Teachers in early education, those with students between birth through age 8, use to the term “developmentally appropriate” to describe teaching approaches and content that align with proven research in child psychology, pediatrics, developmental psychology and neuroscience. The Common Core experienced attack from early educators, because teachers of early education find Common Core standards for young learners to be developmentally inappropriate. The Washington Post stated that the reason lies in the fact that the development of the Common Core did not include teacher participation.
Recent critiques of the Common Core Standards by Marion Brady and John T. Spencer have noted that the process for creating the new K-12 standards involved too little research, public dialogue, or input from educators. Nowhere was this more startlingly true than in the case of the early childhood standards—those imposed on kindergarten through grade 3. We reviewed the makeup of the committees that wrote and reviewed the Common Core Standards. In all, there were 135 people on those panels. Not a single one of them was a K-3 classroom teacher or early childhood professional.
One item that received much denouncement from early education experts is the standard for Fluency in English Language Arts in kindergarten: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RFK.4 – Read emergent-reader texts with purpose and understanding.
One interpretation of reading “with purpose and understanding” leads educators to think that the writers of the Common Core expect kindergarteners to read like 8 year old children. Research places reading development into stages, and educators find that specific Common Core standard goes against research of kindergarteners’ development.
Table of Stages in Reading Development
|Stage 0 (Prereading)||Ranges from birth to age 6. Children associate sounds and words and develop phonological awareness.|
|Stage 1 (Initial Reading or Decoding)||Takes place during the beginnings of the first grade. Students learn how sounds correspond to letters. Readers also learn about what it means to read something and the purpose of letters.|
|Stage 2 (Confirmation and fluency0||Ranges from the end of grade 1 to the end of grade 3. Students learn to decode words fluently. Teachers teach syllable patterns in words.|
|Stage 3 (Learning the new single viewpoint)||Ranges from grades 4 through 8. Children learn to use construct meaning from text.|
|Stage 4 (Multiple viewpoints)||Ranges from high school to early college. Readers critically analyze texts, synthesize information from different texts, acknowledge multiple viewpoints, and continue to expand their interests.|
|Stage 5 (A World View)||Most mature level of reading and ranges from late college to graduate school.|
(The table above is an abbreviated version derived from Language Development, copyright 2009, Alejandro Brice, Roanne Brice page 230)
Students still in the process of learning English will find difficulty in reading with purpose and understanding, when there is great probability that they do not understand English yet. Other standards like CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.K.2.d state kindergarteners need to be able to spell simple words phonetically by drawing on knowledge of sound-letter relationships. Using phonics to spell words will also prove to be inappropriate for some dual language learners, because not all children acquire English at the same rate . (Language Development, copyright 2009, Alejandro Brice, Roanne Brice)
Alliance for Childhood wrote a statement entitled “Joint Statement of Early Childhood Health and Education Professionals on the Common Core Standards Initiative.” Signers of the statement included pediatricians, early education researchers and educators and psychologists like Howard Gardner. After providing a list of inappropriate Common Core expectations for early learners, they wrote “We therefore call on the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers to suspend their current drafting of standards for children in kindergarten through grade three.”
The writers also warned lectures and paper-pencil driven teaching will dominate the classroom. “Overuse of didactic instruction and testing cuts off children’s initiative, curiosity, and imagination, limiting their later engagement in school and the workplace, not to mention responsible citizenship. And it interferes with the growth of healthy bodies and essential sensory and motor skills—all best developed through playful and active hands-on learning.”
The National Association for the Education of Early Childhood (NAEYC), a preschool accreditation body, publishes books for early education teaching programs, and NAEYC also emphasizes how classrooms teach. The organization stresses the importance of using developmentally appropriate teaching methods for young learners.
The early childhood field has paid a great deal of attention to pedagogy- the how of teaching and learning – and has identified characteristics of effectiveness that have held up over time, such as meaningful, active learning and individualizing our teaching methods to the learner….Research and student achievement data (especially for the primary grades and beyond), along with common sense, indicate that what we teach and how we teach it both matter in educating young children.
– Developmentally Appropriate Practice, Third Edition
copyright 2009 Carol Copple, Sue Bredekamp, page 48
The Common Core does not state how teachers should teach, but it endorses the pedagogy of early educators like those at NAEYC.
The Standards define what all students are expected to know and be able to do, not how teachers should teach. For instance, the use of play with young children is not specified by the Standards, but it is welcome as a valuable activity in its own right and as a way to help students meet the expectations in this document.
New Jersey has accentuated the Common Core’s emphasis on play in kindergarten. In the document entitled, Teacher Practices Related To Kindergarten Common Core State Standards For English Language Arts, the DOE states
In kindergarten, teachers need to capitalize on the active and the social nature of kindergarteners and their instructional needs to include rich demonstrations, interactions, and models of literacy during projects and play activities that make sense to five and six year-old children.
What is play in the classroom? Joan Almon, Co-founder of Alliance for Childhood, shares with us her thoughts.