Category Archives: Preschool

Listen to this – 2020 #1 – Wearing a Mask Edition

Meaningful quotes…

KIDS LIVING IN POVERTY DON’T HAVE ANY LOBBYISTS

Schools have closed for the coronavirus pandemic and most will likely not open again this school year. Many school systems have gone to online learning, but because a significant percentage of students have little or no access to the internet, some students are not being served.

How can schools best serve all students (including students with special learning or physical needs) and what happens next year when some students have had the benefit of online learning experiences and others have not? Do we test all the kids to see where they are? Do we retain kids? (answer: NO!) The coronavirus pandemic, like other disasters and disruptions, hurt most, the kids who need school the most and have the least.

From Steven Singer
in Virtual Learning Through Quarantine Will Leave Poor and Disabled Students Behind

This just underlines the importance of legislation. Special education students have IDEA. Poor students have nothing. There is no right to education for them at all.

From Steve Hinnefeld and Pedro Noguera
in Time for ‘educational recovery planning’

…the massive and sudden shift to online learning is exposing huge gaps in opportunity. Some communities lack reliable internet service. Many families are on the wrong side of the digital divide. As Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick said, a parent and three school-age children may share a single device, often a smartphone.

“The kids who have the least are getting the least now,” UCLA education professor Pedro Noguera told Hechinger Report. “They will, in fact, be behind the kids who are learning still.”

From Peter Greene
in Should We Just Hold Students Back Next Year?

Retention in grade doesn’t help — even in the face of nation-wide disruption.

…We have been suffering for years now under the notion that kindergarten should be the new first grade; next fall, we could give students room to breathe by making first grade the new first grade. In other words, instead of moving the students back a grade to fit the structure of the school, we could shift the structure of the school to meet the actual needs of the students.

From Nancy Flanagan
in If Technology Can’t Save Us, What Will?

Most important of all…kids need their teachers. They need human interaction which improves learning — and positive teacher/student relationships, even more. See also A PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP, below.

It turns out that technology cannot, will not replace the human touch, when it comes to learning that is worthwhile and sticks in our students’ brains and hearts. We already knew that, of course. But it’s gratifying to know that school—bricks and mortar, white paste and whiteboards, textbooks and senior proms—is deeply missed.

Public education is part of who we are, as a representative democracy. We’ve never gotten it right—we’ve let down millions of kids over the past century or two and done lots of flailing. There are curriculum wars that never end and bitter battles over equity, the teacher pipeline and funding streams.

But still. We need school.

IT’S TRUE WHETHER OR NOT YOU BELIEVE IN IT

From Rob Boston
in The Religious Right’s Disdain For Science Is Exactly What We Don’t Need Right Now

Science is a process, not an outcome. We must improve our science education so students understand science. We ignore science at our peril.

The rejection of science and refusal to see facts as the non-partisan things that they are have consequences, as Jerry Falwell Jr. – and his students at Liberty University in Virginia – are painfully learning. Put simply, viruses don’t care whether you believe in them or not. They will wreak their havoc either way. 

REMOVE TESTING FROM THE HANDS OF PROFIT

From Diane Ravitch
in Noted education scholar says parents now more aware of vital role of schools, by Maureen Downey.

The profit motive won’t create better tests. Teachers who know their students will.

If federal and state leaders gave any thought to change, they would drop the federal mandate for annual testing because it is useless and pointless. Students should be tested by their teachers, who know what they taught. If we can’t trust teachers to know their students, why should we trust distant corporations whose sole motive is profit and whose products undermine the joy of teaching and learning?

IT’S POVERTY — STILL

From Jitu Brown, National Director for the Journey for Justice Alliance
in One Question: What Policy Change Would Have the Biggest Impact on Alleviating Poverty?

The fact that poor children are suffering more during the current world crisis than wealthy students should not be surprising. We have always neglected our poor children.

According to the United Nations, America ranks twenty-first in education globally among high-income nations. When you remove poverty, the United States is number two. This tells me that America knows how to educate children, but refuses to educate the poor, the black, brown, and Native American.

NO MATTER WHAT THEY CALL IT, IT’S NOT PRESCHOOL

From Rhian Evans Allvin, CEO of NAEYC,
in Making Connections. There’s No Such Thing as Online Preschool

Using public dollars intended for early childhood education to give children access to a 15-minute-per-day online program does not expand access to preschool. It doesn’t address the crisis in the supply of quality, affordable child care. It doesn’t help parents participate in the workforce. And it doesn’t help families choose an “alternative” option for or version of pre-K because it is something else entirely. To what extent we want to encourage parents to access online literacy and math curricula to help their 3- and 4-year-olds prepare for school is a conversation for another column. In this one, the only question is whether these technology-based programs can be “preschool”—and the answer is no.

ACCESS TO BOOKS

From P.L. Thomas
in Misreading the Reading Wars Again (and Again)

Proponents of whole language and balanced literacy have never said that phonics wasn’t important. What they do say, however, is that other things are important, too.

Test reading is reductive (and lends itself to direct phonics instruction, hint-hint), but it is a pale measure of deep and authentic reading, much less any student’s eagerness to read.

Because of the accountability movement, then, and because of high-pressure textbook reading programs, we have for decades ignored a simple fact of research: the strongest indicator of reading growth in students is access to books in the home (not phonics programs).

A PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP

From Russ Walsh
in Hula Dancing, Singing and a Teacher’s Impact

Over the years I’ve had several former students relate to me what they remembered from my class. I had a student tell me how important an art project was as a connection to his father. Another student thanked me for helping her during a difficult time in her family. A student who grew up to be a teacher and taught in my district told me that she was reading the same book to her students that I read to her class. Many students, in fact, talked about my reading aloud to them as the most important thing they remember. And a student remembered how I had trusted her to clean off the top of my desk every day after school.

I never had a student come to me and thank me for teaching them how to multiply…or spell “terrible”…or take a standardized test…or count syllables in a word. I take that as a compliment.

The messages we send to kids last a lifetime and they are not often about the times table or coordinating conjunctions or how many planets are in the skies. It is the personal messages and connections that are remembered. It is the belief a teacher instills that we can do that resonates through the years. It is that one book that made a special impression that we remember. That is a lesson we all must take into every interaction we have with a child.

SAY HELLO

From John Prine
in Hello in There

Thanks, and good night, JP.

So if you’re walking down the street sometime
And spot some hollow ancient eyes,
Please don’t just pass ’em by and stare
As if you didn’t care, say, “Hello in there, hello.”

🎧🎤🎧

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Listen to This – Nineteen for 2019

Nineteen meaningful comments and quotes from 2019 from my blog and others…

JANUARY

Making Laws About Teaching

Speaker Bosma, Qualifications Matter!

Jennifer McCormick

Perplexing but not surprising- people who are most judgmental & outspoken about the qualifications necessary to perform a job are typically those people who have never done the job.

Hey Kindergarten, Get Ready for the Children.

MD: Failing Five Year Olds

Peter Greene

…it is not a five year old’s job to be ready for kindergarten– it is kindergarten’s job to be ready for the five year olds. If a test shows that the majority of littles are not “ready” for your kindergarten program, then the littles are not the problem– your kindergarten, or maybe your readiness test, is the problem. The solution is not to declare, “We had better lean on these little slackers a little harder and get them away from their families a little sooner.” Instead, try asking how your kindergarten program could be shifted to meet the needs that your students actually have. 

FEBRUARY

Punishing third graders

Third Grade Flunk Laws–and (Un)intended Consequences

Nancy Flanagan

Now we are witnessing the other consequences of the Third Grade Threat—pushing inappropriate instruction down to kindergarten, as anxious districts fear that students who are not reading at grade level (a murky goal, to begin with) will embarrass the district when letters go out to parents of third graders who are supposed to be retained. Because it’s the law.

Who’s to blame when students lag behind (arbitrary) literacy benchmarks, for whatever reason…

Blaming Teachers

At What Point Do We Stop Blaming Teachers?

Paul Murphy

As a teacher who has been told to teach a program as it’s written, how the hell is it my fault if the assignments students get are not challenging enough? I’m not the one who designed the assignments.

If you’re requiring me to read from some stupid script written by publishers who’ve never met my students, then how can you fairly evaluate my instruction? It’s not my instruction.

Should we be surprised that students aren’t engaged during a lesson that’s delivered by a teacher who had no hand in creating it and who sees it as the contrived lump that it is? I’m not a terrible actor, but hand me a lemon and I’m going to have trouble convincing even the most eager-to-learn student that I’m giving them lemonade.

MARCH

The Intent of Indiana’s Voucher Program

School Vouchers are not to help “poor kids escape failing schools”

Doug Masson

…that the real intention of voucher supporters was and is: 1) hurt teacher’s unions; 2) subsidize religious education; and 3) redirect public education money to friends and well-wishers of voucher supporters. Also, a reminder: vouchers do not improve educational outcomes. I get so worked up about this because the traditional public school is an important part of what ties a community together — part of what turns a collection of individuals into a community. And community feels a little tough to come by these days. We shouldn’t be actively eroding it.

Why is this even a thing?

Teachers Union: No Teacher Should Be Shot at As Part of Training

Dan Holub, executive director of the ITSA

Our view is that no teacher, no educator should be put in a small room and shot at as part of a training process for active shooter training…

Retention-in-grade Doesn’t Work (Still)

Doing the Same Thing and Expecting Different Results

Stu Bloom

Can we just stop flunking kids, and use the money we save from repeating a grade and foolish third-grade retention tests to give them the support they need in the years leading up to third grade?

APRIL

Reading on Grade Level…

When Betsy DeVos “Likes” Your “Research”…

Mitchell Robinson

Children don’t “read on grade level” anymore than they “eat on grade level” or “care about their friends on grade level.” Anyone who has actually helped a child learn how to read, or play a music instrument, or ride a bike, knows that kids will accomplish these goals “when they are ready.” Not by “grade level.”

So, kids will read when they have a need to read, and when what they are reading is relevant to their lives. Not when they are supposed to read as measured by their grade level. Can we set our own goals as teachers for when we introduce various literacy concepts to our students? Sure. And teachers do that, every day in every public school in the nation.

MAY

The Relationship Between Teacher and Child

It’s All About Growth

Stu Bloom

There is so much more to education than tests and standards. Children learn much more than can ever be put on a standardized test. Teachers – living, breathing, actual human beings – make the learning process part of life. One of the most important aspects of the education of our children is the relationship between teacher and child.

No test can ever measure that.

JUNE

Reading Aloud Instead of Worksheets

Father’s Day 2019: A Reminder to Read Aloud to Your Children

Stu Bloom

Reading aloud is more beneficial than standardized tests or worksheets. It is more important than homework or flashcards. It is the single most important thing a parent can do to help their children become better readers. It is the single most important thing teachers can do to help their students become better readers.

JULY

Just say “NO!” to Online Preschool

Why Online Preschool is a Terrible Idea

Matthew Lynch

Think about it: why are children sent to preschool in the first place? Isn’t it because they need human interaction? One of the most important skills children learn in preschool is how to make friends. Life is about human relationships after all. How do you learn about making friends, sorting out differences, and obeying the rules when you are staring at a screen, looking for the right color to click on?

Children learn through play, not screens

AUGUST

Science in the United States

Who does President Trump treat worse than anyone else? Scientists.

Robert Gebelhoff

This is the intellectual rot of the Trump era. It’s more than just an anti-big government ideology; it’s a systematic assault on science across the federal government. These actions will reverberate in our government for years to come, even after the Trump administration is gone, in the form of policy decisions we make without the benefit of the best evidence available. And worse, Americans may not even be aware of how they are being deceived and deprived.

That’s the true scandal of Trump’s war on scientists. No other group is so pervasively targeted and so thoroughly ignored. Yet it is their voices, more than any other, that our nation needs in this disturbing political moment.

Public Schools for the Common Good

Support Our Public Schools – And The Teachers Who Work In Them

Rob Boston

As our nation’s young people return to public schools, there are things you can do to shore up the system. First, support your local public schools. It doesn’t matter if your children are grown or you never had children. The kids attending public schools in your town are your neighbors and fellow residents of your community. Someday, they will be the next generation of workers, teachers and leaders shaping our country. It’s in everyone’s best interest that today’s children receive the best education possible, and the first step to that is making sure their public schools are adequately funded.

SEPTEMBER

Read Aloud to your Children

Want to Raise Smart, Kind Kids? Science Says Do This Every Day

Kelly at Happy You Happy Family

The best thing about this particular “keystone habit” for raising smart, kind kids is that it’s completely free, it takes just 10-15 minutes a day, and anyone can do it.

To get smart, kind kids, you don’t have to sign your kid up for expensive tutoring or have twice-daily screenings of the movie Wonder.

All you have to do is this: Read to your child. Even if they already know how to read to themselves.

Because research shows reading aloud is the powerful keystone habit that will raise smart, kind kids. (More on that in a minute.)

Misusing Tests

Testing…Testing…

Sheila Kennedy

The widespread misuse of what should be a diagnostic tool is just one more example of our depressing American tendency to apply bumper sticker solutions to complex issues requiring more nuanced approaches.

The times they are a’ changin’.

Greta Thunberg’s full speech to world leaders at UN Climate Action Summit

Greta Thunberg

We will not let you get away with this. Right here, right now is where we draw the line. The world is waking up. And change is coming, whether you like it or not.

The Teacher Exodus

Educator: There’s A Mass Teacher Exodus, Not Shortage

Tim Slekar

When we have a shortage, say of nurses, pay goes up, conditions get better and enrollment in nursing programs skyrockets. So if we have a teacher shortage, pay would go up. It’s not. Conditions would get better. They’re not. And enrollment in teacher education would go up. It’s declining. That can’t be a shortage then.

When you talk about the fact that nobody wants to do this job, that parents are telling their kids right in front of me in my office that they don’t support their child becoming a teacher, this is a real issue that needs to be talked about quite differently and that’s why exodus is much better because you have to ask why are they leaving and why aren’t they coming.

NOVEMBER

Billionaire Busybodies

Organizations with the Audacity to Blame Teachers for Poor NAEP Reading Scores!

Nancy Bailey

The latest “criticize teachers for not teaching the ‘science’ of reading” can be found in “Schools Should Follow the ‘Science of Reading,’ say National Education Groups” in the Gates funded Education Week.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation funds most of the organizations in this report that criticize public schools and teachers for low NAEP scores. Yet they are behind the Common Core State Standards, which appear to be an abysmal failure.

Most individuals and groups never teach children themselves, but they create policies that affect how and what teachers are forced to teach. They have always been about privatizing public education.

DECEMBER

It’s Poverty

Poverty Affects Schools, No Measurable Differences in 15 Years, And Reforms Have Not Worked: What The PISA Scores Show Us

Stu Egan

What DeVos got wrong is that we as a country are not average. We actually do very well when one considers the very things that DeVos is blind to: income gaps, social inequality, and child poverty.

🏫🎓🚌

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2019 Medley #23

Let the Children Play,
Reading: Too much too soon,
The Common Good,
Is the Teacher Pay-gap Gender-related?
Vouchers hurt students in Ohio

HEALTHIER KIDS NEED PLAY, PLAY, AND MORE PLAY

FreshEd with Will Brehm: Let the Children Play (Pasi Sahlberg and William Doyle)

Earlier this year I reviewed a book by Pasi Sahlberg and William Doyle titled Let the Children Play. On December 2, the authors were interviewed by Will Brehm on his excellent podcast, FreshEd.

The authors’ emphasis during their interview, and the emphasis in their book, is that play is much more important than most Americans realize, and most American children, especially children who live in poverty, don’t have enough time in their day to play. Some excerpts from the podcast…

DOYLE: Play is a fundamental engine of learning for children and if you don’t believe us, think of what the American Academy of Pediatrics said recently, “The lifelong success of children is based on their ability to be creative and to apply the lessons learned from playing.”

SAHLBERG: Things have gotten worse in the lives of children in terms of their access and opportunities to play, and certainly in school.

DOYLE: In the case of New York City, the poorer the school, which means, you know, the more African American and largely Latinx the school is, the more the children are subject to a hideous practice called recess punishment, or recess detention, where recess is literally used as a carrot or an incentive, or behavior modification tool…kids being punished for late homework or…goofing around, and then they have their recess taken away…[but] the research says, the more you let children play, the better they do on standardized tests, and the better they behave in class.

A three-point plan for healthier kids: play, play and more play

On his blog, Salberg reiterated the importance of play.

Quite simply, smartphones and digital media have taken over the time that children used to have for reading and playing outdoors. And all of the benefits of that play time gained cumulatively over the years in a child’s life have been lost as a result.

Research has shown that these benefits include social, interpersonal and resilience skills, as well as creativity and problem-solving that are often mentioned by employers as the most wanted outcomes of school education…

…I suggest a three-point plan.

One, every school must have a minimum of one hour for free play time each day – separate from time to eat.

Two, at home, every child should have outdoor play time of at least one hour every day.

And three, at a policy level, government and education leaders need to ensure the curriculum is structured so there is enough time for free play during school days.

DEVELOPMENTALLY INAPPROPRIATE EDUCATION

It’s Wrong to Force Four and Five Year Olds to Read! Focus on Speaking and Listening Instead!

Play is important, so what do we do here in the US? We’re so test-obsessed that we continue to teach in developmentally inappropriate ways. Nancy Bailey on reading too soon…

With No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, and Common Core State Standards, some adults have been led to believe that four- and five-year-old children should read by the end of kindergarten. Preschoolers are pushed to be ready for formal reading instruction by the time they enter kindergarten.

This is a dangerous idea rooted in corporate school reform. Children who struggle to read might inaccurately believe they have a problem, or reading could become a chore they hate.

Pushing children to focus on reading means they miss listening and speaking skills, precursors to reading. These skills are developed through play, which leads to interest in words and a reason to want to read.

Some children might learn to read in kindergarten, and others might show up to kindergarten already reading, but many children are not ready to read when they are four or five years old. And just because a child knows how to read in kindergarten, doesn’t mean they won’t have other difficulties with speech and listening.

THE COMMON GOOD

Normally all the items I post on my blog Medleys are articles you can access on the internet. I have one, however, that I want to review and, unless you’re a member of Kappa Delta Pi, an International Honor Society in Education, you won’t be able to read it. Still, it’s worth discussing.

[For those with access, the article below appeared in two consecutive issues of the Kappa Delta Pi Record…Vol 55, no. 3, and no. 4.]

We will never have the kind of schools we would like to have, nor the test scores we want, unless we do something about —

by David C Berliner, Regents’ Professor Emeritus in the Mary Lou Fulton College of Education at Arizona State University.

In 2009, David C. Berliner reported on out of school factors and achievement in K-12 education. The report, Poverty and Potential: Out-of-School Factors and School Success, discussed seven out-of-school factors related to childhood poverty, which have an impact on student achievement. I refer to that report often in these pages…mostly because it’s generally ignored by policymakers.

Berliner’s report and other research have indicated that out of school factors have a stronger impact on student achievement than either curriculum or school personnel. In the current article, Berliner maintains that out-of-school factors are six times more powerful in determining school achievement than is the strongest in-school factor, personnel.

Essentially, Berliner is saying that we, as a society, need to accept the responsibility for all our children, not just the ones who are related to us. Time to lose the selfish “I, me, mine,” attitude and recognize that fully funded education and reduction of child poverty is necessary for the common good. Our nation benefits when everyone has what they need.

…Our nation has an almost mindless commitment to high-stakes testing, even when everyone in research knows that outside-of-school factors play six times more of a role in determining classroom and school test scores than do the personnel in our public schools. Nevertheless, if we want our public schools to be the best they can be and their test scores to be higher than they are, then we need to do something about making our states better places to live in, to work in, and in which to raise children. Each school district needs to look beyond its own district and worry about opportunities for all our children. The extra taxes needed to improve the education of youth, as I proposed here, are trivial against the benefits of a higher quality of life for us all.

…We will never have the kind of schools we would like to have, nor the test scores we want, unless we do something about housing patterns in America’s communities.

…about access to high-quality early childhood education.

…about our students’ summer school experiences.

…about absenteeism in our schools.

…about pay for qualified educational staff – teachers, bus drivers, counselors, librarians, nurses, social workers, and so forth.

TEACHERS’ PAY GAP — GENDER PAY GAP

What if More Teachers were Male? The Misogynistic Roots of the War on Public Education.

I have long maintained that public school teachers, and by extension, public schools, are disrespected by state legislatures and the general public because teaching is still seen as “women’s work.” That’s why there’s a salary gap of nearly 20% for professionals who teach…similar to the pay gap for women who, in the US earn 79 cents for every dollar earned by men. Those same policymakers would never use the phrase “women’s work” nor would they admit that gender has anything to do with the lack of respect given to teachers and schools. There is, however, a suspiciously consistent relationship between the gender makeup of the profession, and the way the male-dominated society treats public schools.

Would teachers make more…would schools be better funded, if the profession was dominated by men?

If men made up the majority of the profession, would legislators still go out of their way to push teachers around? Of course, I have no way to prove this, but I’m guessing no. We love to think that America has come a long way towards living up to our creed of equality for all. We have mostly gotten it right on paper. But in reality, any minority group, including women (though they are a minority in status only), will tell you that we still fall woefully short in practice.

There is a good old boys network in the halls of our state legislature. I believe they feel empowered by their machismo to push more and more ridiculous hurdles in front of teachers because they view the teaching profession as soft and feminine–one might even use the word submissive (quite biblical of them, no?).

VOUCHERS HURT OHIO KIDS…SO THEY EXPANDED THE PROGRAM

Ohio Expands Its Failed Voucher Program, and Most School Districts Will Lose Funding

What do you do when the research shows that a privatization program hurts children? If you’re an Ohio legislator, you expand the program.

…the students eligible to leave with a voucher do better if they stay in public school; the students who use the voucher, who come from more advantaged backgrounds, do worse in school.

This is the only statewide evaluation of the Ohio EdChoice Program, and not what one would call a ringing endorsement since those who use the voucher do worse in school than those who stay in public school and don’t use the voucher.

Such research did not impress the Ohio legislature. Under the prodding of State Senator Matt Huffman (R.-Lima), the state has expanded the voucher program, so that students in two-thirds of the districts across the state are now eligible to get state funding to attend a religious school.

🚌🚌🚌

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Let the Children Play

Pasi Sahlberg came to the U.S. as a visiting professor at Harvard to help American educators learn how the Finnish school system became the world’s best. William Doyle won a Fulbright scholarship to move to Finland to study the Finnish system. Let the Children Play: How more play will save our schools and help children thrive is the result of the collaboration they formed.

THE IMPORTANCE OF PLAY

Let the Children Play begins with a discussion of the research into play and its benefit for children. Groups such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Academy of Sciences, and the Centers for Disease Control agree that play and physical activity are of critical importance to growing children, and are beneficial to their academics, and future skills.

Despite the science, however, play is disappearing from school due to so-called “education reform.”

Despite this strong medical and scientific consensus that play is a foundation of children’s lives and education, play is an increasingly endangered experience for many of the world’s children.

Why is play dying in our schools? There are many social and cultural factors, and one major political reason is “GERM,” or the “Global Education Reform Movement,” a term that co-author Pasi Sahlberg has coined to describe an intellectual school reform paradigm that places academic performance as measured by standardized tests before children’s engagement, well-being, and play in schools.

The authors discuss and analyze Finnish schools. What makes them so successful? How can we learn from them? How have they used play to help their children achieve?

FINLAND

The Finnish philosphy of education, which is based on American educational research (see Finnish Lessons, by Pasi Sahlberg), is child-centered, something we in the U.S. have learned, but rarely practice.

In Finland, the main question isn’t “Is the child ready for the school?” but “Is the school ready for every child, and ready to accommodate each child’s differences?”

The child-centered school adapts to the child, not the other way around…and play is important. The seat-work style of American education is rejected. Children aren’t required to start formal instruction until they’re seven years old, and there are no standardized tests until the end of high school. What assessment there is, is also child-centered. During her visit to Finnish schools, Erika Christakis, author of The Importance of Being Little: What Young Children Really Need From Grownups, said,

I’ve found it impossible to remain unmoved by the example of preschools where the learning environment is assessed, rather than the children in it.

For several years, even without regular standardized tests, Finland led the world in student achievement as measured by the PISA tests. In recent years, however, their rankings have started to slip. Since they understand the limitations of tests, they didn’t panic. They didn’t start teaching to the test. They didn’t label and retain students as “failing.” They didn’t fire or punish teachers. They didn’t close schools or shame them with “F” ratings. Instead, they doubled-down on child-centered education.

In many other countries, politicians and bureaucrats would have pushed the panic button and declared a state of emergency. Common remedies would most likely have included teachers being penalized more for inferior standardized test data, and more academic pressure on children. But Finland didn’t do this. Instead, educators and government officials did something almost unheard of in the world of education reform. They talked to children. They then realized that one of the big overall problems was a lack of student engagement in schools and the fact that children feel their voices are not heard when it comes to their own learning and lives in school.

Throughout it all, there is play. Children in Finland aren’t sitting at desks all day listening to their teacher or doing seat-work. Recess has all but disappeared in the United States, but the successful Finns, on the other hand, give their children fifteen minutes of unstructured free play time every hour because…

…learning takes place best when children are engaged and enjoying themselves.

Academic kindergartens and virtual preschools aren’t the best way to build academic success for our children. Current research supports previous research. Play is children’s work. Children learn through play. Worksheets in preschool and kindergarten, whether they’re made of paper or on a computer screen, are inappropriate. Cooking stations, dress-up boxes, and building toys are what we need for our littlest learners. Bring back recess, blocks, and doll buggies. Teach young children through read-aloud, finger play, and singing. Give our youngest children time to play without adult interference.

Older children also benefit from unstructured free time.

In play, children gradually develop concepts of casual relationships, the power to discriminate, to make judgments, to analyze and synthesize, to imagine and to formulate. Children become absorbed in their play, and the satisfaction of bringing it to a satisfactory conclusion fixes habits of concentration which can be transferred to other learning.

OTHER IDEAS

Other good ideas from Let the Children Play

On preparation for school

The lesson: If you want to get your young child ready for school, read to them—and play with them!

On ed-tech in the classroom

On data

School policy should be “data informed,” not “data driven.”

On standardized tests

…standardized tests alone don’t provide the correct, complete information needed to judge school quality—because they don’t fully account for income, family background, learning history, peer effects, access to proper out-of-school nutrition and intellectual enrichment, emotional life, conditions in the home, and a host of other factors that affect a child’s learning, development, and growth.

FIVE STARS

Let the Children Play: How more play will save our schools and help children thrive is not just for teachers of primary grades. Parents, upper grade teachers, secondary teachers, administrators, and everyone else interested in American education, will benefit from the information it contains.

✭✭✭✭✭

⛹🏻‍♀️🌎🤸🏽‍♂️

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2019 Medley #18: A Blogoversary

Blogoversary, Online Pre-K, The Waltons, Privatization, Teachers work hours,
Teacher morale, Vouchers, Readaloud,
Let Children Play

2019, BLOGOVERSARY #13

Today, the 14th of September marks the thirteenth year that I’ve kept this blog. I’m too stubborn to give it up…and I still feel the need to vent about what’s happening in the realm of public education

…my mission, when I began here, was to have a place to vent. It still works for that despite the depressing political and educational landscape. And who knows, maybe last year’s “Teachers’ Spring” will catch on and the teachers in Indiana will rise up. So I’ll keep going…just in case someone is listening.

Off-Topic

Most of the time I focus on education. Now and then, I’ll venture into national politics, music or baseball.

Yesterday, September 13, for example, was the birthday of Roald Dahl, a horrible man who wrote delightful books which I read to dozens, if not hundreds of second and third graders during my years in the classroom. Check out this thoughtful article about reading Dahl’s work, Problematic Favorites: Re-reading Roald Dahl. Also, see my own discussion about Dahl…in the section titled “Facing Racism” in this post from 2017.

I also regularly blog about the birthdays of famous composers Mozart or Beethoven, as well as baseball heroes like Jackie Robinson.

For the most part, however, I’ve posted about public education in America.

Changes

Much has changed in the state of public education since I began this blog in 2006…not much of it for the better (I haven’t given up hope, however). Some examples…

  • In 2006 Indiana taxpayers supported one publicly funded school system. In 2019 we pay for three — charter schools, the constitutionally mandated public schools, and Indiana’s largest-in-the-nation school voucher program.
  • The voucher program in Indiana began in 2011. Since then the state has spent more than a half-billion dollars on mostly unaccountable voucher schools…around $160 million for the 2018-2019 school year. Vouchers don’t help students improve their learning. The program has never been evaluated. Let’s just call it a failure.

I could go on…and I have, here, and here.

Until things improve for public schools in America, I’ll still need this blog as a place to vent.

THE PLAGUE

Online Pre-K Continues To Spread Like A Big Stupid Plague

Among the most stupid new ideas to come out of the digital revolution is that of online preschool…digital nursery school.

But what about children who have no preschool to go to…kids who live in preschool deserts…kids in rural areas where there are no preschools? Peter Greene answers with this…

Yes, the argument is going to be that this will reach children who don’t have access or finances to go to pre-school, that this can be a resource for isolated families, to which I say this is like saying there are families that don’t have access to enough nutritionally rich food, so let’s mail them all cases of diet soda and arsenic. Yes, this targets families and children who need something– but what they need is not this. Nobody needs this.

SEND MONEY TO WALTONS AND DESTROY PUBLIC EDUCATION

Inside the web of Arkansas’s School Privatization Empire

The Walton Family Foundation and members of the Walton family are at the forefront of the movement to privatize public education. Every time you shop at Walmart (or at these other companies) you’re sending money to folks who use their billions to destroy public education.

A free quality public education for every child is a foundational principle of American society and a right guaranteed by Arkansas’s Constitution. Everyone in this state, regardless of religion, race, income, disability or any other characteristic deserves an equal opportunity to learn and succeed.

Unfortunately, a vast network of corporate interests and wealthy individuals are chipping away at this bedrock of our democracy in an effort to turn public education into a marketplace where private interests can profit off of our students.

Across the nation, states have implemented and expanded charter schools that are unaccountable to the public and voucher programs that have siphoned off public taxpayer money to pay for private school tuition.

This powerful and well-funded effort is nationwide, but one of the biggest contributors is based right here in our state, and each year the network of privatizers working in Arkansas is growing.

TEACHERS DONATE THEIR TIME

Teachers Work a Shocking Amount of Overtime Hours and It’s All Unpaid

I’ve been retired since 2010. Most teachers still donate large amounts of their time.

…teachers are putting in close well over 2,000 hours a year, depending on their situation. How does that measure up with other professions? Well, according to the Pew Research Center, the average American only works about 1,811 hours a year. Factor in the thousands of teachers that need to take on a 2nd or 3rd job just to pay the bills and the number of hours teachers work throughout the year is off the charts. It’s a staggering mathematical exercise and one that doesn’t seem to be getting better any time soon.

Source: Scholastic and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

LACK OF RESPECT

“Tired Of Being Treated Like Dirt” Teacher Morale In The 2019 PDK Poll

Teacher are leaving the classroom…and young people aren’t becoming teachers. We have a shortage of teachers in Indiana and the U.S. because teachers are underpaid, overworked, and disrespected. It’s not hard to understand why young people would choose a different profession.

Normally, if there’s an employment shortage in a particular area, management will raise salaries and improve working conditions to incentivize new hires to enter the field. Not so with education. The shortage seems to be preferred by legislators and policymakers. I’ve suggested before that this is likely gender based…that teachers, being mostly female, are disrespected by our paternalistic society.

Add Peter Greene’s Curmudgucation to your daily blog list.

Inadequate pay is the marquee reason, and notably regional. Public school teachers are far less likely to feel fairly paid in the South and Midwest. That reason is followed closely by stress and pressure, which is followed by a lack of respect. Lack of support. Teaching no longer enjoyable. Testing requirements. Workload.

These are tied together with the single thread of distrust and disrespect for teachers. This has been evident on the national stage with issues like installing a Secretary of Education who had previously dismissed public education as a “dead end” or a Secretary of Education who asserts that student failure is because of low teacher expectations. Education has also carried the modern burden of the thesis that poor education is the cause of poverty, or even our “greatest national security threat,” and so the entire fate of the nation rests on teachers’ backs. And yet, teachers are not trusted to handle any of this; instead, we’ve had decades of federal and state programs meant to force teachers to do a better job. In the classroom, much of these “reforms” have sounded like “You can’t do a good job unless you are threatened, micromanaged, and stripped of your autonomy.” There is a special kind of stress that comes from working for someone who says, in effect, “You have a big important job to do, and we do not trust you to do it.”

IT’S ALL ABOUT THE MONEY

The new terrain of the school voucher wars

Vouchers haven’t improved student learning. When vouchers were first introduced in Indiana we heard from their supporters that private schools were better than public schools. We heard that students learned more and that poor students should be given vouchers so they could “escape failing schools.” But, despite protestations from “reformers” that was never really the point.

Now we know voucher schools don’t outperform public schools so the supporters of vouchers have changed their tune. Now it’s all about “choice.” The truth is, it’s always been about the money. Private schools want public money (with as little accountability for it as possible). With vouchers in Indiana, they get it.

Researchers — including several voucher advocates — have conducted nine rigorous, large-scale studies since 2015 on achievement in voucher programs. In no case did these studies find any statistically positive achievement gains for students using vouchers. But seven of the nine studies found that voucher students saw relative learning losses. Too often, these losses were substantial.

THINGS TO DO

Want to Raise Smart, Kind Kids? Science Says Do This Every Day

Parents, read to your children every day, starting from the day they’re born. Even when they have “leaerned how to read” themselves, continue to read to them.

Teachers, read to your students every day, starting from the first day of school. This will be the easiest, most enjoyable, and most effective part of your reading program.

The best thing about this particular “keystone habit” for raising smart, kind kids is that it’s completely free, it takes just 10-15 minutes a day, and anyone can do it.

To get smart, kind kids, you don’t have to sign your kid up for expensive tutoring or have twice-daily screenings of the movie Wonder.

All you have to do is this: Read to your child. Even if they already know how to read to themselves.

Because research shows reading aloud is the powerful keystone habit that will raise smart, kind kids. 

PLAY IS CHILDREN’S WORK

Let the Children Play! A Book You Should Read

A new book by Pasi Sahlberg. It’s next on my list to read.

Pasi was flummoxed by the bizarre education concept of “preschool readiness.” Compounding the culture shock was the stunning price tag: $25,000 a year for preschool, compared with the basically free, government-funded daycare-through-university programs that the boy would have enjoyed back in Finland.

Pasi had entered an American school culture that is increasingly rooted in childhood stress and the elimination of the arts, physical activity and play—all to make room for a tidal wave of test prep and standardized testing. This new culture was supposed to reduce achievement gaps, improve learning and raise America’s position in the international education rankings. Nearly two decades and tens of billions of dollars later, it isn’t working. Yet the boondoggle continues, even as the incidence of childhood mental-health disorders such as anxiety and depression is increasing.

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2019 Medley #14: Early Learning, Play, and Preschool

Play, Preschool

PUT PLAY FIRST

Let the Children Play: How More Play Will Save Our Schools and Help Children Thrive
By Pasi Sahlberg and William Doyle, Oxford University Press

Full disclosure: I haven’t finished reading this book, yet…

…but I’m far enough along to know academic kindergartens and virtual preschools aren’t the best way to build academic success for our children. In fact, I learned the same thing forty-five years ago, when I was a preservice education student. Current research supports previous research. Play is children’s work. Children learn through play. Worksheets in preschool and kindergarten, whether they’re made of paper or on a computer screen, are inappropriate. Cooking stations, dress-up boxes, and building toys are what we need for our littlest learners. We should bring back recess, blocks, and doll buggies. Teach young children through read-aloud, finger play, and singing. Give our youngest children time to play without adult interference.

Despite this strong medical and scientific consensus that play is a foundation of children’s lives and education, play is an increasingly endangered experience for many of the world’s children.

Why is play dying in our schools? There are many social and cultural factors, and one major political reason is “GERM,” or the “Global Education Reform Movement,” a term that co-author Pasi Sahlberg has coined to describe an intellectual school reform paradigm that places academic performance as measured by standardized tests before children’s engagement, well-being, and play in schools.

…”If we love our children and want them to thrive, we must allow them more time and opportunity to play, not less.” — Professor Peter Gray

WE’VE BECOME A WORSE WORLD FOR CHILDREN

“Play is where they learn to solve their own problems and learn, therefore, that the world is not so scary after all. Play is where they experience joy and they learn the world is not so depressing after all. Play is where they learn to get along with peers…and see from other points of view…and practice empathy…and get over narcissism. Play is by definition, creative and innovative…yet the hue and cry that we hear everywhere is for more school not for more play and we’ve really got to change that.” — Peter Gray

FAKE PLAY

Fake Play and Its Dangerous Alignment to Standards and Data

Being on a tee-ball team isn’t real play. Pee Wee football isn’t real play. Preschool soccer isn’t real play. Adult directed play, while it has its place, isn’t real play. Children need unstructured play…every day.

There’s a troubling phenomenon happening in early childhood education. It involves aligning standards to fake play.

Children own real play.

In Educating Young Children, Mary Hohmann and David P. Weikart discuss the HighScope preschool program and the welcome backseat adults often take to allow children to freely play. They say: When children are playing or starting to play, and are receptive to other players, adults can sometimes join them in a nondisruptive manner. This is real play.

Real play involves children using their imaginations to plan and work things out on their own. It’s messy and hard work for the child, but it builds thinking skills.

Educating Young Children provides descriptions of materials for play. The authors describe adult-guided educational activities too, but children are also trusted to learn through free play. Adults support the children in their activities. There’s no worry about test scores, but a focus on the child, their development, and the joy of learning.

Unfortunately, for years, unstructured play has been beyond the reach of many children. Kiss curiosity and problem solving good-bye.

UNSTRUCTURED PLAY INCREASES TEST SCORES?

Montgomery County adds additional recess time, test scores increase

For all those doubters who say we can’t reproduce what Finland has done to make our schools more effective, here’s an example of something we can copy — free, unstructured, play.

We are about two weeks away from kids heading back to the classroom.

One local school system is hoping for another year of increased elementary test scores.

We sat down with the superintendent of Montgomery County schools, and he says a trip overseas to visit one of the world’s best education systems opened his eyes to the one thing that was missing from our classrooms: playtime.

Montgomery County educators see the playground another classroom space where children learn communication and collaboration.

“I think it’s an important part of learning,” said Montgomery County Schools Superintendent Dr. Mark Miear.

The change in perspective came after a trip to Finland a couple years ago.

“What I found was that there was not a lot of difference between us and them. Of course, they have some of the highest test scores in the world and they’re very high in terms of academic achievement, so I start looking at what is the difference,” Miear said.

He found they have 15 minutes of recess for every 45 minutes of academic learning.

“We had kids who were spending an entire day in class with very little movement and having to wait until the end of the day for recess and that’s, you know, several hours. That’s not good for kids,” Miear said.

As he was preparing changes in the classroom the General Assembly loosened its restrictions allowing playtime to be counted as instruction.

So last school year, Montgomery County rolled out twice a day recess for all elementary students.

WHY DO WE NEED PRESCHOOL? ACADEMICS? OR INTERACTION?

Why Online Preschool is a Terrible Idea

Children don’t learn through computer screens…they learn by doing. Is an online preschool really a preschool?

It used to be that parents sent their young children to kindergarten to prepare them for elementary school. Now things have developed to the point where parents are sending their 3 – 4-year-olds to preschool to prepare them for kindergarten! What is the world coming to?

It’s becoming a place where there is no time to be a child anymore. And that’s not all. It is becoming a world where children no longer run around and learn through play and interaction. No, thanks to online preschools they are now learning sitting on a couch, staring at a screen and clicking a mouse.

Parents of young children can now enroll their child in a cyber preschool that provides digital learning materials, activity guides and “homeroom teachers” online through a home computer, tablet, or smartphone. This is the latest way to start a child’s education, but is it sensible?

Preschool teaches important social skills

Think about it: why are children sent to preschool in the first place? Isn’t it because they need human interaction? One of the most important skills children learn in preschool is how to make friends. Life is about human relationships after all. How do you learn about making friends, sorting out differences, and obeying the rules when you are staring at a screen, looking for the right color to click on?

Children learn through play, not screens

Young children don’t learn best through computer-based instruction. They learn through activity, primarily play. They use all their senses, their entire bodies to learn. They learn through touch and smell, running and crawling, building houses with odd materials, making dams in the back yard after the rain. And most importantly, they learn about their place in a social context from their peers and teachers.

POSITION STATEMENT

Position Statement on Online Preschools

Defending the Early Years says “no” to online preschool.

All children deserve high quality early education, and we call on local, state, and federal agencies and policymakers to reject online preschools and invest in fully-funded, relationship-based, universal pre- kindergarten programs with proven long-term benefits.

BETTER THAN NOTHING?

An Online Preschool Closes a Gap but Exposes Another

Is an online preschool better than no preschool at all?

There are places where preschools don’t exist…rural areas, high poverty areas. Those children need unstructured play with other children, too. Does online preschool fill the gap? Is it better than nothing?

The truth is that it’s not a yes/no question. If we care about our future, we must make sure that “no preschool” and “online preschool” aren’t the only options.

“Children who come from families of means have always gone to and still go to terrific quality pre-K programs,” said Nancy Carlsson-Paige, a co-founder of Defending the Early Years, a nonprofit campaign promoting universal pre-K. “Any program, you see the same thing — it’s kids engaged with teachers, blocks, paints and other kids. It’s all these things that everybody knows is quality.”

Not surprisingly, many early-education experts balk at the idea of preschool online. Steve Barnett, co-director of the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University, said a good preschool program typically developed a child’s social and emotional abilities, as well as ingraining lessons like thinking before you act.
“All of that can’t be done online,” he said.

But some advocates and Waterford Upstart argue that an online program is better than the current preschool options available to most low-income families, which are often nothing.

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2019 Medley #12: Reading

Reading Wars, Emergent Literacy,
Third Grade Retention Laws

What is reading? Is it more than decoding? Is it only comprehension? Reading Hall of Fame member Richard Allington has a nuanced discussion about it here.

When should we teach reading? Do four-year-olds need “reading instruction? Five-year-olds? High achieving Finland doesn’t teach five- or six-year-olds to read…unless the teacher determines that they’re ready. In the U.S. it’s one-size-fits-all in kindergarten (aka the new first grade).

When children have trouble reading at age nine or younger, what should we do? Do we remediate them? Or do we retain them in grade for another year?

READING WARS REDUX

The “Reading Wars” have ignited again. We start with an article from Australia which divides us into two simplistic sides — a pro-phonics tribe and an anti-phonics tribe. While attempting to sound unbiased the author assumes we all know that “science” is on the side of the pro-phonics tribe and it’s only those foolish “regular educators; teachers and educationists in schools” who refuse to see that systematic phonics is the “only way.”

I taught reading for 35 years and always included phonics even when I was using the “whole language” method of Reading Recovery. The difference is how you use phonics instruction.

‘When two tribes go to war’: the reading debate explained

Over time, as the scientific evidence in favour of the efficacy of phonics instruction became overwhelming, the whole language movement relaunched themselves as being in favour of ‘balanced literacy’. All five Big Ideas were important, including phonics (which they now claimed was being taught in most schools, but more as a method of last resort).

Moreover, phonics instruction (where necessary) should occur naturally during ‘real’ reading activities involving quality children’s literature and certainly should not be taught explicitly and systematically.

The author uses information from the U.S.’s National Reading Panel (2001) when discussing the “five Big Ideas” — that is, the five major pillars of “scientific reading instruction” identified by the National Reading Panel…

  • phonological awareness
  • phonics
  • fluency
  • vocabulary
  • comprehension

The National Reading Panel Summary, arguing for explicit and systematic phonics instruction, said,

The meta-analysis revealed that systematic phonics instruction produces significant benefits for students in kindergarten through 6th grade and for children having difficulty learning to read. The ability to read and spell words was enhanced in kindergartners who received systematic beginning phonics instruction. First graders who were taught phonics systematically were better able to decode and spell, and they showed significant improvement in their ability to comprehend text. Older children receiving phonics instruction were better able to decode and spell words and to read text orally, but their comprehension of text was not significantly improved.

Unfortunately, that’s not exactly what the National Reading Panel found. The Summary, written to favor phonics, overstated the findings. The full report (p. 2-116) tells a different story.

Because most of the comparisons above 1st grade involved poor readers (78%), the conclusions drawn about the effects of phonics instruction on specific reading outcomes pertain mainly to them. Findings indicate that phonics instruction helps poor readers in 2nd through 6th grades improve their word reading skills. However, phonics instruction appears to contribute only weakly, if at all, in helping poor readers apply these skills to read text and to spell words. There were insufficient data to draw any conclusions about the effects of phonics instruction with normally developing readers above 1st grade.

Stephen Krashen offers a couple of responses to the Australian article…

Sent to the Sydney Morning Herald, June 24, 2019.

Basic Phonics appears to be the position of Anderson, Hiebert, Scott and Wilkinson, authors of Becoming a Nation of Readers, a book widely considered to provide strong support for phonics instruction:

“…phonics instruction should aim to teach only the most important and regular of letter-to-sound relationships…once the basic relationships have been taught, the best way to get children to refine and extend their knowledge of letter-sound correspondences is through repeated opportunities to read. If this position is correct, then much phonics instruction is overly subtle and probably unproductive.”

Beginning Reading: The (Huge) Role of Stories and the (Limited) Role of Phonics

Stephen Krashen
Language Magazine April, 2019

The inclusion of some phonics instruction does not constitute a “balanced” approach or an “eclectic” approach: All components of the complete program, stories, self-selected reading and a small amount of direct phonics instruction are in the service of providing comprehensible input. Stories and self-selected reading provide [comprehensible input] directly: They are assisted by a variety of means for making input comprehensible: some conscious knowledge of the rules of phonics is one of them. It is, however, very limited.

Cryonics Phonics: Inequality’s Little Helper

Gerald Coles (Reading The Naked Truth) offers a discussion of the Reading Wars and how the errors of the National Reading Panel are still haunting us.

Propelling the skills-heavy reading instruction mandated in NCLB was the 2000 Report of the National Reading Panel. Convened by Congress, the panel concluded, after a purportedly exhaustive review of the research on beginning-reading instruction, that phonics and direct-skills instruction was the necessary, scientifically proven pathway to academic success. In Reading the Naked Truth: Literacy, Legislation, and Lies (2003), I reviewed all of the “scientific” studies cited in the National Reading Panel report and documented how the panel repeatedly misinterpreted and misrepresented the findings in study after study. The following are just a few examples:

  • The boost in reading associated with early phonics instruction did not last beyond kindergarten.
  • The overall data in the studies reviewed actually contradict the report’s conclusion about the “better reading growth” in skills-emphasis classrooms.
  • Systematic phonics teaching was not superior to whole-language teaching in which phonics was taught as needed.

Again, I would emphasize that I always provided phonics instruction for my students and there are times when systematic phonics can be used to benefit students. However, it’s important to remember that “Systematic phonics teaching was not superior to whole-language teaching in which phonics was taught as needed.”

[For more about the National Reading Panel and its report see:

WHY AREN’T YOU TEACHING READING TO PRE-SCHOOLERS?

Why Don’t You Teach Reading? A Look at Emergent Literacy

Just because someone went to school doesn’t mean they know everything about teaching. There’s more to reading instruction than worksheets and book reports. There’s more to language development and the skills needed for learning to read than letters and phonics.

Many developmentally appropriate preschool teachers have been asked, “Why don’t you teach reading?” The question is innocent. But teachers often come away frustrated, as most of what they do is focused on building successful readers. Often, outside observers are looking for reading worksheets and primers and long stretches of direct phonics instruction. The trick is, in these early years, so much is being done to build successful readers, but it is in the form of emergent or early literacy skills, which are much less visible to the untrained eye.

THIRD GRADE PUNISHMENT LAWS

In Indiana and 18 other states in the U.S., when third graders have difficulty passing a standardized reading test, they’re required to repeat third grade.

We know, however, that retention in grade, especially when used as a one-size-fits-all approach to reading remediation, is not effective.

States Are Ratcheting Up Reading Expectations For 3rd-Graders

Noguera sees a disconnect in the increased expectations and flat school funding. “We often hold kids accountable,” he says. “In this case, with retention. We hold teachers accountable for not raising test scores. But the state legislature doesn’t hold itself accountable for putting the resources in place to make sure schools can meet the learning needs of kids.”

Force and Flunk, Tougher Kindergarten Lead to Parental Dissatisfaction with Public Schools

States are requiring schools to retain third-graders who are having trouble reading, but reading instruction in the early years of schooling is often inappropriate and lacking resources for identifying and helping at-risk children. In other words, the children are paying the price for the failure of the adults in their world to provide developmentally-appropriate instruction and sufficient help for those who struggle. What follows, says Nancy Bailey, are parents who blame the school and perpetuate the myth of “failing schools.”

When kindergartners don’t like reading and do it poorly, public schools fall short on remediation programs. Even if a child has a learning disability they might not get the needed services because so many children struggle due to being forced to read too soon!

Kindergarten never used to be where and when children were expected to master reading! Mostly, children learned the ABCs. Kindergarten was a half day involving play and socialization, like Finnish children are schooled today.

But with the looming fear of third grade retention, parents are alarmed for good reason. Kindergarten is no longer joyful or the “garden,” its original German definition. It’s dominated by assessment and forced reading and writing exercises that raise fear in children. This is due to the concern that children won’t read by third grade and will fail the test and be retained.

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2019 Medley #9

Pre-School, Vouchers and Low Test Scores,
Billionaires Aren’t Helping,
DeVos Funds Charters,
Teacher Career Penalty, Praying in Safety

INVESTING IN THE FUTURE

Two reports endorse investment in early childhood education

Truthfully, neither of these reports tells us anything new (see also Untangling the Evidence on Preschool Effectiveness: Insights for Policymakers). What they do tell us, however, is that states aren’t investing in early childhood education the way they should…too many tax breaks for the wealthy and for corporations (Corporations are people, my friend.”) to be able to afford any investment in something so lacking in a quick return on investment as early childhood education.

The supermajority in Indiana still hasn’t been able to figure out how to help their friends profit from the state’s pilot program in pre-school…a “pilot” now in its sixth year.

A pair of reports released this week offered supporting arguments for one of Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s top priorities: increasing investment in early childhood education.

Both reports, one by a group of law enforcement officials and another by leading business executives, use data from the Illinois State Department of Education that shows roughly three-fourths of all students entering kindergarten in Illinois lack necessary school readiness skills in at least one of three critical areas – social-emotional development, literacy or math. Only about a quarter of all new kindergarteners demonstrate school readiness in all three categories.

What Preschool Isn’t: Waterford UPSTART and Any Other Online Program!

Yes…we’re trying this in Indiana, too. Indiana is nothing if not consistent. We’ll try anything which will spend public dollars on privately run “schools,” especially high-tech corporate run virtual schools. Even virtual schools for pre-schoolers.

Does it even matter to them that the research on screen time shows that too much is detrimental to children?

Ask any early childhood expert about the purpose of pre-school and she will tell you that learning letters, sitting at a computer, and getting a leg up on academics are only a small part of what makes a good pre-school. Physical, social, and emotional development should be part of the curriculum. There should also be room for the child’s creativity to develop…for the child to play, freely, without adult interference. The emphasis should be on PRE-, not school (see Six Principles to Guide Policy).

Any tax money that goes to “virtual pre-schools” is worse than a waste of money.

I wonder if these individuals don’t understand early childhood education. Have they read the research?

Sitting young children in front of screens to learn will likely have bad long-term repercussions. We already know that more screen time doesn’t help older children in school. We also understand that teens are too glued to screens and with social media have become increasingly depressed and anxious.

So there’s little doubt that pushing preschoolers to do their learning on computers is a huge mistake.

VOUCHERS — STILL FAILING AFTER ALL THESE YEARS

Do voucher students’ scores bounce back after initial declines? New research says no

Another favorite of the privatization crowd is vouchers…a simple plan to divert public tax dollars into private religious schools.

First, they said that vouchers were necessary to help poor children of color “escape” “failing” public schools. Once they learned that vouchers wouldn’t solve the deeper societal problems of poverty they changed the purpose of vouchers to “choice.” Now, Indiana’s voucher system is a private school entitlement for white middle-class families.

Schools that accept vouchers are no better than public schools and they drain tax dollars from the public treasury for the support of religious organizations.

Your tax dollars are going…

…instead of going to support your underfunded neighborhood public school.

New research on a closely watched school voucher program finds that it hurts students’ math test scores — and that those scores don’t bounce back, even years later.

That’s the grim conclusion of the latest study, released Tuesday, looking at Louisiana students who used a voucher to attend a private school. It echoes research out of IndianaOhio, and Washington, D.C. showing that vouchers reduce students’ math test scores and keep them down for two years or more.

Together, they rebut some initial research suggesting that the declines in test scores would be short-lived, diminishing a common talking point for voucher proponents.

BILLIONAIRE INTERFERENCE IN PUBLIC EDUCATION: UNDEMOCRATIC

Who Should Pay for Public Education?

The Gates Familly Foundation dumps millions of dollars into public education trying experiment after experiment using public school students as the guinea pigs. Is this based on Bill Gates’s vast experience as an educator? Is it based on research done by a university’s education department under the leadership of Melinda Gates? No. It’s because they have money. Money, according to the Gates Foundation, gives them the knowledge and the right to turn public education into philanthropist-based education.

Do Bill and Melinda Gates have ulterior motives for spending their dollars on public schools? I can’t answer that. Perhaps their motives are sincere and they really do want to improve public schools. No matter what their motives, however, that’s not how public education should function in a democracy. Our elected representatives on local school boards should determine the curriculum for our schools. If Bill and Melinda Gates and their billionaire peers want to help improve public education they should pay their taxes.

So yes, we should propose raising taxes to more adequately fund public schools, so they don’t have to apply for grants from foundations that will want control over aspects of their core work. Underfunding public education (and the rise of the Billionaire Social Entrepreneur Class) have pushed many public schools into a corner: they need more money to accomplish the things they want to be doing. The things they know will help their students flourish.

Schools can become dependent on grants. Teachers these days are often forced to Donors-Choose even basic supplies. We have abandoned truly adequate public education funding in favor of piecemeal begging and co-opting our principles for much-needed money. Public institutions, from roads, fire-fighting, hospitals and libraries to the military, need public funding. Because we all depend on them.

DEAR CHARTERS, HERE’S MONEY. LOVE BETSY

Charter networks KIPP and IDEA win big federal grants to fund ambitious growth plans

Betsy DeVos, who purchased her cabinet position from American politicians, has directed her U.S. Education Department to spend millions on charter schools. A charter school advocate said of the gift…

“In many states and cities, it’s potentially the only source of start-up dollars that schools receive…”

Maybe that’s because the local community doesn’t need, want, or isn’t willing to pay for another school.

“The U.S. Department of Education has not, in our opinion, been a responsible steward of taxpayer dollars in regard to its management of the Charter Schools Program,” wrote Carol Burris and Jeff Bryant, the Network for Public Education report’s authors.

“If there are any instances of waste, fraud or abuse, the Department will certainly address them, but this so-called study was funded and promoted by those who have a political agenda against charters and its ‘results’ need to be taken with a grain of salt,” Liz Hill, a Department of Education spokesperson, said in an email.

Nina Rees, the president of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, said federal grants are a crucial source of funding for start-up schools and that closures of ineffective schools are signs that the charter model is working.

“In many states and cities it’s potentially the only source of start-up dollars that schools receive,” she said. “When you first open a school, unless you come into the work with your own money, you don’t have any way of paying for certain things.”

THE PENALTY FOR CHOOSING TO TEACH

The teacher weekly wage penalty hit 21.4 percent in 2018, a record high

Let’s admit it. Many of America’s teachers make enough money to live on. The average teacher’s salary in Indiana is more than $50,000. When adjusted for local cost of living it’s even higher. Any minimum wage worker in the U.S. would love to have a job at even half that rate, so what are teachers complaining about?

First, that’s just an average, and the average is dropping. One reason it’s dropping is that Indiana no longer allows salary schedules for teachers. If you start your school teaching career at about $38,000 you’ll stay at that salary until your school system can find money to give you a raise. In Indiana, the cost of living has increased faster than the increases in funding by the General Assembly. Since 1999 Indiana adjusted teacher salaries have dropped more than 15%.

Second, while teachers don’t go into education expecting to become rich, they also expect to earn more than minimum wage. How much do teachers make compared to other workers with the same training? According to this article, it’s about 20% less nationwide, even higher in Indiana. Where will we find people to teach in our public school classrooms if we don’t pay them a competitive wage?

A shortage of teachers harms students, teachers, and the public education system as a whole. Lack of sufficient, qualified teachers and staff instability threaten students’ ability to learn and reduce teachers’ effectiveness, and high teacher turnover consumes economic resources that could be better deployed elsewhere. The teacher shortage makes it more difficult to build a solid reputation for teaching and to professionalize it, which further contributes to perpetuating the shortage. In addition, the fact that the shortage is distributed so unevenly among students of different socioeconomic backgrounds challenges the U.S. education system’s goal of providing a sound education equitably to all children.

(((DISINTEGRATING BEFORE OUR EYES)))

Once We Were Free: Mourning the era of American Jewish freedom

I…want you to understand how it felt to find a safe harbor after thousands of years and build lives and generations there—and then watch it begin to disintegrate before our eyes.

This isn’t about public education. It’s about the increase in religious and racial violence in the United States.

Jewish baby boomers have grown up in a nation (nearly) free from religious persecution. Many of our grandparents and parents had to leave their homes in Europe to escape pogroms and mass murder. Many faced discrimination when they came to the U.S. in housing and jobs, but over the years, and generations, things improved for us.

Growing up in liberal Jewish America I learned about centuries of discrimination and persecution, yet I was assured that the Jewish people had now found a safe haven in America.

The last six months have brought an abrupt end to the image of America as being a safe-haven for its Jewish citizens. What follows are the thoughts of one mother who mourns the loss of Jewish safety in America.

I know some readers never experienced freedom in America. I know there are people who grew up in an America that enslaved their ancestors, an America that brought their community smallpox and genocide, an America that put their grandmothers in internment camps, that deported their parents. An America that stole from them, hurt them, killed them. They ask me: How can you complain? Why should we care that you once knew freedom and lost it, when we have never been free. To those readers: I stand with you unequivocally. I know you never had the America I once did. I will fight beside you to build an America where all of us had the freedom I once had. None of our children should pray behind armed guards. All of us, all of our kids should be safe, prosperous, and free. I want to hear all of your stories, all the ways America hurt you and took freedom from you. But I also want you to understand how it felt to find a safe harbor after thousands of years and build lives and generations there—and then watch it begin to disintegrate before our eyes. All of our voices should be heard. All of us deserve a new era of freedom, prosperity, and safety. I hope what we build in the coming years makes us freer than all of our grandmothers’ wildest dreams. I believe we must come together and fight for the America that seemed so close we could taste it just a few years ago. We must fight for all of us, for every American to have lives so free we can’t even begin to imagine them yet. Hope still lives here, somewhere, even if it feels far away today.

⛪️💲🚌

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2018 Medley #24

Online Preschool, Children’s Screen Time,
Religion in School, Segregation,
Diverting Public Money to Privatization

 
ONLINE PRESCHOOL – AN OXYMORON

Should Your Three-Year-Old Attend Online School?

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

“Disruption” Using Technology is Dangerous to Child Development and Public Education

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

Young Children in the Digital Age: A Parent’s Guide

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

Counterpoint: Don’t preach, teach

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…

We can draw school zones to make classrooms less segregated. This is how well your district does.

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

Public schools’ struggle correlates directly to state voucher support

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

Kindergarten difficulties may predict academic achievement across primary grades

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.

Humpback whale songs undergo a ‘cultural revolution’ every few years

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.

🇺🇸🚌🌎

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2018 Medley #17

Flint Fights Lead,
Hope for Lead-poisoned Children,
Out of School Factors,
Preschool Teachers, Teachers Unions,
“Give me your tired, your poor…”

WHY ISN’T PREVENTING LEAD POISONING A NATIONAL GOAL?

Is Flint Michigan’s Water Quality Really Restored?

It’s hard to stay focused on education topics when the country is under the stress it now finds itself. When August and September roll around, however, no matter what’s happening with the nation’s immigration crisis, with the Supreme Court, or with the investigation into possible treasonous activity on the part of the President’s political campaign, the nation’s schools will fill once again and teachers will try to ease the stress on their students with the healing power of routine, curiosity, and study.

Yet some children, including those from Flint, Michigan, will go back to school with their blood contaminated by lead. Despite the claims of the politicians, lead is still an issue in Flint (and elsewhere). The repair of the water lines responsible for contaminating the bodies of school children is actually causing the condition to worsen.

In addition, the State of Michigan is allowing Nestlé to pump millions of gallons of water from the Great Lakes in order to bottle and sell it. Nestlé is “giving” a few thousand gallons back to the people of Flint. According to the interview below, Nestlé is donating less water than they drain from the lakes in an hour per week back to the people of Flint – the same lakes which should be providing the clean water to the city’s residents. Most residents are having to buy water and pay their water bills. The “donation” from Nestlé is barely a supplement.

NAYYIRAH SHARIFF: Well, the water is not safe to drink. And while they are replacing the lead service lines, because of just the, the vibrations from that, it’s reintroducing lead particles into the system. So the water will not be safe to drink until after the lead service lines are replaced. But I will say a larger picture is there are a lot of things like lead that’s in our water that the state is refusing to act on.

EDDIE CONWAY: OK. So since they stopped distributing the water bottles, what are the citizens doing there for safe water?

NAYYIRAH SHARIFF: Well, people are going back and buying water. There are still some small donations from people. And I would say one of the, one of the more unfortunate consequences from this is it’s given a chance for Nestlé, who’s paying, like, $200 a year to pump 500 gallons a minute from our Great Lakes, they’re donating 100000 bottles of water a week to Flint. So that’s like one bottle per person.

EDDIE CONWAY: OK. So you’re saying it’s a PR boon for Nestlé, who’s stealing a large amount of water out of the lake, and giving you all a bottle apiece a day? Is that what you’re saying?

NAYYIRAH SHARIFF: Yes. Nestlé is donating 100000 bottles of water a week to Flint residents. And while people are desperate and they’re using that water, this is just a PR move for Nestlé.

 

HOPE

Lead hurts kids, including their ability to learn. But new research shows cities can help.

A new study shows that the effects of lead poisoning in children can be ameliorated somewhat, but it will cost money.

Now, a new study says there’s a lot that can be done about it — even for kids who have already been exposed to the chemical, which was common in paint until the late 1970s. Straightforward efforts, like making sure kids get nutritional help and aren’t exposed to any more lead, can boost student learning and cause substantial decreases in suspensions, absences, and crime rates.

Politicians and pundits should take note. Environmental toxins such as lead are just one of the factors outside of school which contribute to low achievement.

The research underscores how factors outside schools’ control can profoundly influence academic outcomes.

 

From Reliability and Validity of Inferences About Teachers
Based on Student Test Scores
by Edward Haertel

ON BEING SELFISH AND CHEAP

When preschool teachers can’t afford care for their own children

You might have heard politicians go on and on about how they agree that early childhood education is important, yet when it comes to paying for it they’re more interested in making sure that taxes are insufficient due to tax breaks for their donors. Meanwhile, the tax burden of Americans is one of the lowest in the developed world…

You get what you pay for.

Low wages and poor working conditions undermine the quality of early education experiences, which hinge on positive adult-child interactions. When teachers are worried about their ability to put food on the table, pay their bills or take care of a sick child, they are understandably less able to focus on the needs of the children in their care and to provide the intentional interactions so critical to child development.

The result is high turnover rates and difficulty retaining the most qualified educators. In turn, this creates instability for young children, who crave routine, and decreases the likelihood that children will reap the long-term benefits that come from attendance at a high-quality preschool staffed by experienced, highly skilled educators.

 

CORPORATE REFORM SCORES A WIN OVER UNIONS

Michigan-based Mackinac Center’s Campaign to Kill Unions in Other States

Corporate America received a win last week when the US Supreme Court overruled the case for unions collecting fees for services they are required by law to provide all employees in their bargaining unit. The ruling has two serious results. First, it has legitimized freeloaders who pay nothing to support those who work to improve their working conditions, and second, it has energized anti-union forces around the nation.

On June 27, 2018, in Janus V. AFSCME, the US Supreme Court ruled 5 – 4 that nonunion workers cannot be forced to pay “fair share” fees when union advocacy results in a benefit to nonunion members.

The extreme-right-wing Mackinac Center for Public Policy is using the Janus decision to actively campaign for the fiscal crippling of unions by targeting emails to organizations such as school districts in order to try to get union members to “opt out” of union membership.

 

Betsy DeVos Conquers the World: The Global Education Reform Movement (GERM)

Here’s a companion piece to the story above about union busting by the US Supreme Court. Busting unions is just one part of the Global Education Reform Movement, or GERM, and it’s an international affliction.

The National Education Union in the UK sums it up well. Here is what GERM does to schools in countries around the world:

  • Threatens the teaching profession by prioritizing and imposing a business model on education.
  • Emphasizes competition between schools and teachers, using high-stakes testing.
  • Gives performance rewards.
  • Aims to produce a narrowly educated workforce, which can read instructions and advertisements but is discouraged from thinking critically about the world.
  • Attacks teachers’ unions.
  • Views education as an opportunity to maximise human capital.
  • Abandons education’s role to create cultural good and social cohesion.
  • Takes education out of the hands of those who own it, teachers, students, parents, and the public, to develop a commodity which can be traded globally.
  • Creates a service sector which is open to trade and investors.
  • Education becomes about profit not people.
  • There’s an emphasis on education technology for capital.
  • Breaks good school systems into academies, free schools, or in America, charter and voucher schools.
  • Creates a national pay framework.
  • Relies on performance related pay—think social impact bonds.
  • Privatizes educational services.

GERM affects all schools—everywhere.

 

IMMIGRATION LAW HISTORY

A Brief History of U.S. Immigration Law

We all owe it to ourselves to understand where the United States has been with our immigration laws in order to understand where we are now.

…our immigration laws have increasingly become more strict, with a growing focus on controlling undocumented immigration. How these laws are interpreted and implemented is determined for the most part by court rulings when the government and its agencies are sued on behalf of immigrants (class action suits). When a ruling is made on a class action case, that ruling then becomes national policy.

 

🚌🚰🌎

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