Religion in School, Segregation,
Diverting Public Money to Privatization
ONLINE PRESCHOOL – AN OXYMORON
If you read only one blog entry from this medley, it should be this one.
The latest “reform” insanity is online preschool.
By preschool, I mean a developmentally appropriate environment where young children can experience social interaction, develop an understanding of literature by being read to, and have direct contact with the real world.
Developmentally appropriate does not mean that three- and four-year-olds do so-called “academic” work on worksheets or computers. It means approaching instruction based on research into how children develop and grow. Preschoolers need clay and water-tables, not worksheets. They need blocks, watercolors, and dress up clothes, not tablets and calculators. They need climbers, sandboxes, and slides, not standardized tests and “performance assessments.” They need to experience the world with their whole bodies and all of their senses.
Why then, would anyone think that young children would benefit from something called an “online preschool?”
We have tried it in Indiana. The legislature wasted $1 million for an online preschool…the same legislature that is filled with lawyers, businessmen, and career politicians who know nothing about early childhood education.
Peter Greene takes on online preschools in this post…including UPSTART, the program in use in Indiana.
Never mind that everything we know says this approach is wrong. Much research says that early academic gains are lost by third grade; some research says that pre-school academics actually make for worse long-term results. If most of your 5-year-olds are not ready for kindergarten, the problem is with your kindergarten, not your 5-year-olds.
Turning to technology does not help. A study released earlier this year by the School of Education at the University of California, Irvine, found that most “educational” apps aimed at children five and younger were developmentally inappropriate, ignoring what we know about how littles actually learn.
CHILD DEVELOPMENT AND TECHNOLOGY
Nancy Bailey discusses “disruption,” technology, and how “reformers” are finding new ways to damage the learning process.
Early childhood teachers express concern that tech is invading preschool education. We know that free play is the heart of learning.
But programs, like Waterford Early Learning, advertise online instruction including assessment for K-2. Their Upstart program advertises, At-home, online kindergarten readiness program that gives 4- and 5-year-old children early reading, math, and science lessons.
Technology is directed towards babies too! What will it mean to a child’s development if they stare at screens instead of picture books?
Defending the Early Years recently introduced a toolkit to help parents of young children navigate the use of technology with children. “Young Children in the Digital Age: A Parent’s Guide,” written by Nancy Carlsson-Paige, Ed.D., describes the kinds of learning experiences that will help them develop to be curious, engaged learners…
SOLVING THE SCREEN TIME PROBLEM FOR YOUR LITTLE ONE
Nancy Carlsson-Paige, senior advisor to Defending the Early Years, has written a guide for parents who are struggling with technology issues for their children. The Parent’s Guide is an easy to read summary of what young children need and how much screen time is appropriate. It includes tips on how to put the concepts into practice.
Many parents find it hard to make decisions about screen time for their kids because advice comes from different directions and often conflicts. In the field of child development, we have decades of theory and research that can be very helpful as a guide for screen and digital device use with young kids. These ideas can be a resource for you to depend on when you are trying to figure out about any screen, app, or digital device your child might want to use.
READING, NOT RELIGION, IN SCHOOL
We live in a pluralistic society…and the founders decided that every citizen has the right to their own religious beliefs. The nation’s judicial system, charged with interpreting the Constitution, has taught us that government must remain neutral in religious questions. To that end, public schools are not allowed to indoctrinate children in a particular religion. Some teachers and administrators try, but, while they believe they are doing “the work of the Lord” they are actually breaking the law of the land.
While teaching about religion is allowed, and beneficial, there are places for religious preaching in American life…the home…the church, not the public school.
The reason for this becomes clear when you stop and think about the mandate of public education in a pluralistic society. Public schools should give all kids an equal sense of belonging and respect their rights. In the United States, where religious freedom is woven into our cultural and historical DNA, thousands of religions have flourished — and a growing number of Americans choose no faith at all. School boards, principals and teachers must embrace this reality, and this means they must not be in the business of deciding which religious beliefs matter for students, and which don’t. Decisions about when, where, how and if we pray are among the most intimate and personal ones we make. They are for families and individuals to decide.
SEGREGATION YESTERDAY. SEGREGATION TODAY…
This is a long, but fascinating look at why and how our schools are still so segregated. You can even use the interactive chart to see how segregated your local school system is.
Will humans ever lose the “us” vs. “them” attitude. Americans haven’t lost it yet. People still move their families in order to get away from, and reduce the fear of “the other.” Sadly, we’re not yet mature enough to understand that we are all one people…on one planet.
Once you look at the school attendance zones this way, it becomes clearer why these lines are drawn the way they are. Groups with political clout — mainly wealthier, whiter communities — have pushed policies that help white families live in heavily white areas and attend heavily white schools.
We see this in city after city, state after state.
And often the attendance zones are gerrymandered to put white students in classrooms that are even whiter than the communities they live in.
The result is that schools today are re-segregating. In fact, schools in the South are as segregated now as they were about 50 years ago, not long after the landmark Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision.
INDIANA, GET OUT OF THE PRIVATE SCHOOL BUSINESS
Thanks to Tony Lux, former local superintendent in Indiana, for this list of ways Indiana has neglected its public schools, and how the state’s voucher program has damaged public education.
• Since 2010, the total state budget has risen 17 percent.
• Since 2010, the consumer price index (cost of living) has risen 17 percent.
• Since 2010, the education budget has only risen 10 percent.
• Vouchers cost $150 million a year, and the cost is diverted from public school funding, resulting in an actual 7 percent increase in public school funding. (More than half the Indiana voucher recipients never attended public schools.)
• Without vouchers, every public school would get an additional $150 per student.
• Property tax caps have resulted in millions of dollars lost for many school districts.
• Public schools in poor communities annually experience a 10 percent to 60 percent property tax shortfall, equaling tens of millions of lost dollars for some.
• Remedies for lost revenue are no longer provided by the state. Districts now depend on local referendums.
• Lost property taxes that pay for school debt, construction and transportation must be replaced from state dollars intended for student instruction.
• A portion of state tuition support called the “complexity index” provides special funding to meet the needs of the poorest students. Not only has the complexity index dollar amount been decreased to “equalize” the dollars per student among all schools, but the state has decreased the number of students qualifying – for some schools – by half.
• Forbes magazine points out that Indiana is ill advisedly attempting to fund three systems of schools – traditional public, charters and vouchers – with the same budget it once used for only traditional public schools.
• The “money follows the student” mantra for charter school students creates a loss of school funding that is significantly and disproportionately more damaging than the simple sum of the dollars. If a district loses 100 students, the loss can be spread over 12 grades. A classroom still needs a teacher if it has 25 students instead of 30, but the district has lost $600,000 in funding.
• Of the 20 schools or districts receiving the highest per-pupil funding, 18 are charter schools, none of which are required to report profit taking.
• Since 2010, teacher salaries have dropped 16 percent.
There needs to be an end to the expectation that the only solution for schools, especially those in the poorest communities, in response to uncontrollable losses of revenue, is to cut, cut, cut programs, teachers, support staff and salaries regardless of the negative effect on students.
INTERESTING EXTRAS FROM THE WORLD OF SCIENCE
Identifying factors that predict academic difficulties during elementary school should help inform efforts to help children who may be at risk. New research suggests that children’s executive functions may be a particularly important risk factor for such difficulties.
Like any fad, the songs of humpback whales don’t stick around for long. Every few years, males swap their chorus of squeaks and groans for a brand new one. Now, scientists have figured out how these “cultural revolutions” take place.