Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Duncan: 'The fierce urgency of whatchamacallit'

For some reason, I've gotten into the habit of watching the Today Show for morning "news" and weather. I usually resist being turned into to a total airhead and remind myself that I am still alive by muttering back snarky, bitter comments at Matt Lauer (and these days at Al Roker).

But, lo and behold, this morning there was actually a report that was worth a listen. Many Florida schools are increasingly cutting out recess in elementary schools to allow for more test-prep time for 5-year-olds. Outrageous? Viewers thought so. The show's polling of its viewers showed 99% of more that 13,000 views favoring recess and only 1% opposing, leaving one of the hosts wondering who the 1% are?
At the center of the issue in Florida are Common Core exams, mandatory standardized tests in math, language arts and literacy, where the students' performance often dictates teachers' pay and sometimes their jobs. Many teachers are using that extra 20 minutes that would have been spent on the playground at recess in order to teach the test.  "Because so much of the money is tied to the schools' scores and their grades, everybody's pressured,'' Diana Moore, president of the Orange Count Classroom Teachers Association, told TODAY. 
I almost fell off my chair when Savannah Guthrie chimed in at the end with this:
"There are a lot of studies now which show the importance of play for cognitive development and all that stuff." 
All that stuff, indeed.

For those who want to read more on the topic of the importance of play in early learning, I recommend Playing for Keeps: Life and Learning on a Public School Playground by Deborah Meier,  Brenda Engel and Beth Taylor (Teachers College Press).

'Dump NCLB but keep the tests'
The story comes on the heels of Arne Duncan's speech on Monday, where he called, in bizarro-world fashion, for dumping No Child Left Behind but keeping its tests. I do have to credit Arne, the king of cliches, for coming up with this one:
"This country can't afford to replace 'the fierce urgency of now' with the soft bigotry of 'It's optional.' "
He forgot to mention, the hidden legacy of whatchamacallit.

THOUGHTFUL...Arthur Camins posting on WaPo's Answer Sheet poses the questionFederal overreach or reaching for the wrong things?

Arthur's answer --
In the absence of a broadly based, values-driven movement for a more just and equitable society, the diminution of a federal role in education is likely to undermine efforts to support the nation-wide, democratically governed public education system that is essential to successfully prepare all students for life, work and citizenship.
 A shift in who wields power and in what location does not necessarily mean better policies. It is more likely that a shift away from federal authority in education will increase the influence those with power and money, rather than enhancing democratic participation of average citizens.
He goes on to spell out the role federal government should have as "the guarantor of justice and equity."

As I Tweeted to Arthur -- Federal power in education has now become nearly synonymous with corporate power and increasing the influence of "those with power and money".

A "shift in who wields power" could only help.

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