Category Archives: Common Core Teleconferences

Recess Stifling Childhood Creativity? School Playgrounds for Hire: What Happened to Free Play at School and Is Adult-Directed

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Recess Stifling Childhood Creativity? School Playgrounds for Hire: What Happened to Free Play at School and Is Adult-Directed

By:  Anne Taylor

In October of 2015 school playgrounds and “Playgrounds For Hire” became the topic of numerous news articles.  This subject made waves because parents in the city of Minneapolis had to petition to have recess brought back to their elementary school.

Yes, PARENTS HAD TO PETITION that recess be brought back to Minneapolis public elementary schools.

In an interview with TC Daily Planet last winter, a Minneapolis public school teacher commented “I would like to see more recess because studies show that more play time makes kids more attentive. It is hard for them to stay focused without play or movement. In fact, it leads to more behavior problems.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics agrees calling recess “a crucial and necessary component of a child’s development.”  Simply put, studies show recess offers children important cognitive, social, emotional, and physical benefits, yet many schools continue to cut down on breaks to squeeze in more lessons, which may be counterproductive, it warns.

For years now we’ve been hearing more and more how recess is being taken away from our children in school.  While many of us remember having recess through 8th grade, children today don’t experience this much needed and necessary play beyond pre-school.  Recess is being cut for a myriad of reasons, from an increase in standardized testing and cut-throat academics, (including those in grades K-4th grade) to punishment for bad behavior and even low grades.

A parent reported that one affluent middle school in the western suburbs tried revoking recess to students if they had missing assignments and/or grades that fell below a “C.”  Students in this middle school were only offered time outside on alternating days and was dependent upon outside weather.  Which in our state, translates to May or possibly June.  Following lunch, students are sent back to their classrooms and given an opportunity to finish homework, play games, watch a movie, check-in on their iPhones (ie: social media) or chat among friends.  As one student puts it, “It’s like a prison not being able to go outside all day.”

In October 2015, an Edina, Minnesota school piqued the interest of many on the usage of playground “recess consultants” to the tune of up to $30,000 in the name of making kids’ playtime “more inclusive.”

According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune “Playworks” consultants organize recess-time activities, such as foursquare and jump rope, that are “overseen by adults and designed to reduce disciplinary problems while ensuring no children are left out.”

“Playworks” is currently operating in over 20 areas across the state of Minnesota.  This includes contracts for hire by a number of school districts, as well as providing services to youth organizations such as the YMCA of Greater Twin Cities and Hennepin County Human Services and Public Health.  According to an article in the National Review, with “the constant correction and micromanaging of kids’ social interactions, Playworks effectively turns the playground into the principal’s office — which would definitely result in fewer reasons to go.”

Many have argued that there are already adult staff and parent volunteers on the playground that monitor recess, so why burden school districts with such micromanagement and added cost?  Has our view of recess changed?

In the Orono school district, a playground program dubbed “Recess Rocks” teams up with teachers, parent and grandparent volunteers to monitor kids’ behaviors at recess.  The focus is on acts of kindness on the playground (such as reward stickers) for good behavior.  They also offer what they call a “buddy bench” should a student have no one to play with allowing other children the opportunity to come forward to play with a student.

While many like the idea of encouraging parent/family involvement at their school, some have concerns.  One parent states, “We expect our kids to act a certain way and they do not get rewarded when they do.”  Another responds, “Crazy.  Recess is not recess if it’s structured by adults.”

In Minnesota, several charter schools are working with the organization LiiNK Project, another 3rd party business.  Recently, LiiNK Project has received notoriety for increasing an academic-focused recess plan for its positive results in a Texas elementary school for having increased academic-focused recess play, while doing so multiple times throughout the day.  While the school claims to have seen positive academic results and less behavior problems, when did it become the schools motto to become character developers and under who’s list of regulations?

Once again, we are seeing the intrusion of such play where even that has a cost of freedom while outside of the classroom, leaving more opportunity for both ‘mining’ and ‘minding’ the behaviors of child on a playground.

I think we can all agree that there are some behaviors that are simply not tolerable – both verbal and physical.  But being told that hearing phrases like “you’re out!” is hurting kids?  How far have we gone?  Isn’t that the nature of sports and learning not everything in life IS fair?

The theory of imaginative, unstructured play can be found extensively in Waldorf education where unstructured recess play is undoubtedly a necessity.  According to Seacoast Waldorf School in Maine, ”Today, the average American child spends just four to seven minutes in unstructured outdoor play each day…Four to seven minutes. That’s just 23 to 42 hours a YEAR (out of an average of more than 4300 waking hours, translating to less than 1% of a child’s ‘awake time’ being spent outdoors!).”

Pediatric occupational therapist Angela Hanscom and author of the nonfiction book “Balanced and Barefoot” writes her discovery that by decreasing “children’s time and space to move and play outdoors, we are seeing a simultaneous rise in the number of children that are presenting with sensory deficits. The number of children that now need occupational therapy services to treat their sensory systems is on the rise.”

She goes on to say that “…less time outdoors on a regular basis, more and more children are walking around with underdeveloped vestibular (balance) systems. In other words, they have decreased body awareness and sense of space. Teachers are reporting that children are falling out of their seats in school, running into one another, pushing with more force during games of tag, and are generally clumsier than in years past. In fact, the more we restrict and coddle our children, the more unsafe they become.”

With Minnesota weather ebbing and flowing in varying degrees from muddy, cool springs to harsh temperatures for weeks on end in the teens and below zero, we might want to take in to account that even for famed ‘outdoorsman families,’ children still need time away from the confines of a concrete classroom setting with free and unstructured play during ALL seasons.

One wonders why consulting companies are trying to reinvent the wheel on the theory of play during recess.  The only goal then would be to monitor social, emotional learning and character while on a playground on school time.  A place that was once known as a sanctuary to children of all backgrounds, somewhere along the lines a group of ‘experts’ decided 3rd party  companies could be up for hire to take over the very basics of childhood pedagogy:  The freedom to just ‘be.’  Play now must come with monetary rewards.  After all, the Common Core thread is about creating successful human capital (money, money, money, money) within limited parameters, and once again, a one-size-fits-all approach now follows children to the playground and beyond.

Minnesota Teachers Reassure on Opt Outs!

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Minnesota Teachers Reassure on Opt Outs!

By:  JMLmom

We hear stories about parents having trouble when it comes to opting their children out of testing.  I’d like to share a story of cooperation and understanding regarding a parent’s choice to opt out of testing, surveys as well as homework assignments outside the scope of our family values.

Yesterday, I got a letter from a parent in a Minnesota school district and I have to say that it was so deeply encouraging and uplifting. This parent asked us not to disclose her name or the school district, so we will not disclose that information. However, the information that we want to share is that teachers are being supportive and thankful for parents who opt out their children.

At my oldest child’s parent-teacher conference, I spoke with her English teacher about opting my child out of these tests. Her teacher said he is frustrated because he isn’t able to teach the way he feels the children need. You have to move through everything so fast, some children are left behind. He said he is very frustrated and feels that this testing is a waste of time and money. The teachers I have talked to about this feel the same way, but their hands are tied.

When I submitted my opt out letters on behalf of my children, I was nervous how the letters would be received. I soon received my answer. One of the teachers sent me this letter:

Dear xxxx,

In my opinion, the letter you submitted regarding testing is outstanding! Thank you for sending it and thank you for your constructive words about your reasons.

I will file this with the testing coordinator this week, and I will keep a copy in my file in case any concerns arise.

Thanks,

M Teacher

And then another message from another teacher,

Thanks so much for the eloquently written letter you sent on behalf of “X” opting out of testing. Nicely stated.

Thanks

K Teacher

Each of the teachers were very supportive.   It was great to see us all come together and agree on something so important. Just knowing that my children’s teachers are supportive of my choice, makes me feel more at ease. My advice to everyone would be to have this conversation with your children’s teachers. Let them know that your decision has no reflection on them as a teacher but is more so about your child and the over the continuous testing mandates.

For more information about Opting Out, see our tab “Refuse the Tests” at http://www.MNagainstCC.com or on our facebook page, Minnesota Against Common Core and Refuse the Tests.

White House Announces Transition to Openly Licensed Education Resources for Schools

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White House Announces Transition to Openly Licensed Education Resources for Schools
 The White House announces the Federal Government is to *begin to model the transition to openly licensed educational materials at scale in U.S. K-12 schools. We look forward to engaging with the national and global community to identify opportunities for open licensing to accelerate educational equity for all learners regardless of their financial situations or geographic locations.* This is aligned to Article 26 of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights.
Is this the move toward a national and/or international curriculum?  What could go wrong?
Reposted from Missouri Education Watchdog

Openly Licensed Educational Resources: Providing Equitable Access to Education for All Learners

by Gretchen Logue

Summary:  The Federal government is supporting the use of open educational resources to provide equitable access to quality education.

Everyone has the right to education…Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace. —Article 26 of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights

Access to quality education is an essential component of addressing many of our biggest global and societal challenges. Last year, the United Nations surveyed youth around the world about their priorities—what opportunities they want to be offered. More than improvements in electricity and infrastructure, healthcare, and better jobs, what young people asked for was a good education. It’s no surprise that young people value education. World Bank economists estimate that for every year of study, individual income increases by 10-15 percent. These increases don’t just affect individuals; they often generate a “ripple effect” of benefits to families and entire communities. Openly licensed learning resources, also known as open educational resources (OER), can increase access to high-quality education opportunities and reduce the cost of education around the world.

On September 28, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, U.S. Department of Education, and U.S. Department of State co-hosted an International Open Education Workshop, bringing together 40 civil society and foreign government participants from eight countries to examine existing open education efforts and identify opportunities for future collaboration between government and civil society. This workshop is one of several open education commitments made as part of the second U.S. Open Government Partnership National Action Plan.

At the workshop, participants shared examples of ways that openly licensed educational materials are being used to solve local education challenges around the world. For example, one participant shared open-source tools that enable offline access to openly licensed educational videos — technology that has supported education for Syrian refugees, inmates in U.S. correctional facilities, and over 2 million other learners from around the world. Open licenses grant anyone the rights to revise, remix, and redistribute these educational materials, so investments in content or tools made by one organization or government can be leveraged by other institutions and used in new ways.

Another participant, drawing on her recent experience serving as a Foreign Service Officer in the Balkans, noted the potential for openly licensed educational materials to honor local knowledge and information needs. In particular, she described how an open-source model could empower educators to collaborate on and adapt textbooks across local and international borders, retaining fundamental content while tailoring certain features, like names in math word problems, to reflect students’ ethnic diversity and culture.  Empowering local communities to adapt, translate, and create collections of learning materials that meet their information, learning, or language needs helps side-step assumptions and honor learners’ lived experiences.

Open education advances key national priorities, including supporting shared economic prosperity, strengthening civil society, and investing in human development. Over the next year, the U.S. Government will continue efforts to expand and accelerate the use and availability of openly licensed educational materials worldwide. In addition, we will begin to model the transition to openly licensed educational materials at scale in U.S. K-12 schools.  We look forward to engaging with the national and global community to identify opportunities for open licensing to accelerate educational equity for all learners regardless of their financial situations or geographic locations.

Richard Culatta is Director of the Office of Educational Technology at the U.S. Department of Education.

Sunshine Ison is Director of the ECA Collaboratory at the U.S. Department of State.

Nancy Weiss is Senior Advisor to the Chief Technology Officer at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Minnesota School: Fragments from a Junior’s Thoughts

 

CC bathroom wall 2015

The following was found scrawled out in the bathroom of a Minnesota school, clearly demonstrating the painful thoughts of a student on today’s overbearing expectations.  How much is enough?

Note that two empathetic students wrote, “You aren’t alone” and “This is the truth”.

“Fragments from a Junior’s thoughts.
Today, I heard the phrase, “It looks good on a college application”  11 times.                                                                                                                                Teachers tell me they are preparing me for “real life” as if the first 18 years are a free trial.                                                                                            Getting an education turned out to be a competition I never agreed to enter.
I used to think in week days and now I think in test dates.
Nothing is heavier than my backpack except maybe my eyeballs.
I’m losing sleep, losing weight, losing my mind.
I’m so lost.
Even as I write this poem I know that nothing I have to say matters,
Unless it’s typed in Times New Roman 12pt font.”