Monday, April 28, 2014

new first grade?

Has Friedrich Froebel rolled over in his grave and gone down for the third time? Kindergarten was intended as a time of learning through play, but a recent study indicates that is no longer the case and becoming less so by the day. Shifting priorities built upon the standardized testing premises of No Child Left Behind, have made kindergarten teachers more accountable for teaching reading and math, but left schools clueless on the softer skills like learning from the observation of real life and learning to work cooperatively and in collaboration with other children. The new study is called, Is Kindergarten the New First Grade? The Changing Nature of Kindergarten in the Age of Accountability

The assumption in the age of statistical error is that if something isn't "statistically valid" it has no scientific validity. That is like saying that wind observed and measured on the Beaufort Scale isn't valid because it wasn't stated in exact MPH... Or that a tree falling in the forest didn't make any noise unless there was someone there to put it on a spreadsheet. And yet, any person standing at a distance can see learning taking place or a leaf turning in the wind. The child's learning may be a bit less easy to discern than watching the wind pass through the trees. You can't see actual wind. You can't see actual learning that takes place inside a child's head. But if you are watching in either case you can witness the effects.

What has happened with an over emphasis on standardized testing is that the power to measure has been usurped by statisticians while parents and classroom teachers have been left holding the empty joyless bag of the policy maker's machinations. I have this image of a stodgy old educational statistician standing in the doorway of a progressive school in which all the children are actively engaged and enthusiastic about learning. He says,  "Tut, tut, What are their test scores? Are they really learning?"

My upper elementary school students played gaga at a small park in Missouri. One of the benefits of travel school is that our students go out into the real world and bring real things back. Gaga is a game like dodge ball, but far less hazardous to the kids as its played in a small court and the ball must remain low to only hit below the knees. It is just as much fun as dodge ball without risk of real injuries. The students were so excited by playing this wonderful game that they came home wanting to make a gaga court at Clear Spring School. We'll use wood shop time to make it.

Make, fix and create...

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