Sunday, August 19, 2007


In a recent interview in the New York Post, Chancellor Klein said: "We should have all of our students start and have rigorous standard-based programs at age 3, age 4, age 5."

This statement provoked a lot of discussion and critical comment on our NYC education list serv. While few disputed the value of high-quality preschool for four and three years, especially for disadvantaged children, his emphasis on “rigorous, standards-based programs" is a real red flag to many parents. From experience we know what these words mean: pushing our kids into the grind of academics and testing that has overwhelmed our schools -- way before they’re ready for it.

The fact is that all children learn at different rates, particularly in the early years, and to force them into a routine of drilling and frequent assessment so early may have the worst sort of effects. The following are the observations of one parent, Dorothy Giglio:

Holy Cow!! lets do away with childhood altogether. Maybe they can go from the womb to training programs. We could have standardized tests like, one year old must be reciting the alphabet, front and backwards. Two year olds doing beginner math. You get the point.

Why have mothers and fathers, let the government do it. There is no better time than those early years and that means up to 5 years old. When everything to a child is a wonder. That is what most of us had children for. I am all for Pre K, at 4 years old or even day care and early 3yr old programs when the parent either wants or needs it. I can see having a child attend some program to give them a chance at socialization with other children and maybe some of the basics, colors, numbers etc in the context of PLAY.

But kids need to be kids. And suggesting standards at this stage is ridiculous since as a mother of three I know in the early years all children progress at different rates. And a "rigorous standard based program" means in DOE language "Let's TEST them."

My kids are grown, the youngest starts Senior Year in HS this September, but this is not the world I hope to see my grandchildren be taught in some day. Hope I am here to fight it even then.

Dorothy Giglio
Co President James Madison HS
Former President President Council Reg 6 HS
Former President President Council District 22, Brooklyn


Pissedoffteacher said...

My daughter knew all her letters and numbers before she could walk. I never thougth my son would learn to read--he had no interest.

Both are college grads--my son is now completing a MS in electrical and computer engineering. He not only learned to read, he learned to read well. If he had been pushed at a young age, he might have been turned off to school and never learned anything.

Anonymous said...

The Klein spin machine is at it again. Lets change the focus again as we reorganize for the third time in five years. Leave no stone unturned as we wreck public education and further the real agenda, charter schools.

Anonymous said...

I'm no education expert, but from what I've seen and read, the kids who are behind and come from environments that are deprived of emphasis on reading and education need the same things that the kids who have had that in their backgrounds do, only more so. They need to be read to. They need opportunities to "write" (with invented spellings at first) about their own experiences so that the process becomes interesting to them and something they then desire to master. They need to be given experiences to write about. They need to see words in the environment that they want to read. All this leads to motivation to read and eventually a love of reading.

What they don't need is drill and kill--phonetics--in the absence of any meaning. They don't need long days and months of school with no play or enrichment. Of course, to do this successfully--to reproduce the environement where a parent is reading constantly to small children--the classes need to be tiny, which is why it doesn't happen here.

If you read some of the success stories of teachers who worked wonders with "deprived" children, they have that kind of intense, intimate focus. I had the fortune to edit a book by a teacher of children who are blind or visualy impaired. She wrote about working with children who not only had little vision but also had learning disabilities. Yet, using approaches--in braille--such as having them write their own stories--these students were able to achieve literacy. Of course, the teacher worked one-on-one with these blind students.


Anonymous said...

Good for you Ms. Giglio! Testing, testing, testing..I bet Dennis Koslowski, ken Swilling, the people at Enron, Adelphia, the Roslyn, LI School district all did well on tests. But what about their character development?

Leonie Haimson said...

Here's are comment from a Brooklyn teacher about this issue:

I was an early childhood teacher and am now a literacy coach. Kindergarten has now become 1st grade. Many of the children in my school come from backgrounds that are not literary in the sense of developing reading and writing. Because they need to pass the 3rd grade test, we are pushing more and more academics in kindergarten.

What I would like to see is lots and lots of neighborhood and city school trips. That is VERY difficult with 23 students and NO other adults in the class besides the teacher. Our students need the experiences, background information and vocabulary they would gain from the trips...and the read alouds and drawings about the topics visited on the trips.

Most of our kindergarten students spend most of their school day sitting at desks. That is not what 4 and 5 year old students need developmentally.

Because many of our students are not "ready" for 1st grade after kindergarten, we are now thinking about what can be taught in Pre-K.