A NYC Teacher Breaks the Silence on the Power of Play

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Play is the sine qua non of early childhood education. “It has long been noticed that the smartest mammals—primates, cetaceans, elephants, and carnivores—are the most playful,” anthropologist and neuroscientist Melvin Konner wrote in his epic work, The Evolution of Childhood.

Yet we continue to ignore the evidence. We’re stealing it from the classrooms of young children as young as four. A trio of studies conducted in low-income, community-based child care centers over two decades, book-ended by the publication of A Nation at Risk, in 1983, and the enactment of No Child Left Behind, found . . . Read full article →

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Sending an S.O.S from a Small School in Harlem

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As the season of high-stakes testing got underway, winter’s chill unabated, a petition began to circulate, a flower of democracy. “Save Central Park East 1 Elementary School!” it read.

The school, founded in 1974, is the brainchild of Deborah Meier, beloved writer, teacher, principal, and education activist—one of several created in East Harlem, with the blessing of Anthony Alvarado, a forward-thinking superintendent of District 4 in New York City. A guiding light of the small-schools movement, she snagged a MacArthur “genius” award for her vision.

For parents in New York City, Central Park East 1 has been . . . Read full article →

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Ms. Rumphius on the Torture of Untimed Testing

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In January, as New York’s State Education Department grappled with the burgeoning wrath of parents, commissioner MaryEllen Elia announced that several “major changes” were afoot for the high-stakes assessment regime. Among them was untimed testing.

Conceding the stress—on young children in particular—Elia offered her solution: “If they are working productively,” she noted, “then they will be able to continue the assessment.”

She was decidedly not making the world more beautiful, the life’s work of Miss Rumphius, the eponymous heroine of Barbara Cooney’s beloved book, first published by Viking in 1982. I read it often . . . Read full article →

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Jamila Carter Weighs in on No-Excuses Discipline

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Strict discipline, leavened with love and support, has long had its proponents among parents and the teaching corps of color. In an ethnographic study, published in the journal of Urban Education a decade ago, Dr. Franita Ware mourned the loss of this historical model, profiling two practitioners of “warm- demander” pedagogy, rooted in an ethic of caring and responsiveness.

But the “tough-minded, no-nonsense, structured and disciplined classroom environment” that Ware described has gone terribly awry, sparking a movement of “no-excuses” discipline in underserved urban school districts that has imposed strict control, demeaned parents, and silenced children’s . . . Read full article →

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