Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Littles-- More Than a Score (A Film You Should See)

Of all the issues swirling around education, this is the one that keeps me up nights.

What about the littles?

There are plenty of terrible things happening in the world of education, but nothing is more heartbreaking than the transformation of kindergarten into first grade, the sudden "need" for four year olds to start learning letters and numbers and colors because now these children "need" to get ready for kindergarten. The sitting. The studying. The homework. The standardized testing for small children who should be playing and socializing and learning about the wonder and joy of being in the world. It all seems designed to crush the most vulnerable spirits we are entrusted with.

Marie Amoruso has been a teacher, an author and adjunct professor at Teachers College Columbia University, and Manhattanville College. She runs a consulting agency, and she has created a short film about this very subject. Yes, "More Than a Test Score" is not exactly a groundbreaking title, and yes, her delivery is at times a little over-fraught and yes, she kind of muddies Common Core in with other issues. But when she turns her camera on the classrooms of young children, she cuts right to the heart of what is so deeply wrong with the test-centered school movement. In seventeen minutes, with the help of several interview subjects, she addresses what children need and what they aren't getting, and she takes us right into the classrooms to see the effects.

Teachers know what to do-- the issue, as she lays it out, is getting the freedom to let them do it. In the absence of that, students learn to hate school.

I'm not sure how we can save the public school system if this is the way it starts. And my concerns are not just professional, but also personal-- I have twin sons on the way in just a few months, which means that my wife and I have about four or five years to figure out whether or not the local pubic school can be trusted to treat our children well.


  1. I've been preaching this for, well, for a long long time.

    It's an uphill battle. *sigh*

    It's also why we homeschooled for 2 crucial years, and why I'll go back to it if I have to.

  2. Thanks for the video. And congratulations on your upcoming twins. Re tests, there was an interesting juxtaposition. Like Greene, the video discouraged the abundance of standardized tests and their use in judging teachers. But early in the video, there's a picture of a newspaper showing scores of white children in the 700's and black kids in the 400's. It wasn't clear what test was being pictured. But it raises the question that if there are no standardized tests, how do you know how well (or poorly) we are rectifying things like the achievement gap ?

    But the main point of the video (and my post) was whether to push young kids or just let them play. Here's my experience. We chose the preschool for our eldest simply because it was walking distance from our house (and our Nanny doesn't drive). The school is part of the Ethical Society and focuses on "active play" like that encouraged in the video. The problem was when she got to kindergarten, she barely knew her letters and could not read. By contrast, her peers were already reading simple books as they entered kindergarten. Regardless of whether you think this is appropriate, my daughter felt like she was not as smart as her peers. Though she now reads at grade level, this feeling of inadequacy remains.

    We tried to do things differently with are two younger kids (twins). They attended the same preschool - but we taught them at home at a fairly young age - mostly reading and math. But we talked about lots of things including science. (They liked watching Magic School Bus which I recommend.)

    When the twins entered school, they were already reading at a 2nd grade level. We used Bob Books and then graduated into Step Into Reading. For math, they use something called Splash Math. Anyway, my twins love learning because they know they are good at it. They see their own performance relative to their peers.

    As a father, you need to decide for yourself what is best for your kids. But it's pretty clear which approach worked best for our kids.

  3. Thank you. I love to retweet your posts!

  4. So agree on these points-forwarded to K teachers from my building. This is such important stuff that I learned in my Teacher Ed courses in Early Childhood Education. Thanks for posting.