Common Core Harms Kids, Early Childhood Expert Says

The Common Core State Standards Initiative had no input from early childhood experts or educators and will lead to serious harm for the nation's kindergarten through third grade students, Dr. Nancy Carlsson-Paige, an expert on early childhood education, told The Christian Post Thursday.

"I'm very concerned about the harm that is created when you put inappropriate expectations on a nation of young children, you give them all kinds of damaging messages as well as increasingly eliminate their opportunities for healthy and genuine learning," Carlsson-Paige said.

Carlsson-Paige is professor emerita at Lesley University, where she taught for 30 years. Her newest book is Taking Back Childhood: A Proven Roadmap for Raising Confident, Creative, Compassionate Kids.

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In 2010, she was one of over 500 early childhood experts who signed a petition warning that Common Core would be harmful to young children.

The Common Core standards do not reflect the "development characteristics and needs of young children. They are imposing expectations on young children that are inappropriate in a variety of ways," she said.

One of the main problems, Carlsson-Paige believes, is the Common Core requires K-3 children to "learn specific content, facts and skills at certain ages." But children, especially young children, develop at different rates. To get children to learn the same things at the same time, teachers must "drill them," which has resulted in "an enormous increase in direct teaching and direct instruction."

In states that have embraced the Common Core, the direct instruction is replacing proven techniques that early childhood education experts advocate.

"The direct instruction has replaced hands on, active learning and play, which really are the bedrock, or cornerstone activities of early childhood that really solidify learning," Carlsson-Paige explained. "Children learn through active engagement and play in the early years. Skilled teachers know how to connect skills appropriately to play as they see what children are doing and where they are on the developmental spectrum."

The direct instruction is damaging to children, she said, because it encourages children to believe that "the information is outside of themselves, rather than they have a capacity construct it from within.

"All of these messages are very damaging. Many children are feeling a sense of failure in early classrooms because they are being asked to learn things they can't understand easily and they can't make sense of."

Common Core proponents often claim that the standards were developed by the states, as if it was a bottom-up, citizen-led initiative. This is not true. The Common Core was developed by the National Governor's Association, a private organization, with funding from the Gates Foundation. There was no public debate about what the standards should be.

States adopted the Common Core as part of the "Race to the Top" initiative from the Department of Education. States competed for education dollars by showing how they would change their education system. To compete for the Race to the Top funds, states had to agree to adopt the Common Core standards before they even knew what the standards would be.

"It's the most top-down thing I've ever heard of in education," Carlsson-Paige said. "It's hard to believe, in a democratic country like this, this could've actually happened."

Additionally, the Common Core does not include an ongoing evaluation system to determine if the standards are working, she complained.

Carlsson-Paige is also concerned about the potential to use testing as the primary means to evaluate teachers along with the Common Core. Teachers should be evaluated, she believes, but evaluations should use a variety of methods that include a lot of observation.

Teachers could easily be trained to get high test scores from their students using direct instruction, she said, but those teachers "would be very, very ill equipped to handle the multiple dimensions of early childhood development that teachers have to understand."

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