Bianca Tanis: New York’s New Standards Are Bad News for Young Children

Bianca Tanis is a teacher of special education in a K-2 classroom in the Hudson Valley of New York. She is also a member of the board of NYSAPE (New York State Allies for Parents and Educators), the statewide group that has led the Opt Out movement.

In this post, she excoriates New York’s new standards and says the New York State Education Department ignored the voices of early childhood educators. From the perspective of young children, she says, the standards are fundamentally flawed.

She writes, in part:

We should never have to fight for the right of children to play. Nor should we have to fight for them to spend more than 20 minutes at recess. Instruction should never come at the expense of the creative, spontaneous, and joyful exploration of 4- and 5-year olds. But, increasingly, it does. With the unveiling of New York State’s “Next Generation of English Language Arts and Mathematics Standards,” the struggle to maintain these experiences for young learners—already underway—will intensify.

When New York’s Education Department released the draft standards last September, Commissioner MaryEllen Elia claimed they represented substantive change. Yet most revisions consisted of minor tweaks to language and placement. There were very few shifts in content, and the Common Core anchor standards remained mostly intact. The latest iteration walks back any positive content changes, increasing the rigor of the prekindergarten through second-grade grade standards over and above the draft released in September, and moving some first-grade standards to kindergarten.

While many policymakers profess their commitment to play-based learning and meeting the needs of the whole child, their actions say otherwise. This problem is not unique to New York. But in a state with one of the largest parent uprisings against high-stakes reform and the arbitrary imposition of rigor on child-centered practice, Elia’s reaction is disturbing. She and the New York Education Department have missed an opportunity to deliver developmentally appropriate learning standards that align with early childhood’s robust evidence base.

They’ve also systematically denied teachers who work with young children the chance to advocate for their students and reasonable expectations for development as well as practice that engages them in the critical early years of learning.

Although some teachers working with children in prekindergarten through second grade took part in the review, their voices were marginalized. Not a single early educator was a member of the Standards Review Leadership and Planning team. None were facilitators, or on any of the advisory panels that made the final revisions.

Those who took part in the original standards revision work in August of 2016 were so dissatisfied with the process that they ultimately requested the formation of an early learning task force. These outspoken educators were barred from serving on the 32-member committee, of which only a quarter were early educators.

It’s easy to understand why they were largely excluded from this process. In a room full of teachers working with prekindergartners to second-graders, you would be hard-pressed to find consensus around the idea that all kindergartners should “read with purpose and understanding”—an expectation that Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Common Core Task Force report cited as concerning to early childhood experts.

Ten out of 14 members of the PreK-2 review committee issued a letter of dissent, expressing concern that the number of skills included in the revised standards would make it difficult to find time for play-based and child-led learning.

from novemoore


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