here in the comments and we will be happy to re-blog your questions to them for you. We truly hope they will respond to teachers here.

      Please be sure to share this blog with other teachers and encourage them to do the same.

      Teachers’ Letters to Bill Gates

  3. Betsy Marshall says:

    I have taught pre-K through grade 5 over my 25 year career as a teacher. While I like the direction the Common Core math standards take teaching and learning during the intermediate years, I know from my experience as a pre-K teacher, that the standards, as written, are not appropriate for 3, 4, 5 and 6 year olds. There is nothing wrong with designing play activities that direct a child’s learning through exploration and conversation. But paper/pencil seat work is certainly inappropriate unless a child, when given the opportunity, expresses a desire to engage in such activities.

    • livingbehindthegates says:

      Betsy, thank you for your reply. From the response of more than 2 dozen New York Principals and the 10,000 + students, parents, teachers,and community members who protested in Albany, NY yesterday; I would say that the Common Core is not just inappropriate for K-3, but is inappropriate for all grade levels. Yes, the abstraction of math to paper/pencil at a kindergarten level is highly inappropriate, speaking as a kindergarten teacher myself.

      If you would take the time to respond in the form of a question, what would you ask Bill and Melinda Gates?

      We hope that you will share our blog with other teachers and continue to reply with your thoughts and questions. We will re-blog many of our readers’ responses in hope that the Gates will respond here.

      Teachers’ Letters To Bill Gates

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