I was at an event recently where the speaker used a word that
really got my attention. He said that we “diminish” our
country when we don’t discuss a wide range of options and ideas,
and that the narrowing of our discourse did our country no
favors. This put into words some feelings of unease and
dismay I have been having as this election season progresses.
When I was young, America was full of promise. It was as
if we had taken the wonderful picture of Rosie the Riveter with
the motto WE CAN DO IT, and truly believed that we could build a
country and an economy that worked for all of us and was the
envy of the world. But now I’m hearing altogether too much
of WE CAN’T.
I explain why I am voting for Bernie and I hear, “Oh, he can’t
get that done….we have to take tiny steps…you have to be an
adult about this…” And I am sad that some of my fellow Americans
have so little faith in the people of this country. Yes,
we have let our democracy slip almost out of our hands into the
hands of a plutocracy, but they don’t have a firm grasp quite
yet. We can still yank it back, but not by voting for
those who tell us WE CAN’T.
It’s still our government, although much of it has been
corrupted by the huge amounts of money in campaigns. We
still have the power to clean house. But it’s not going to
happen if we don’t go to the polls and vote. Vote in every
election. We’ve got 4 this year, including one for our
town. Do your homework, ask questions, widen the discourse, and
exercise your power. See you February 9th!
Is Common Core killing kindergarten?
Last year Northwood voters defeated
another attempt to expand the kindergartner’s school day.
Citizens also let the school board know, by a large margin, that
they didn’t want Common Core in Northwood’s schools.
Nonetheless, Common Core continues
unabated, and all-day kindergarten is back on the ballot.
As we again consider these issues,
parents might want to read a recent Boston Globe article
entitled, “Is the Common Core killing Kindergarten?”
Some believe that a rigorous academic
kindergarten program is just what children need. The article,
however, cites psychologists and educators who take quite
Harvard psychologist Howard Gardner,
known for his theory of multiple intelligences, was one of
hundreds of teachers and scholars signing a letter expressing
“grave concerns” about the Common Core Kindergarten standards.
The letter says, “Overuse of didactic instruction and testing
cuts off children’s initiative, curiosity, and imagination.”
Boston College psychologist Peter Gray
is also quoted: “Over the last half century, there’s been a
continuous decline in children’s freedom to play. It’s through
play that children gain the social abilities, the grit, the
ability to control their impulses and solve their own problems
that makes them resilient.”
The Globe reports that “in Finland and
Sweden, kids don’t even start formal schooling until they are 7
years old. Yet, Finnish and Swedish teenagers regularly trounce
their American counterparts in international tests of reading,
math, and science.”
The concerns expressed are that
“pressure to meet academic standards will lead to lecture and
worksheet style teaching, foster rote memorization, and snuff
out the inquiry and play-based instruction that can instill a
love of learning.”
To the Editor,
These will be my final statements
concerning three issues. First, Tom Chase has a lovely and
wonderful wife. To the best of my knowledge that is the only
subject that we mutually agree on.
Kindergarten. Northwood School is not
ready for all day k. Our school is rated 122nd out of 198 K8
schools in NH. Almost 2/3 of those schools do a better job
educating their students. We have a myriad of problems to work
through prior to implementing all day k. The School Board,
purposefully, did not put this issue on the ballot. Having it on
the ballot by a petition warrant article, sadly, is just fueling
a very divisive subject. I wish that the group wanting all day k
would put even 10% of their effort into improving the education
of the other 364 students.
Budget. I want you informed when you
go to the polls. On just six items there is about a $569,000
difference between ty/ny budgets. Those are fuel (25K),
substitutes (13K), teachers (120K mostly from retirement
incentive), Health care (125K HT slush fund), special education
(268K), tuition (18k). If you add in the five maybe students,
another 88K, then it would be $657,000. Yet the budget is only
down $289,000. Where is the other $368,000? Squirreled away in
every nook and cranny imaginable. Because, sensibly, The Sun
limits the size of these letters, so, you’ll have to do some
homework if you want those details.
So once again we hear the complaint that you should feel
guilty because you (the taxpayer) aren’t giving ‘us’ enough
money for our current failing pet project.
Conceding that there is a problem with
the current kindergarten program, the advocates want to spend
over $100,000. Part of the argument for is that because a nearby
community is jumping off the cliff we should too. Part of the
argument against is that the ‘cliff’ is not well structured for
5 year olds according to many educators, especially those
concerned with Common Core aligned programs.
Now it is conceivable that you could
design a worthy program, but then why not start with three year
olds, they do in China. Of course there the gubm’nt pays for it
so it’s free!
Still, there are even more problems, one of which the
beneficiaries don’t want to own up to. Last year I coined
the expression “glorified daycare.” Catchy isn’t it? Most people
with an ounce of common sense know what that refers to.
Regardless of any education that might go on, your children are
being taken care of for you at taxpayers’ expense, whereas the
parent was doing it before.
It’s a fact of life. You might want to
make the argument that parents contribute $2,500 each for the 40
some odd students involved, that could work. After all, it’s
going to be this wonderful as billed experience.
Look, separate from this debate is the
fact that we can’t manage to create a good, much less,
excellent, educational experience in the following eight grades.
Despite sincere efforts by many good
teachers, the system is broken.
Beware, educrats at work.
Closing the Gap
Northwood is not Lake Wobegone, “where all the women are strong,
all the men are good-looking, and all the children are
Northwood children are more normally distributed along that
famous bell-shaped curve. And it is the ones at the bottom
of that distribution that are most in need of full-day
This was touched on in a presentation
made on Jan. 21 to the School Board on efforts to improve the
progress of those kindergarteners most in need.
Let’s say a kid enters kindergarten at
Level 50 and needs to reach Level 100 to be ready for First
Grade. The current program might get him/her there. But what if
a kid is at Level 20? Gaining 50 points still leaves him/her 30
points short. And there is not enough time in the half-day to
close this gap.
Consultant to the improvement effort,
Marion Knight, put it very succinctly, “The easiest time to
close gaps is in the early years.”
The converse is also true: closing
this gap will only get harder with each passing year.
Some have argued with me that we
should wait another year to go to full-day. I would argue that
we would be doing a disservice to those kids at the bottom of
the distribution to delay.
I hope you agree and will come out to
vote for this warrant article on March 8.