"I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power." - Thomas Jefferson 1820

"There is a growing technology of testing that permits us now to do in nanoseconds things that we shouldn't be doing at all." - Dr. Gerald Bracey author of Rotten Apples in Education

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Saturday, September 28, 2013

What Would This Mom Think About Common Assessments and Data Collection on Young Children?

An uncommon woman.  What would she think about common assessments?

Desiree Harris Steiner (died 1974) was a mother and writer in Cincinnati whose sons gathered her short stories, skits and travel articles into a book for family and friends after her death.  Her rabbi delivered her eulogy and it was apparent she was an individualist and  didn't fit into a common mold. From Rabbi Albert Goldman's remarks:

She received the award of the Veteran's Boxing Association as "Mother of the Year" (date unknown), and she remarked: "They should have named me 'Character of the Year,' for that's exactly what I am.  I like to do things that are different, exciting.  I'd climb a mountain or swim an ocean just because it was there."   

Steiner wrote an annual holiday letter (1949) and it contained a poem about  grandchildren.  I immediately thought of children today and sixty years ago.  I bet this independent mom and grandma would have little to no patience to common expectations for young boys and  the data collection to go along with their behavior at young ages.  From Emma's Written for the Fam-uel....(or) Emma's Dilemmas Written and read by Emma, herself. (1949):

My second shift grandchildren would be much better if they were ALL Steiner and not just half...Corky isn't a student, Johnny is noisey and Richard is housebroken, he breaks everything in the house...they get all their bad faults from their mothers.  Of course I'm not criticizing, I'm just suggesting.  I always feel that boys will be boys....

See the little angel
Busting up his toys
Please don't scold him, Margie-
Boys will just be boys.

If a little darling 
Should kick you in the shin
Just remember, Desiree,
It's lots of fun for him.

What's the difference
If they spit, on Edith Mayers' floor?
If the child likes the sound of it,
Let him spit some more.

See the shattered window?
Footprints on the chair?
Ink on every sofa?
My grandchild has been there.

Let the little darlings
Slash and wreck and bust
Let them do just as they please
In Krug let's put our trust.

Never scold for anything-
That brings a child real joys
And when he reaches fitty-odd
He'll manufacture toys.

Let's revisit the questions in the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study K-2011 that parents are to answer and data made accessible to the Federal government.  From our previous posting:

Parent Interview
  • What is the status of children’s development (as defined by cognitive, social, and emotional development; behavior; and physical status measures) at entry to kindergarten and beyond? How does children’s development vary by child and family social, demographic, and contextual characteristics at the time of kindergarten entry? How do children’s experiences with transitioning to kindergarten (e.g., children’s adjustment to kindergarten) relate to children’s developmental status at entry to kindergarten? How do variations in children’s developmental status (as defined by ECLS-K:2011 cognitive, socioemotional, and physical measures) at kindergarten entry relate to later success in school?
  • What are the associations between family sociodemographic and contextual characteristics and later success in school within and across developmental domains and across sex and racial/ethnic subgroups?
  • How do family processes and parenting practices (e.g., home environment, family activities, and cognitive stimulation) relate to children’s school readiness, developmental status, and social and emotional adjustment? Are critical family processes and parenting practices associated with later success in school?
  • What are parents’ definitions of school readiness—i.e., what beliefs and standards do they have for children’s behavior and academic performance at entry into kindergarten? How do definitions of readiness differ by parental socioeconomic status (SES) and race/ethnicity? What are parents’ assessments of individual children’s readiness for and adjustment to school?
  • To what extent does parental involvement in children’s education relate to school performance over the course of the early grades? Do parental involvement levels differ by family social, demographic, and contextual characteristics? What forms of parent involvement are most highly correlated with children’s outcomes? What factors might influence the extent of parental involvement?
  • What are children’s patterns of participation in early care and education? How do early care and education arrangements differ by family sociodemographic factors, socioeconomic status, and race/ethnicity? To what extent are these arrangements related to children’s progress through school? How does participation in early care and education in the year before kindergarten relate to participation in before- and/or after-school care during kindergarten (e.g., in what ways are these arrangements similar or different)? Does Head Start attendance relate to any differences in children’s readiness and progress in school relative to other early care and education experiences?

How do you think this 1949 era grandmother would answer these questions?

She would probably have little to no patience with these questions and would opt-out of such invasive data gathering on her great or great-great children.  She would probably be horrified.  She understood boys would be boys and that they would grow up to be successful even as they exhibited childish behavior...as children.  She had a better understanding of children and age appropriate behavior than the "experts" who have devised these questionnaires and Common Core grade level standards/expectations.

You may make your objections to data collection and tracking by October 24, 2013 in the Federal Register here.  I'm thinking about posting this poem when I register my concerns there about data tracking, collection and dissemination.  I believe Desiree Harris Steiner would approve.

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