Big Data and Little Kids: In Whose Best Interest?

Exams Only Put Youngest Learners under the Microscope

Americans love data. We cannot get enough of it. Collectors on speed, we measure every indicator in sight. Children are the youngest, most fragile casualties of our obsessive compulsive disorder. How many words do they have in their emergent lexicons? Do they know their letters? Can they count up to 20? Are they ready for school? Are they reading The Sorcerer’s Stone ahead of the third-grade benchmarks? They’re on treadmills, each milestone anxiously awaited, and dutifully recorded.

Nothing is off limits in our pursuit of cognitive development and predictors of academic achievement. And we start early. . . . Read full article →

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John Oliver Takes the Lead on Leave

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Jon Stewart’s leaving, and I’ve been in mourning. “I need more flexibility,” he recently announced on Catie Lazarus’s podcast, Employee of the Month. I’ve got maybe four or five more years with [my two children] before they really don’t want anything to do with me.”

Speaking of employees and kids: John Oliver’s cheering me up. He capped America’s favorite holiday yesterday with a brilliant, lacerating take on paid family leave. You remember that policy—the one that’s earned us a citation from Human Rights Watch, the one that the governor of my . . . Read full article →

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Mothers' Day Gifts: Separate, Unequal, and Undervalued

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I don’t celebrate Mothers’ Day. Somewhere along the line, after years of obligatory gifts, the woman who produced me said “enough.” A refugee from the “Mad Men” era, she got it: this holiday, dedicated to the nation’s progenitors, had Hallmark written all over it. Just another chance for consumption, a shot of adrenalin for the retail economy.

What a crass take on parenthood, such a distortion of that rosy vision of mother and apple pie. You bet. Here’s an ersatz want ad, drafted some time ago, by economist Shirley Burggraf:

Parents willing to bear, rear, and . . . Read full article →

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Finding the Common Core of Expertise: Where are the Early Childhood Educators?

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Earlier this year, Robert Pondiscio, a policy pundit at the Fordham Institute, took to his “Common Core” blog and blasted Reading in Kindergarten: Little to Gain and Much to Lose, a report written by three early childhood educators.

Why shouldn’t kids be reading in kindergarten, the man wanted to know. And how dare the authors suggest that the blessed academic standards were not developmentally appropriate?

I immediately zeroed in on Pondiscio’s resume, from which experience and credentials in early development and education were conspicuously absent. He’d worked in public relations . . . Read full article →

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