Category Archives: Sahlberg

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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