U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan presented the fullest picture yet of his vision for a birth-to-8 education system in remarks yesterday at the opening of the annual meeting of the National Association for the Education of Young Children.
In a wide-ranging speech that emphasized the importance of "raising the bar" on the quality of early learning environments, Duncan said that early childhood advocates now face two challenges. One, he said, is the need for better transitions and "follow through" between pre-K and the K-12 years. The other is what he sees as a necessary shift in thinking about how to measure quality -- moving from "inputs" like teacher qualifications and child-to-staff ratios to "outcomes" that indicate whether children are developing and learning well.
Duncan praised the NAEYC, the nation's largest membership organization of preschools, child care centers, kindergartens and public elementary schools, for its insistence that to close the achievement gap, we must prevent the gap through high-quality early learning experiences.
"I want our schools to get out of the catch-up business," he said. "To prevent the gap," he continued, "we must be ready to dramatically improve outcomes for our children."
Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Education released the application and notice of final priorities for the Race to the Top competition, a $4.35 billion grant program that rewards states that have shown the most commitment to and progress on education reforms to improve student achievement. The final priorities and application reflect a number of changes from a draft the department released in July that drew more than 1,100 comments.
A symposium in Arlington on Tuesday brought together some of the most well-known researchers in the field of early childhood to dig into a tough and timely question: How do we help young children in the United States who know very little English?
The day-long symposium, "Investigating the Classroom Experiences of Young Dual Language Learners," was hosted by the National Center for Research on Early Childhood Education, based at the University of Virginia, in partnership with the National Center for Latino Child & Family Research. Designed to link together current research while also jumpstarting more probing studies, the symposium was peppered with lively discussions about how to gather and decipher evidence of what works in pre-K classrooms. The hosts intend to publish a collection of the day's papers.
The Washington Post's "Answer Sheet" just published a commentary I wrote about how to improve children's grasp of math in the early years. It's a call to parents to build math moments into the morning routine, just as book reading is part of the bedtime drill. To make something like this work, we'll need preschool teachers and elementary school teachers to help parents recognize their own capacity for helping their kids, providing them with creative ideas that make math accessible and easy. I've included some of those ideas in the post below, but I'd love to find more. Please don't hesitate to add your feedback and ideas to the comment section below or at the Answer Sheet site, where parents are chiming in.
Bedtime = book time. Parents know that equation by heart, or at least they're supposed to. The drill goes like this: Just before the goodnight kiss, we snuggle up with our young kids, open a book, and read with them. Okay, so maybe at first we have to beg them to just settle down. And maybe the baby is more prone to eat the pages than look at them. But still, we try. We're the ones responsible for these little human beings. It's part of our job.
Data from a survey of kindergarten teachers in California's Santa Clara County adds to the mounting evidence that kindergarten readiness is not as simple to define as you might think.
Contrary to popular conceptions of what it means for a 5-year-old to be ready for kindergarten, most kindergarten teachers are not wishing for rooms full of children who can already identify the letters of the alphabet. What they want instead are children who have learned how to regulate their impulses, follow through on a difficult task and have the self-control to listen to the teacher's directions for a few minutes.
This was one of several messages that emerged in Sacramento last Thursday during a presentation of recent data from the Santa Clara County Partnership for School Readiness, a collaborative of public, private and non-profit organizations in Silicon Valley. The presentation was part of the forum at which the New America Foundation released our report on early education in California. (For more about the report, see last week's post, the executive summary and the full report.)
We're in the thick of pumpkin patch season. Children around the country have been heading out on field trips with their classes and families, bumping along on hay rides to find the plumpest pumpkins they can get their hands on.
Good teachers know how to turn these field trips into curiosity-driven moments of learning for themselves and their students, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds who finally have a chance to hear, see, use and interact with objects and concepts that they rarely come across in their everyday lives. As a New York Times story highlighted yesterday, for some children a trip to the pumpkin patch means being able to hold and touch what is essentially a foreign object. When a classroom of 25 children at Harlem Success Academy 3 were asked how many had ever held a pumpkin, only two raised their hand.
Sec. Duncan Calls Out Ed Schools' Shortcomings: Could New Early Ed Credentials Be Part of the Solution?
In a speech earlier this week at the University of Virginia, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan harshly criticized the nation’s education schools. “In far too many universities, education schools are the neglected stepchild," Duncan said. "Too often they don’t attract the best students or faculty." He added: "Many ed schools do relatively little to prepare students for the rigor of teaching in high-poverty and high-need schools.”
Duncan has a point. Numerous studies and reports have documented the failures of our nation’s system for preparing prospective educators. In brief, our education schools enroll some of the least academically promising students; provide them with little practical teaching experience or grounding in evidence-based practice; don’t prepare them to work in high-poverty schools or serve students with special needs; and are not accountable for the performance of their graduates in the classroom — or whether they even make it there at all. While there's substantial disagreement in education policy circles about many issues, the shortcomings of our approach to preparing and training the nation's teachers are one issue that critics both across the policy and political spectrum can agree on -- although they have radically different prescriptions for how to fix the problem.
No progress on the math front. That's one way to interpret the 4th-graders' scores that were released today by the Institute of Education Sciences in the Nation's Report Card. For the first time since 1990, their average score in math on the National Assessment of Educational Progress didn't budge.
But good progress has been made over the past two decades. That's the other take on today's announcement. Since 1990, 4th graders have shown steady improvement in math. And the scores for 8th graders continued to go up this year. This graph on the first page of the report tells the story well:
On Tuesday, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Assistant Deputy Secretary for Innovation and Improvement Jim Shelton released proposed priorities and selection criteria for the Investing in Innovation Fund (i3), a $650 million pot of funds intended to support the development and expansion of innovative models to improve student achievement and narrow achievement gaps.
For those of us interested in creating a high-quality continuum of education programs from the earliest years up through third grade, there is a lot to like in the proposed priority list. But first, some background and broader details from today’s announcement:
i3 was created this spring under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). Because the program provides a unique opportunity for the Department to invest in the development and scaling up of innovative practices, and because the ARRA legislation left a lot of details to be filled in about how the program will work, many in the education community have been eagerly awaiting further information about how the Secretary intends to implement it.
Last week the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and National Governors’ Association (NGA)—the two organizations leading efforts to develop “common core” state standards—released a first draft of their “college- and career-ready” standards. The overall reaction from education groups, policy wonks, and other observers has been pretty positive so far, although some critics say the standards devote too little attention to specific content knowledge.