States are cutting hundreds of millions from their prekindergarten budgets, undermining years of working to help young children particularly poor kids get ready for school, the Associated Press reports After allegations of widespread cheating on standardized test, a new report largely vindicates the Atlanta school system, according to the New York Times And education historian and author Diane Ravitch discusses the lack of accountability and other pitfalls created by mayoral control in a column for the Washington Post. (Let NSBA know your reaction to the article on Board Buzz)
School Board News Today, an online publication of NSBA, provides timely and relevant stories and analysis from NSBA and other news outlets to school board members, administrators, and all others interested in K-12 education.
Articles in the Preschool Education category
Geoffrey Canada expects all the children who attend the Harlem Children’s Zone schools to go to a four-year college. Not a trade school, not the military–even though there is nothing wrong with those options for other children and those paths could be considered a monumental accomplishment for the impoverished, at-risk populations he serves.
“You have to have aspirations for all kids, and for me, that’s college,” he explained at a Sunday luncheon for members of the National Black Caucus of School Board Members. “The only goal I have is for all these kids to go to college. If you get paid to work with other people’s kids, you should have the same aspirations for them as you have for your own children. And I have yet to see a wealthy person who did not want all of their kids to go to college.”
To Canada, adults are responsible for the success of the children in their liveswhether that be their own children, the children who attend their schools, or children in their neighborhoods. Any failure at the Harlem Children’s Zone (HCZ) is considered the fault of an adult.
“If you fail our children,” he said, “then you can’t work with them.”
Canada’s no-holds-barred approach and success in providing a comprehensive range of social and educational services in a tough inner-city area that now covers nearly 100 blocks of New York City, has led him to national acclaim (he even stars in an American Express commercial). He detailed his work for school board members that face many of the same challenges.
It began, he said, when he began thinking about what supports would be needed to rid the Harlem neighborhood of crime, drugs, and social ills, and bring back economic prosperity and a strong, supportive community. He began speaking with political and educational leaders to figure out a plan to give these most disadvantaged children a chance at success.
“Some people don’t believe we’d allow America to be lost, but here is no plan to save American children,” he said. “I decided, I’m going to save my own kids in Harlem.”
His work begins at the “Baby College,” a program that provides workshops and training to parents and services for the infants to 3-year-old population. Early childhood education is the foundation of the HCZ, he explained, because there is so much research that shows the importance of brain development in that critical period.
“If you miss that period of time, you will spend large amounts of time trying to rewire that brain the way it was supposed to be,” he said.
Under the HCZ’s program, students who attend the network of charter schools spend more hours and more days in school than their more privileged peers and a top priority is getting adults involved. School staff are encouraged to be creative in finding solutions to children’s needsfor instance, Canada tells of a teacher he had who had him read two different books to learn a math concept. One book made no sense, the other helped him learn. Those are the kinds of experiments teachers conduct with the students each day.
While the HCZ has seen improvements, Canada believes the nation must make education a priority or face dire consequences.
He believes money should not drive a district’s ability to provide servicesparticularly in light of the massive economic bailoutas children are the nation’s essential investment in its future. Education leaders must rethink the entire model of schooling and focus on what at-risk students need to succeedsuch as more time in school, health care, family servicesand find ways to provide them. Teachers should be paid much higher salaries to attract the best and brightest to the field and be given training and supports in their early years.
Canada is infuriated that the weakest teachers often end up in the toughest schools, given that those students are so much further behind than students from wealthier families. He has a radical idea for those teachers who refuse to believe in their charges or make excuses for failure: “If we can’t get rid of lousy teachers, we should send them to the upper-middle-class communities,” he said. “If you can’t do it, we’ll find someone who will.”
BoardBuzz was happy to hear President Obama speak on the importance of educationprekindergarten through collegeand its key role in the future of our nation during Wednesday night’s State of the Union address.
“In the 21st century, the best anti-poverty program around is a world-class education,” he said. “And in this country, the success of our children cannot depend more on where they live than on their potential.”
Of course, most of the details will not be available until the White House budget proposal is released Monday. NSBA Executive Director Anne L. Bryant noted after Obama’s speech that the federal government must deliver more funding to help public schools meet the challenges they face.
“We agree with the president that the best anti-poverty program is a world-class education, and hope that his budget to be presented to Congress on Monday will reflect his commitment to pre-k through 12th grade education,” Bryant said. “Without the resources to deliver on this promise, we will fall short. With states in recession, with districts cutting staff, and increasing class size just to make break-even budgets, it will be hard to deliver a world-class education for every child. But with federal government support, we in public education can rise to President Obama’s challenge.”
In a conference call shortly before the State of the Union, Education Secretary Arne Duncan stressed that Obama is committed to education”from cradle to career” –and sees it as crucial to the nation’s long-term success. Duncan threw out a few budget teasers, including a 6 percent increase and up to $1 billion to overhaul the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Six programs all deemed duplicative or ineffective — will be eliminated and 38 programs will be consolidated into 11. Expect more measures to improve underperforming schools and a big push for prekindergarten and college access and affordability as well.
What concerns BoardBuzz is the discussion of a shift from discretionary funds to competitive grants for much of the proposed increase. Obama already has announced plans to add $1.35 billion to the Race to the Top program, and Duncan indicated that the White House sees competitive grants as the best way to leverage a relatively small amount of money to maximize reforms.
All of that is good, but what about struggling school districts that can’t hire sophisticated grant writers or don’t have the resources to try out new programs? With districts across the country in dire financial straits, those that could most benefit from innovative ideas may not be able to participate, and even a significant percentage increase won’t go far given the current state of school budgets.
BoardBuzz will ask these questions when Duncan speaks to representatives at NSBA’s Federal Relations Network conference on Monday, just after the budget is released. (And be sure to check School Board News Today for complete coverage of the Leadership and Federal Relations Network conferences).
Nope, not that Canada, this time we’re referring to Geoffrey Canada, the mastermind behind the Harlem Children’s Zone. Mr. Canada’s ideas have been credited with accomplishing amazing things for urban students in New York’s Harlem neighborhood, but he goes beyond school. Beginning with “baby college” and taking it all the way through 10th grade (so far), the Harlem Children’s Zone is one of those ideas President Obama talks about often because if it can be replicated, it might be the solution to a lot of the woes facing large and urban districts.
National Public Radio’s This American Life program did a piece on Mr. Canada last fall, to add to the long list of spotlights from major media outlets. Last night, 60 Minutes’ Anderson Cooper showcased Mr. Canada again and provided some evidence from Roland Fryer (a Harvard EdLab professor) about the dynamic changes already taking place within the Harlem Children’s Zone. If you didn’t catch it on TV, the video is below. And if you want to see Mr. Canada in person, check out NSBA’s Black Caucus luncheon in Chicago (part of NSBA’s Annual Conference), where he’ll be speaking April 11.
Pre-K-12 advocates have much to celebrate with the passage of the $87 billion higher education bill in the House last week. The Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2009, H.R. 3221, contains $8 billion for an Early Learning Challenge Fund for eight years and $4 billion in school repair and modernization, see NSBA‘s update on legislative action here.
Thanks to NSBA‘s grassroots members who contacted their House of Representatives urging them to support the bill. NSBA is now working with the Senate to pass the same initiative.
Our friends at the New York Times have a forum called Room for Debate, and this week’s conversation centered around teaching the teachers. In other words, the forum focused on education degrees, the way teachers are taught, and the endless hoops that they are often told they need to jump through before stepping in front of a classroom. High teacher quality is among the most important ‘reforms’ coming from the Department of Education, but as you can see, many teachers are the biggest critics of the degrees they are often forced to pursue (at least if they want a pay increase). Among BoardBuzz‘s favorite quotes from one teacher:
I believe that the best preparation for teaching is a combination of pedagogy and a strong apprenticeship a marriage of traditional preparatory and alternative certification programs. All new teachers would benefit from a year of full-time work in the classroom beside an experienced and effective teacher. We learn by practicing even the best surgeon in the world is useless until he has proven his skill on the table.
And in a related story, Jay Mathews at the Washington Post spotlighted a well respected teacher who teaches social studies in Prince George’s County, Md., and practiced law until he “got sick of it” and wanted to teach at his alma mater. His tale is strikingly similar to many who posted on the New York Times story, and we can’t help but wonder how many thousands of similar stories could be told around the nation. Does an education degree really mean a good teacher will follow the piece of paper? In a society that is changing jobs more often than ever, and teaching a generation of students that will likely change jobs even more often than that, how do we teach today’s teachers well? Are methods from the 1960s (or before, even) the best way for 21st century teaching, not to mention learning? If we expect that from the students, it starts with the person leading them, doesn’t it?
As school leaders, what do you think? How can we alter the way teachers are taught to prepare students well, teach effectively, and not be forced to brow-beat prospective teachers into strigent rules that are often difficult to follow. Leave a comment to tell us how you would change teacher prep.
What do early childhood education and higher education have in common? In a surprise move last week, the House introduced legislation that would overhaul college student loans and at the same time provide funds to help states improve their early learning programs. The bill, H.R.3221, would also provide funding for school modernization.
NSBA sent this letter to the House Committee on Education and Labor, which marked up the legislation today, to support facilities funding in the bill; increase federal investments in early learning programs; and to ensure local school districts are involved in developing and implementing quality programs.
Thanks to preschool advocates on NSBA‘s Pre-K Legislation Committee who helped contact Committee members urgining them to increase federal investments and strengthen school districts’ role in early learning development. We will continue to need a strong voice from school board members when the legislation goes before the House floor.
Click here to read an analysis of the bill.
In some New York classrooms, teachers are taking on new roles as they become cave-dwelling hunters or silly musicians with tambourines or drums on their heads. BoardBuzz learned of these actions from a USA Today article which reports on the critical need for children to have more time for free and creative playing.
Two years ago, the American Academy of Pediatrics, endorsed creative and spontaneous play as a vital, but endangered cause, and recently free-play advocates are stressing the seriousness of the issue, as the article mentions.
Among the speakers at last week’s Wonderplay conference was Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, a Temple University psychologist who contends that lack of play in early childhood education “could be the next global warming.”
Without ample opportunity for forms of play that foster innovation and creative thinking, she argues, America’s children will be at a disadvantage in the global economy.
“Play equals learning,” she said. “For too long we have divorced the two.”
Compared to the 1980s, the average American child is receiving eight to 12 fewer hours of free play time a week because of factors including parents’ reluctance for their child to play outside alone, the shortening of recess at school, and a stronger emphasis on formal lessons and learning in pre- school.
The demand for play time is not just for added fun. As psychologist Michael Thompson mentions in the article, “Diminished time to play freely with other children is producing a generation of socially inept young people and is a factor behind high rates of youth obesity, anxiety, attention-deficit disorder and depression.”
So why, are pre- K teachers acting like a cavemen or playing around in music class? To lead by example, of course, so children will follow suit and learn the important lessons of fairness and kindness through social interaction.
BoardBuzz thinks free play time is great for developing pre- K students and wants to remind you to check out the article and the Center for Public Education’s Web site for more information on the importance of pre-K learning. You should also check out the Center’s report on recess. So, who wants to play? We know we do!
Early childhood education advocates could see promising activities on Capitol Hill in the upcoming 111th Congress, given President-elect Obama’s education initiatives and a slew of new faces headed to Congress who’ve had early ed records or pledged to support federal investment in preschool programs, according to this blog from the New America Foundation.
This is good news for NSBA’s Pre-K Legislative Committee, which will gear up for a potentially exciting session in Congress. Some of the new Senators mentioned in the blog include: Virginia‘s Mark Warner, who expanded the state’s preschool initiatives as governor; Nebraska‘s Mike Johanns, who as governor increased funding for pre-K; New Hampshire‘s Jeanne Shaheen, who voiced support for more federal funding for state preschool programs. Her advocacy could be boosted by the fact that New Hampshire is one of only 12 states with no publicly funded pre-K programs.
With all the worries about the economy, two wars, and the final throes of what has seemed to be an endless presidential campaign, Congress might have been forgiven for temporarily setting aside issues relating to getting our youngest Americans ready for school. Which is why BoardBuzz was so happy to get a notice from Senators Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and Kit Bond (R-MO) about a briefing they were hosting to refocus the attention of Capitol Hill on the early educational needs of children. We were even more delighted when we arrived at the standing-room-only briefing room — proof that interest in early childhood is not going away. According to Pre-K Now, one of the event’s conveners:
“By their co-sponsorship of today’s briefing, Senators Clinton and Bond underscored their commitment to reintroducing the Ready to Learn Act, in the next Congress. The bill aims to improve the quality of and expand access to voluntary preschool programs by providing funding for states through a competitive process and allowing governors to build on pre-existing early childhood systems.”
In kicking off the briefing, Governor Bredesen of Tennessee emphasized that the most benefit conveys from pre-kindergarten programs that have high quality. He stated that an appropriate role for the federal government is to co-fund state-designed programs, but only if they meet specified quality indicators. We also heard from Jerry Weast, superintendent of Montgomery County schools in Maryland, who attributed his system’s notable success at narrowing achievement gaps in large part to their investment in high-quality pre-K.
Certainly the most emotional punch came last when we heard from the 2006 National Teacher of the Year, Kimberly Oliver Burnim, who many BoardBuzz readers may recall was a great hit at NSBA’s 2006 annual conference in Chicago. Burnim related the heartbreaking story of one little girl who came to her kindergarten class so full of hope and excitement only to see her spark snuffed as it became apparent that she was not on par with her peers. The reason, according to Burnim, was that this child had not had the same experiences other children had coming in. Her remarks reminded us that, yes, communities and schools all benefit in the long-term when we invest in pre-kindergarten, but at the heart of the issue is doing what is good and necessary for children.
School board members get the connection between getting kids ready for school and their own success as education leaders. For two years, the Center for Public Education has been working in partnership with three state school board associations — Kansas, Ohio, and Texas –to help school boards become engaged in early education in their states. The Center’s pre-K initiative, funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts, was recently renewed for another two years and has expanded the partnership to include state associations in Alabama and Kentucky.
Among other pre-K resources, the Center sends out a monthly e-newsletter that addresses very practical pre-K policies and implemetation issues for those working to expand high-quality pre-K in their states and districts. You can sign up for the Pre-K Primer here.
Also check out NSBA’s early education advocacy page and its Pre-K Legislative Committee to keep up on what’s new in federal early ed activities. See here for some of the pre-K bills introduced by members of Congress.