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.
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:
Few people would disagree that how kids learn is connected to where they learn. Those wondering about how a school's physical environment enhances learning will relish The Third Teacher, a new book on school and classroom design. Published as a collaborative project by architects, designers and a furniture company, the book explores how schools and classrooms can be built in smarter, greener, and more imaginative ways.
The book itself is a beautiful piece of construction -- over 200 colorful pages of interviews, graphics, case studies and meditations that are grouped into 79 suggestions for improving school buildings and classrooms. With its visual ingenuity, the book suggests how powerful good design can be.
The authors are OWP/P | Cannon Design, a Chicago-based firm that has over 50 years of experience with school design; VS Furniture, a German company that specializes in educational furnishings, and Bruce Mao Design studio in Toronto and Chicago.
J.M. Holland is a National Board Certified pre-K teacher in a Head Start center in Richmond, Va., who will be supervising teachers in18 classrooms this year. He is a member of the Center for Teacher Leadership and is pursuing his doctorate at Virginia Commonwealth University. He blogs for Inside Pre-K and for his personal blog Lead from the Start, where he weaves ideas about teaching and schooling in and out of thoughts about painting. John is a professional artist. His writings can feel like artwork too.
A few weeks ago, John asked me to answer five questions about media and early education as part of a series of interviews on the Inside Pre-K blog. I asked if I could turn the tables. Here are five questions he's answered for Early Ed Watch.
It's unusual to find men teaching preschool. What should we do to change that?
In an op-ed for USA Today that came out this morning, I wrote about kindergarten -- a topic of heightened interest over the past six months as news stories, magazine pieces and research reports have sounded alarms about classrooms for 5-year-olds becoming pressure cookers.
In the piece I outlined four imperatives for improving the experience for all children, not to mention teachers:
Over at the Quick & the Ed, Chad Aldeman does a great job of unpacking some of the reasons why it's incredibly difficult for college students who begin their education at community colleges to successfully transfer to 4-year institutions and earn a bachelor's degree (a model known as "2+2," because successful students would, in theory, spend two years in a community college, plus two more in a 4-year institution). In fact, shockingly few students who enroll at community colleges with the intention to earn a BA ever do so. This is a problem on a whole bunch of levels. But it's particularly likely to become an issue as states and now the federal Head Start program seek to increase the number of pre-k and early education teachers who have bachelor's degrees.
For many current pre-k and Head Start teachers who will seek to earn bachelor's degrees in order to meet new requirements, local community colleges are the logical place to start on their path to a BA. Community colleges are cheaper and more convenient than four-year institutions, and they're often much more targeted to the needs of older adults returning to college. Moreover, many community colleges already have relatively strong associate's degree programs for early childhood educators.
Two weeks ago, our sister blog Higher Ed Watch published a post uncovering the truth behind Kentucky's terminated teacher loan forgiveness program, "Best in Class." Although the Kentucky Higher Education Student Loan Corporation (KHESLC), the state's nonprofit student loan agency that administered the program, blamed federal subsidy cuts for the program's demise, Higher Ed Watch showed that the agency had engaged in questionable practices to collect these subsidies. Now, many Kentucky teachers enrolled in the program are in a financial bind and many stated their outrage in comments on the blog. One commenter suggested Kentucky use it's State Fiscal Stabilization Fund (SFSF) under the 2009 economic stimulus law to fund the program. Unfortunately, the structure of the SFSF makes this very unlikely.
A child-advocacy group called the Alliance for Childhood recently released a white paper with a head-turning title: "Crisis in the Kindergarten: Why Children Need to Play in School." A press release accompanying the report carries the dramatic headline: "Kindergarten Playtime Disappears, Raising Alarm on Children's Learning and Health."
The report is right to raise the profile of playtime. We agree that it is time to talk seriously about how to ensure that early childhood teachers allow children some much-needed time for active, child-centered play. Through workshops and professional development programs, teachers should be trained in methods that give children space and time to launch themselves into pretend-play scenarios around, say, a make-believe hospital or space shuttle. Kindergarteners need time to figure out for themselves why a block tower won't stand up or whether their kite will fly.
A recent article about the 4th grade reading slump, in Democracy: A Journal of Ideas, features a blueprint for change built on a provocative premise. The authors argue that instead of banning, disdaining or simply ignoring digital media in the classroom, educators should be emboldened -- and supported -- to use as much of it as they can.
The article, "TV Guidance," was written by James Paul Gee, a literacy professor at Arizona State University and Michael Levine, executive director of the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop and a senior associate at Yale University's Zigler Center. They write:
"Current literacy practices and policies have cost tens of billions of dollars over the past decade with almost no integration of the new digital tools and teaching practices that have the potential to build the skills and knowledge demanded by universities and employers in the twenty-first century."