[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

[xmca] Fwd: FW: Alliance for Childhood Update

For those focused on early childhood ed and especially those who think that
play is important in that process, the following should be of great
I believe the "anti-play"/"pro-play" debate to fit right in there with the
math wars, reading wars, etc. to which the very interesting recent posts
have addressed themselves.
*From: *Alliance for Childhood <info@allianceforchildhood.org>
*Date: *Fri, 18 Dec 2009 06:04:45 -0500
*To: *Alliance for Childhood <info@allianceforchildhood.org>
*Subject: *Alliance for Childhood Update

Alliance for Childhood
*P.O. Box 444, College Park, MD 20741
Tel/Fax 301-779-1033
www.allianceforchildhood.org <http://www.allianceforchildhood.org/>
*Update—December 2009
Dear Friends,

You may have received a version of this letter by regular mail. (If you
didn’t and would like to get these updates on paper, e-mail us your address.
Note: we never sell our mailing lists.) Please share this e-mail with others
who will be interested in our work and might want to support it.

I am writing to you today with a feeling of urgency and even alarm.

On November 21 the *Washington Post *reported that the nation’s increased
focus on publicly funded preschool is sparking a “debate” about the value of
play for three- and four-year-olds. Here at the Alliance, we know that this
is not a matter of debate. Play in early childhood education is
essential—and it is seriously endangered.

But here’s what the *Post*’s Emma Brown wrote (for the entire article see

Play advocates … worry that politicians eager for tangible returns on
taxpayers’ investment in early education, and school officials eager for
better test scores, will push for more direct instruction, an efficient way
to get short-term gains in literacy and math….

The choice between measurably improving math and language skills and making
time for play is particularly an issue in jurisdictions that offer half-day
preschool, said Barbara Bowman, who has advised [Education Secretary] Duncan
on early education issues….

“Ending the achievement gap is one of the high priorities, and that means
giving low-income kids the same skills and knowledge that middle-class kids
have,” Bowman said. “In a short school day, sometimes direct instruction is
a better device.”

We respectfully disagree. Indeed, we can scarcely believe that the value of
preschool play versus “direct instruction” of literacy and math facts is
still being debated by top government officials. Decades of research show
that children in play-rich preschools and kindergartens excel over those in
didactic programs in academic achievement, creativity, and developing a
sense of personal and social responsibility.

But the myth that direct instruction is the best way to close the
“achievement gap” dies hard in American politics and culture, despite the
absence of long-term research supporting such claims. We are now on the
brink of seeing the epidemic of didactic instruction in kindergarten spread
to thousands of public preschool programs—simply because uninformed parents
and policymakers think this will help children catch up or speed ahead into
a global economy—an economy that needs creative thinkers far more than it
needs rote learners. Too many have bought into the “drill and kill” model of
early education, abetted by a multi-billion-dollar testing industry.

There’s a second reason I am deeply concerned.

The economic disaster of the last year has also affected the Alliance.
Several foundations that have helped fund our work needed to reduce their
support. As a result, the Alliance’s income dropped by 20 percent last year,
and we were forced to cut back our operations accordingly.

This financial challenge comes at a critical moment for us. The Alliance’s
work has never been more prominent—or more urgently needed. The publicity
surrounding our report *Crisis in the Kindergarten* (a Google search on that
phrase currently produces 149,000 web pages) has led to our being able to
meet with high-level officials in the White House, Congress, and the
Departments of Education and Health and Human Services this fall. We are
making the case for more developmentally appropriate policies and practices
in preschool and kindergarten programs and have received thoughtful and
encouraging responses.

But we know that is only part of the picture. This month we are meeting with
officials of the organizations that are developing “core competencies” for
kindergarten through grade 12. These are envisioned as national standards,
and states will need to align their standards to them to be eligible for new
infusions of federal funds. This effort could have far-reaching disastrous
consequences, depending on what those competencies or standards call for.

When the draft version of the new national K–12 competencies is released,
there will be an opportunity for public comment. We will alert you and all
our other friends on what the draft says, how we think it can be improved,
and how you can make your voice heard.

The Alliance for Childhood is now widely regarded as one of the nation’s
leaders in advocating for child-centered and developmentally appropriate
early education. We must not back down at this critical time.

With the Elementary and Secondary Education (No Child Left Behind) Act
coming up for reauthorization in 2010, we plan to work intensively for
developmentally appropriate guidelines and practices. We have prepared two
new policy briefs with recommendations for action that can be found on our
home page (www.allianceforchildhood.org <
http://www.allianceforchildhood.org/> ). More are being developed.

Despite the obvious obstacles, we remain hopeful that the situation in
kindergartens and preschools can be changed in ways that will support
healthy child development. After all, when we began advocating for play five
years ago, the situation also looked impossible. But we have seen wonderful
changes in recent years. Here are a few recent examples:

The Alliance has been invited to partner with Alaska Geographic, National
Geographic, the National Wildlife Federation, and the U.S. Forest Service to
provide opportunities for play in newly designated “children’s forests.” The
first such project is in Alaska, but we hope this will become a national

Teachers who want to create play-based classrooms need help through courses,
study groups, mentoring, and more. We have begun working with early
childhood professionals to develop pilot programs to meet teachers’ needs.

We are working with other play advocates across the country to develop the
U.S. Play Coalition, focused on research, advocacy, and public
communications about play.

Recent polls indicate that parents want a return of play to childhood but
seek some adult supervision for children’s play. To meet this need we are
intensifying our efforts to develop the profession of playwork in this
country and are seeing growing interest in it.

The same polls show strong parental concern about the erosion of childhood.
We recognized this problem when we founded the Alliance ten years ago. The
need to reclaim childhood is even greater today. During our second decade we
are renewing our commitment to a healthy childhood for all children.

As a first step we have republished the poem “Childhood,” composed at the
founding meeting of the Alliance, as an attractive poster. The poem ends
this way:

Children need moments for reflection and space for curiosity,
protective boundaries and freedom to create,
and time to play, to work, to rest.

Children need to be introduced to a life of principles,
and given the freedom to discover their own.

The spirit of childhood calls for protection and nurture.
It is an essential part of every human being
*and needs to be kept alive*.

To accomplish all of this work we need your support. In this time of
financial hardship and retrenchment, we are fortunate to have generous
friends who continue to support us, including a donor who has pledged a
$10,000 matching gift for our end-of-year fundraising campaign.

Please give as generously as you can. All donors will receive a copy of our
new poster and those who give $100 or more will also receive a copy of
Childhood: Letting Children Be Children in Our Achievement-Oriented
Society*by developmental psychologist and Alliance board member
William Crain.
* *We know you will enjoy it.
*With thanks and warmest regards,

Joan Almon
Executive Director

P.S.:  Don’t forget that it’s easy to contribute to the Alliance with your
credit card at our secure web site: www.allianceforchildhood.org <
http://www.allianceforchildhood.org/> . All donations are tax-exempt to the
extent allowable under I.R.S. rules.

------ End of Forwarded Message
xmca mailing list