They’ve got behavioral problems in Oregon. Kids throwing tantrums, despondence, and there’s plenty of physical aggression to go around. Officials don’t know why. Their data isn’t helping much–and they can’t figure it out–exactly. They know many of the children live in poverty. They might be traumatized due to violence in their lives, and this could be a reason why students are acting out.
Also there is this: Oregon adopted Common Core Standards in 2010, requiring kindergarten students to talk about vertices and angles, for example, not just the basics about shapes. Could Common Core be getting under their skin?
It sounds like Oregon teachers have some good ideas on how to resolve the problem. Talking about feelings and situations with children, problem solving isn’t bad either. Color coded materials representing feeling levels remind me a bit of Homeland Security, but I can be convinced. And certainly adding more school guidance counselors is always a plus.
But is something else going on—could Oregon officials benefit from some books by Piaget and Vygotsky to learn about child development?
This is a state that over a year ago (Feb. 1, 2014) was fretting on the front page of The Oregonian: “Too Many Oregon Students Unready for Kindergarten State Officials Lament.”“Lament”—think about that word. It is defined “a passionate expression of grief or sorrow” or “mourn (a person’s loss or death).”
Why was the plight of poor kindergartners plastered in the headlines of the newspaper? Why were they considered so unready that there was all this lamenting going on? Was it the poverty–the violence in their lives? What would make adults lament over their kindergartners?
The typical Oregon kindergartner arrived at school last fall knowing only 19 capital and lower-case letters and just seven letter sounds out of at least 100 possible correct answers, the state reported Friday.
During the first days of school in September, every 5-year-old The was shown a sheet with 100 capital and lower-case letters, like the one shown below, and asked to name as many as possible in one minute. The average child named 18.5.
They also were shown a page with 110 letter sounds on it. The average kindergartner could pronounce just 6.7.
Oregon’s Gov. John Kitzhaber also called it “sobering.” Sobering? Letters—in kindergarten? Pronunciations?
I don’t want to sound smug. Children from poverty might very well not have the best reading experiences early on, and teachers in preschool and kindergarten should open their doors to great literature programs and reading experiences that bring children the joy of reading. If that includes some skill instruction so be it. But where were all those high expectations–believing the children could get it once they were assisted by their teachers–at the right developmental level?
What I would call sobering is the obsession Oregon has with testing young children believing this is what will make them read fluently by 3rd grade.
They shouldn’t let a written standardized test in the same room as a kindergartner or a first grader! High-stakes testing will not make good readers.
Thankfully, 80% of parents at Washington Heights Elementary School know that and opted their children out of the test! Just look at the picture in that link. Don’t those children and parents look happy?
Also, especially sobering in Oregon, is that the state seems to have some awareness that recess is important (some schools do it) but it is not mandated that every young child in every Oregon school get recess. Some schools get it and some don’t.
After all the controversy about recess, why are schools in Oregon—any school in this country—still permitted to not provide children recess?
This from the American Academy of Pediatrics from 2013—two years ago!
Recess is at the heart of a vigorous debate over the role of schools in promoting the optimal development of the whole child. A growing trend toward reallocating time in school to accentuate the more academic subjects has put this important facet of a child’s school day at risk. Recess serves as a necessary break from the rigors of concentrated, academic challenges in the classroom. But equally important is the fact that safe and well-supervised recess offers cognitive, social, emotional, and physical benefits that may not be fully appreciated when a decision is made to diminish it. Recess is unique from, and a complement to, physical education—not a substitute for it. The American Academy of Pediatrics believes that recess is a crucial and necessary component of a child’s development and, as such, it should not be withheld for punitive or academic reasons.
Sobering too, is that there is no insistence schools provide a real physical education program to elementary students until 2017. They also know P.E. is important, but they are making the children wait until 2017. By then, the 2015 children will be older—and probably acting out even more!
Oregon needs to reassess their assessing and get back to the meaning of childhood. Play, recess, physical education classes—they are all important by themselves. Oh…throw in a little art and music too, with qualified early childhood teachers.
And please don’t confuse P.E. with recess! They are different. How often must it be said?
So go ahead Oregon and fiddle around with your solutions to troubling behavior but don’t forget: Recess, P.E., and all the rest. These keys might unlock the door to not only better behaved children but better learners too!
Then you can quit lamenting.
Here is a one new website I added. Check it Out:
Empowered by Play is a blog all about early childhood education with some good names here—people who understand how little minds and bodies work—and it is connected to Defending the Early Years. But this website has additional links about the importance of play and early childhood and issues that get in the way of real learning.