By Cameron Pipkin
As those of you who follow this blog know, I’ve been on a pre-K kick for the last week or so. It’s hard to say what it is about pre-K Common Core Standards that’s so compelling, but I can’t take my eyes off of them. Maybe it’s that we're riled up over the issue. Google search it and see if I’m wrong.
Regardless, I now make a pledge to you, dear reader, that this will be my last pre-K entry (at least till it comes through my RSS feed again; keep your fingers crossed).
There’s a man in Florida, apparently, who’s as fed up with lax pre-K Standards as many of you. He doesn’t call for Common Core assessments in preschool per say, but he does indicate a need for some type of assessment system. The St. Augustine Record published an article on him a few months ago, and I thought I’d share it with you. You can read the article here.
The man’s name is David Lawrence, the head of an organization called Early Childhood Initiative Foundation. The Record quotes Lawrence as saying that "It really pains me that we haven't, in this state, subjected VPK to the same rigor and accountability that has been done with K-12 programs and services."
There are two approaches we could take to this complaint. First, we could view it as an indictment of a system that short-changes children. The article sites studies which find that the human mind is most capable of learning between the ages of 1 and 5. We’re missing an opportunity early if we don’t push knowledge quickly. Assessments, I suppose, are a part of that.
The other approach to the complaint (and the Record seems to straddle the line between both) is troubling in its implications. The Record notes that:
While K-12 teachers have come under increasing scrutiny over their performance, with student test scores now linked to their salaries, voluntary pre-kindergarten providers are skating by with little oversight and accountability, argues one prominent early learning advocate.
Now, I’m not sure that I’m cynical enough to imagine Kindergarten teachers furious at preschool instructors for cutting into their wallets, but the point is well taken. In some places—far too many, I fear—the issue of assessing pre-K is becoming political enough to blur the line between students’ well-being and educators’ personal interest.
I’m not saying that Lawrence and his organization don’t have the children’s best interest at heart. I believe that they do. But clearly, somewhere along the line, to certain camps, this is becoming an issue of money, power, and keeping the system fair for educators more than it is about students. Not to point any fingers, but to say that this happens a lot in education would be an understatement. And this is coming from a former educator.
Is it naive and idealistic of me to hope that at least when it comes to pre-K standards, we can keep the ‘I’m gonna get mine’ to a minimum? Or maybe there’s no avoiding the fact that testing, standards, and especially the Common Core State Standards are political issues. As someone who has never taught at the pre-K level, are things any different there than they are elsewhere in the system?
I’d love to get your thoughts.