July 27, 2011

This weekend I ran into a past governor at a local Pub. As part of Senate Bill 186 in 2000, he initiated the practice of grading schools based on test scores. This model was later implemented nationally in No Child Left Behind.

Despite his Howdy Doody appearance, I watched half dozen women in cocktail attire and sparkling jewelry approach the former governor of Colorado. My plane had landed only a couple of hours earlier, after I had concluded a key note address to an audience full of teachers with these words, “We are not here to teach standards and raise test scores. We are here to teach children and raise the human race.”

I introduced myself to Mr. Bill Owens and thanked him for his willingness to serve the citizens of Colorado (being Governor is certainly no picnic). He thanked me with an exaggerated hand gesture over his heart and a “You are too kind.”

Then I said, “I think it is a tragedy that the children of Colorado have had to live with the consequences of your ‘education accountability’ and yet there is no accountability for you.”

He angrily retorted, “What?  CSAP and getting rid of bad teachers?!”

However, high-stakes testing didn’t get rid of bad teachers, it sheltered them in shaded bubbles and the lowest levels of teaching and learning. So I explained to Mr. Owens what our children had lost in the misguided attempt to get rid of “two percent” – Free-thinking, smaller class sizes, electives, in some cases art and music, after-school programs, counselors, teacher aides, nurses, personalized learning, differentiated instruction,  local control,  positive school cultures and respect.

His sarcastic rebuttal:  “Like recess really matters.”

The most recent proposal is to extend the damaging practice of standardization and high-stakes testing to our youngest children. Through CAP4Kids and Race to the Top state and federal officials are pushing more tests earlier. There is a great deal of research on how play time supports learning in young children, and no research that supports testing young children. Department leaders and our elected officials have begun the process to collect feedback from teachers and parents; will you please make this about children. I’ve provided some important research and articles below as well as the dates and location of the listening tour:

•    David Berliner on the idiocy of giving standardized tests to young children: http://t.co/KkHAnNK

•    Why we object to the K–3 Core Standardshttp://www.allianceforchildhood.org/standards

•     Fact sheet on kindergarten testing

•    http://drupal6.allianceforchildhood.org/sites/allianceforchildhood.org/files/file/tips_on_testing.pdf

•    http://ultimateblockparty.com/

•    http://udel.edu/~roberta/play/benefits.html

•    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/why-giving-standardized-tests-to-young-children-is-really-dumb/2011/07/18/gIQAB7OnMI_blog.html

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Want to follow the money:

http://media.corporate-ir.net/media_files/IROL/96/96562/reports/MHP10Book/education/federal-funding.html

http://www.universalmind.com/news/schoolview-application-a-finalist-for-adobe-max-education-award

Make them really listen this time:

From the press release from the Lt. Governor, Joseph Garcia, June 20, 2011:

The purpose of this listening tour is to engage communities in conversations about delivering more effective and efficient early childhood services and collect feedback and ideas for the Race to the Top grant proposal.
“On behalf of Colorado’s young children and families, we are committed to supporting local communities to improve the quality of early childhood experiences and relationships – including health and education services and support for early childhood teachers and professionals,” said Lt. Gov. Garcia. “This listening tour gives us the opportunity to collaborate directly with those who know these issues best – our local providers and parents.”

List of upcoming public meetings on the listening tour:
•       July 29 – Parker, The Wildlife Experience, 10035 South Peoria St., 10:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
•       August 2 – Vail, Vail Cascade Resort, 1300 Westhaven Drive, 8:00 – 10:30 a.m.
•       August 2 – Grand Junction, Western Colorado Community College, 2508 Blichmann Ave., 12:30 – 3:00 p.m.
•       August 2 – Durango, Community Recreation Center, 2700 Main Ave., 4:00 – 6:30 p.m.
•       August 3 – Pueblo, Pueblo Community College, 900 West Orman Ave., 8:00 – 10:30 a.m.
•       August 3 – Burlington, Community & Education Center, 340 South 14 St., 12:00 – 2:30 p.m.
•       August 3 – Fort Morgan, Department of Human Services, 800 E. Beaver Ave., 3:30 – 6:00 p.m.
•       August 5 – Lafayette, Lafayette Public Library, 775 West Baseline Rd., 10:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

For those unable to attend one of the meetings on the early childhood listening tour and community conversations, or for more information regarding Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge Fund, visit www.earlychildhoodcolorado.org.  This early childhood services listening tour is sponsored by the Early Childhood Leadership Commission (ECLC).

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