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education standards – edu|FOCUS
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education standards Tag

kids in kindergarten

What is Kindergarten Ready, Really?

Once upon a time, children walked into kindergarten as blank slates for their teachers to write upon. They might or might not know their ABC’s, how to hold a pencil and how to read. Now, though, it seems that more and more is being asked of students before they are ever even taught in school. Children are entering school already behind. So what is "kindergarten ready", really? What does it mean? Students who are kindergarten ready are more than three times as likely to be reading on grade level in third grade, thus making kindergarten readiness a huge indicator of outcomes for students. In Texas, a child is eligible to start kindergarten if they have turned five years old prior to September 1 of the school year they would be enrolling in. Other states have a later cutoff, but generally speaking, most students begin kindergarten at around five years old. It’s assumed that students will enter school with some specific skills; however, there is no specific list of kindergarten-ready standards. According to research compiled into a policy brief from the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEE), teachers cite factors such as overall child health, ability to communicate thoughts and needs as well as curiosity as important factors indicating kindergarten readiness. Recently, teachers are emphasizing the importance of nonacademic readiness skills over traditional measures of readiness like knowing names of colors, recognizing the alphabet and counting. However, NIEE acknowledges that studies indicate a higher focus on academic readiness in studies focusing on perceptions of low-income children. Parent perception of skills needed to be kindergarten ready also varies based on socioeconomic status but tends to focus on academics. From 2001-2004, the School Readiness Indicators Initiative joined 17 states to try to develop a workable list of readiness factors to include in policy proposals. Maryland has created the R4K— Ready for Kindergarten, a comprehensive early childhood assessment system that builds upon the state assessment system used until 2013. In Texas, Little Texans, Big Futures drew on expertise across the state to set early learning goals. The American Federation of Teachers offers a kindergarten ready checklist online that draws on factors that some states utilize to assess incoming students. Still, without a tailored list of what skills a school is expecting, a parent is challenged with how to best prepare their child for school. Additionally, according to NIEE’s policy brief, "children from low-income or less-educated families are less likely to have the supports necessary for healthy growth and development, resulting in lower abilities at school entry.” The biggest challenge, though, is that no one system exists that defines what kindergarten readiness is. Each state may or may not define readiness; sometimes readiness is defined differently at different schools in the same city. A national standard of readiness would assist both preschools and parents in preparing students to meet the challenges they will face in today’s classrooms. Is there a written kindergarten ready standard where you live? Drop us a note in the comments, and tune back in as...

Finally into the Final Frontier

We in education were slow to face the realities of a digital world; it could have been the cost of going to scale with digital devices in classrooms and schools and districts that bogged us down. Perhaps it was a focus on tools rather than students that lessened our collective desire to link up to hyperspace. Whatever the reason we, in education, were slow and now are once again running to catch up with the increasingly shrinking world.  The question now mumbled across staff meeting is not what does it look like to have a class filled with both kids and computers; but how do we make this shift meaningful? Personalized, problem or project based learning, and flipped instruction are all over the media, Those same pop stars of educational jargon are added to those same mumbling staff meetings; Along with the classically ambiguous terms like "paradigm shift", "best practice", and "standards based". I don’t mind the jargon, every profession has it, but the attempts to clarify new paths with new terms or ideas can and must fall short of offering complete understanding. When I am asked how to use all this technology to offer our student more than what they already have, rather than simply a shinier version of it. The response needs to come with real world (real classroom) examples and absent new unfamiliar terminology.   How does technology personalize my teaching? It doesn’t...

What makes an education effective?

What makes an education effective? Is it high marks on standardized tests? Perhaps we can measure success by graduation rate. Or is there something more? As a past and likely future educator, I believe the effectiveness of an education lies in finding a way to open a student’s mind to possibility. I recall the days of my twenties—assisting a classroom of threes, fours, and fives—witnessing the reaction of a child who suddenly “gets it”. It was in those moments where I found my feelings of accomplishment. Today, I have a school-age daughter and keeping her engaged in her schoolwork is its own reward. With the pull of technology ever-present, my wife and I compete with the tablet for the little one’s attention. Most days, she finishes her homework on the bus or at Mom-mom’s house, before we see her. A quick review shows whether she gave correct answers or if we need to review. We can’t be there for tests, so we have to ensure her grasp is firm while sitting at the dining room table. We are engaged in our daughter’s education. We contact the teachers with concerns. My wife volunteers at the school when schedule permits. We talk to our daughter about what she’s learning. Despite our best efforts, our daughter does not bring home 100s. What are we doing wrong? Across the country, children complete homework with no input from Mom or Dad or anyone else. Kids go to school with neither lunch nor money and are too shy or embarrassed to eat “free” lunch. Somewhere right now, a child knows the answer but is not going to speak up for fear that he’ll be ridiculed or she’ll be deemed not-cool. Kids need to feel safe and secure and that they’re a part of something much larger. If, as a nation and as a society, we would impress upon our children that education is imperative, perhaps we can get every kid engaged in his and her own learning. Could we somehow let them know that they are the future and they’ll be standing in our shoes one day? Can’t we teach them how important they really are and that the fate of humanity rests on their shoulders? Maybe we can simply tell them they are ok; it’s ok to fail a test or get an answer wrong. There’s a larger picture and they are both the artist and the subject. Maybe we can teach them that one of the primary goals of education is the love of learning and that they have time to learn this. In the meantime, enjoy the journey. It gets lost too often in the deadlines and the finite grading scales. This is my first post to edu|FOCUS. I chose not to tackle funding issues or the evils of homogenized learning and standardized tests. There’s plenty of time for all that. What kind of father would I be—what kind of educator—if I tell my daughter to take her time while doing her math and then I rush into the...

It’s free childcare. So why aren’t more children in pre-K?

Pre-K enrollment is one of the hot button issues in education today. An early start can make a huge difference in educational achievement for children, whether that is reading at home with parents or organized education through Head Start or public pre-K programs. And best of all, early education programs are often free. So why aren’t more children enrolled in them? There are a variety of issues that may explain low pre-K enrollment in Dallas. The first issue is knowledge— many parents are unaware that public pre-K programs exist, and that they are free. The second issue is buy-in. Many parents simply don’t understand what the value of pre-K is, and why they should make it a priority for their child. This is especially prevalent in Texas, where even kindergarten isn’t required; first grade is the first required grade in the state. This leaves many parents confused as to the advantages of a pre-K education. Studies have shown clear differences between students who went through pre-K and students who did not, and students who had pre-K had a distinct academic advantage as they continued on in school. Valuable as these studies may be, they typically are utilized by the professional education world, rather than by parents. Finally, access can also be an issue— spots for eligible pre-K students aren’t necessarily available in the exact area or school where they are needed. There typically are not as many pre-K spots offered at a school as there are kindergarten and first-grade spots, and some schools have more pre-K spaces than others. This can be challenging for parents who already have children enrolled in other grades- since pre-K does not include busing, the parent would have to drive to two different schools, sometimes in entirely different neighborhoods. If a parent does not understand the value of pre-K this can seem too challenging, and even parents who may be planning for pre-K might not have the resources to manage two separate drop-offs. So how can we, as non-parents and perhaps even non-community members, impact pre-K enrollment? Education, education, education. Parental education is key in terms of informing parents that pre-K is an option, that it is free, and that it is valuable. This spring and summer a dedicated group of people in the South Oak Cliff community went door-to-door, knocking and distributing fliers and answering questions about pre-K. At the back to school fairs in the fall, which tend to focus on older students, pre-K fliers will be distributed. Community nonprofits and businesses have posted pre-K fliers, and pre-K enrollment in South Oak Cliff is increasing. Parental education will remain key for years into the future. It’s a sustaining loop- parents tell other parents about programs they find valuable, so getting in the door now and knocking on as many as possible is worth the time and effort. Longer term, matching spots to students will be important. Whether that means busing pre-K students to different schools until a spot opens up where their siblings attend or hiring more teachers,...

The trickle down effect of school turnover

For educators and parents alike, there can sometimes seem a great divide between what happens in an actual school building and what’s going on behind the scenes at a leadership level. School boards, superintendents- even working within a school it’s easy to forget that these levels are operating out there independently. In Dallas these worlds crash together more often than not, as for the past three years the city has had a superintendent who is very hands on and often the source of change....


Are tests how we reform education?

Education reform is a big buzzword these days. Everyone is talking about efforts to reform education, yet the one thing that has seemed to change are the tests themselves. Underneath all the rhetoric, issues, and complaints, the question has to be asked, are tests how we reform education? With all the recent talk of standardized testing and how it’s a problem on all sides, I started thinking back on my own experiences with the standardized tests of my grade school days. I grew up in PA, so I had to take the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) tests in 5th, 8th, and 11th grades. I remember that the rest of the school had the day off so there were no other distractions for the grades involved. I remember in 5th grade that we were allowed to wear pajamas and bring snacks and other comfort items to school so we would feel relaxed while we were tested. I don’t remember much about the middle school testing, but in high school we had the building to ourselves for a few hours to take the tests a little at a time, and then have the rest of our school day as normal. Even though we were assured that these tests would not affect our grades, I remember the teachers seeming like they were a little more on edge, as though their jobs depended on the success of the tests (which they pretty much did). But with their silent stressing, the importance the school placed on providing an “appropriate” testing atmosphere, and the stress that naturally comes from being tested, it’s no wonder students hate it. And because students hate it, parents hate it. Teachers hate it because they are the ones being judged on the results; plus it cuts into valuable classroom time. I wouldn't say that school administrators like testing, but they do hold it in high regard since it’s basically their job to appease the state in order to get paid salaries that are in many cases, quite hefty. That leaves the test makers, who are the only ones who make a profit from this, so of course, they love it. We've mentioned many times how standardized testing should only be a measurement of students’ progress and retention, and not a corporate profit tool. And I think that this aspect should be the focal point on why we need a reformation on education assessment. Even though there are plenty of other reasons why standardized tests as they stand today are more of a hindrance than a help, the reason that makes me the most upset is that corporate greed is running American education, and not enough people are talking about it. Education policy makers state that Common Core standards need to be met, so teachers need to push a curriculum that caters to test results. The test-makers are then paid to create a new standardized test based on the new Common Core curriculum standards. If the tests show poor results, than schools need to revamp...

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