Odds and Ends

Is this homework a kindergartener should be able to do?  I heard that at one Seattle elementary (it slips my mind which one but I think it is Roxhill) that they have ended homework and require only reading every night.    Should kindergartners have homework?

An upcoming event that may be of interest to you and your student - the unveiling of Mirror, a permanent art installation at SAM.  From their website:

MIRROR is an urban earthwork that changes in real time in response to the movements and life around it.

At the unveiling, guests will experience an unprecedented performance with synchronized choreography of MIRROR in relation to compositions by minimalist composers Steve Reich and Terry Riley. Mr. Riley will be in Seattle for the performance of his monumental work In C, featuring musicians from the Seattle Symphony Orchestra.

The event is free as are SAM galleries that day but you have to print out tickets for the Mirror event as well as pick up tickets at SAM for the galleries. 

A new assessment consortium called Smarter Balanced that works for assessments aligned to Common Core standards.  Worth a look.

But what about Common Core and early childhood education?

Nowhere was this more startlingly true than in the case of the early childhood standards—those imposed on kindergarten through grade 3. We reviewed the makeup of the committees that wrote and reviewed the Common Core Standards. In all, there were 135 people on those panels. Not a single one of them was a K-3 classroom teacher or early childhood professional.
It appears that early childhood teachers and child development experts were excluded from the K-3 standards-writing process.
 "The standards will intensify the push for more standardized testing, which is highly unreliable for children under age eight."

"There is little evidence that standards for young children lead to later success. The research is inconclusive; many countries with top-performing high-school students provide rich play-based, nonacademic experiences—not standardized instruction—until age six or seven."
On the other hand, here's another TFA-type group, Breakthrough Collaborative. 

The core of all Breakthrough programs is a proven students teaching students model. Promising students engage in academically rigorous coursework taught by their bright and energetic young teachers, while a supportive community sustains them on their path to college.

Key word there: young.

Speaking of TFA, a great op-ed about why TFA should dissolved (written by a former TFAer).

Back in late January, the National Schools Board Association gave Arne Duncan a smackdown

Secretary Arne Duncan has pushed “unnecessary and counter-productive federal intrusion” onto local school districts.

“In recent years, the U.S. Department of Education has engaged in a variety of activities to reshape the educational delivery system,” said Thomas J. Gentzel, NSBA’s Executive Director. “All too often these activities have impacted local school district policy and programs in ways that have been beyond the specific legislative intent. School board leaders are simply asking that local flexibility and decision-making not be eroded through regulatory actions.”

Mindfulness in learning.  Sounds doable and worth trying.

A pioneer in this field, Professor of Medicine Emeritus at the University of Massachusetts Medical School (UMMS) Jon Kabat-Zinn says mindfulness “means paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.” Kabat-Zinn is the founding director of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at UMMS.

Early research on the strategy shows its great promise. According to Mindfulschools.org, “Numerous studies have shown that mindfulness is a powerful tool for combating multiple mental and physical problems and disorders, for example, Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), mood and anxiety disorders.”

And, in school board election news, the Michelle Rhee-backed candidate in Sacramento (where Rhee lives with her husband, the Mayor) lost.

The election was seen as a test case among education activists seeking to weaken teachers unions and install board members focused on overhauling education through charter schools and shaking up teacher hiring and firing practices.

Sarah Kirby-Gonzalez, who raised just under $30,000 mainly from unions, garnered 50.7 percent of votes for a seat on the tiny Washington Unified School District. The special election was called to fill the remaining 18 months of a seat on the board, which governs nine schools with just over 7,400 students.

Rhee's candidate raised $59k  with $35k coming from Rhee's group, Students First.
In LA, one incumbent beat out the ed reform candidate who was supported by a group that had collected over $3.8M for their three candidates.   For the other two other ed reform candidates, one won outright and the other looks to be headed for a runoff vote.  The ed reform candidate that won outspent her opponents, 50-1.
 Donations to the coalition included $1 million from New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg; $300,000 from the California Charter Schools Assn.; $250,000 from StudentsFirst, the advocacy group headed by former District of Columbia schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee; and $250,000 from a subsidiary of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp.

Campaign committees affiliated with United Teachers Los Angeles, the local teachers union, spent close to $1 million, according to the city Ethics Commission. This included $150,000 from the American Federation of Teachers.

Zimmer, who claimed 52% of the vote, said Wednesday that "the willingness to win by any means necessary makes me very sad…They really did try to buy a seat and were pretty brazen about it."
He added that he still intends to cooperate with Supt. John Deasy and Villaraigosa. "This election hasn't changed me."
Look for this kind of money to pour into our own Board elections this fall (and probably into the mayor's race where Tim Burgess looks to be the ed reform candidate).

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2013/03/06/5239799/union-backed-candidate-wins-w.html#storylink=cp


Jet City mom said…
I dont think the parents of kindergarteners or the kids themselves need homework.
Aim to be read to every day, get a good nights sleep & have breakfast in the morning. I think that is plenty for any 5 yr old.
Worksheets- blah.
If you want to teach numbers, have them bring five of something, make it more tangible.
Anonymous said…
Nice idea Jet City—five of something, something that begins with the letter D—things like that make it fun and are not too time-consuming. But, I feel for the kids whose parents can't be or aren't involved enough to even help with that.

Kids who have parents who are engaged in their education will always have the advantage over those who don't—sad but true. It would be nice if schools could work with the families of kindergarteners to get them invested and help them understand what their role in the process should be.

Simple "homework" like that, and maybe a reading log could be a great start. At the least, it could identify the families that might need that extra help.

Solvay Girl
Maje said…
I see my K kid's homework a bit differently. The homework includes math, word work and writing - all things they do in the classroom. Sometimes the work sheets are copies of the same things that they have already done in the classroom that week. I'm in the classroom one morning a week and see how that work is used in class.

I think the homework gets the parents involved in what's happening in the classroom. For the parents who can't come in, at least they can still participate in their kid's learning beyond reading with them every day. It's really easy to read to kids every day, but math literacy is also important and it is *much* harder to smoothly work that into our time with kids. We read to our kids (almost) every night, but don't make the same effort to support them learning about numbers.

At first I thought the math homework was a waste of time (count cars! find shapes!) but now I see it as a starting point to talk about math and how fun it can be.

It also helps that our teacher has made sure to let us know that we should take a break if we or the kids start getting stressed out by it. If we decide the kids need some time off, that's ok.

Chris S. said…
At our school, parents get the homework - read to your child 20 minutes a day.
n said…
I always struggle with how much homework to give out. Once I asked for feedback and the diversity of responses was mind-boggling. I'll never ask again. So I give out quite a bit but hope that my parents use their discretion. Children in primary are developmentally very different from each other. Some love the homework and challenge and others are not ready for it. Parents can be the best determiners. Better than me.

Also, with the amount of curriculum we are teaching, I welcome the help of my parents to reinforce the learning. I am, after all, accountable to the test.

Thanks for the great links in this commentary. I found every one of them very interesting.
Anonymous said…
Re: Kindergarten homework, I just didn't do it, with either of my two kids. What were they going to do, kick them out?

We've skipped a lot of homework over the years. Now our older daughter is in 5th and she gets a very reasonable amount, which she completes nicely.

I feel that I know what they need and am engaged in their educations. I guess not all parents are, and maybe homework is a good way to rope them into their kids' education, but it's also a good way to stress the family out, with just more pile on to the ol' "to do" list.
Maureen said…
At my kids' school, the kindergarten teachers said their homework was to be an involved member of their family. They encouraged parents to have the kids set the table, help with dinner, talk about what had happened in school.... No worksheets no reading log (though parents were asked to read to the kids.) There was a big sign over the K entrance: Childhood is a journey, not a race.

I'm not sure if the teachers are still allowed to do that there.
dj said…
One of my kids had a weekly homework packet in kindergarten. The other one who is school-aged didn't (and that was last year at a school with a decent reputation). They did have a reading log. i didn't notice much difference in terms of what they learned through the year.
dj said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jet City mom said…
Developmentally they are very different & we cant rush the ones who arent ready and we shouldnt kill their natural drive for learning either.
We also need smaller classrooms for K-2.

I have one kid who taught herself to read when she was three & the other didn't read till she was eight.
But their intelligence levels are comparable and the late bloomer may be more creative in her application.
TD said…
Thank you Jet City mom (and teacher 'n'), for pointing out the diversity of kids' needs, even as early as kindergarten.

One of my kids was so frustrated (actually depressed, it was quite troubling for months) in kindergarten because there were no "academics" happening in the classroom. My kid's expectation was that they would be reading and doing math from day one, but it was really just a socialization setting, with coloring, learning to follow rules, wait in line, etc. This was a high-performing school, that's just the way kindergarten was run.

So for a few kids who are ready, K can be a big bore, frustrating and non-motivating. For other kids, they need that year to adjust to spending 6 hours/day in a classroom, controlling their emotions and learning to deal with others. Guess what, we're all different!

Any classroom that attempts to work "for all kids" is doomed to fail. Either the teacher needs to make hugely varying accommodations (which makes kids stand out one way or the other: not good, socially!), or kids suffer. This is why (self-contained) Spectrum and APP are valuable. To give all kids a fair shot at an appropriate environment each and every year, without devaluing any child. And if it's done right, the kids don't even need to know. It's sickening that so many people (including some teachers and principals) don't understand this, and that the programs are mindlessly being dismantled instead of nurtured and implemented with tact and grace.
TB said…
My kid is going into K next year so it is interesting to hear what might be expected. I don't have a problem with a little homework, or even worksheets for that matter. What concerned me about that particular worksheet was the Disney marketing tagged onto the bottom. Sure, Mickey Mouse was being supportive but I don't think he has any place on my kid's homework.
Patrick said…
When my child was in kindergarten, the homework was not that hard. I'm thinking it was just reading and reading log.
Anonymous said…
For those who are considering EnVision, the Kindergarten worksheet linked to this bog is attributed to enVision, but does not actually appear to be enVision materials. The part at the bottom with a teacher's name crossed out and a little Micky Mouse saying something does not appear to be taken from enVision. My child has an EnVision curriculum and there is no Disney branding in it. Since people are talking about changing from Every Day math, I think it is important that anything attributed to a specific curriculum actually be from that curriculum (rather than teacher-created materials).
-- not sure if it is really EnVision
Thank you, teacher said…
We read to our kids every night, rain or shine, and have done ever since they were newborns. That is awesome parent homework!!! Our kids also had reading homework in kindergarten, and nothing else that came home on a regular basis. The reading was cool - the teacher has a set of "I See Sam" books and when the child finished one, they got to get the next in the series. They are in the public domain and free for downloading. At the end they got a nice little certificate. http://www.marriottmd.com/sam/index.html
GreyWatch said…
reading was one of our favorite family activities, but reading logs were a chore. Sometimes we'd write down a few books just to have something to turn in. We eventually stopped turning them in altogether. We also stopped turning in homework. Oh yeah, then we switched to a waldorf school for 4 years :). With the exception of a few projects (and lots of festivals) they typically don't have homework until 5th grade. Delightful - except for the tuition part.
Anonymous said…
Homework is a balancing act. When it becomes a supplement to what a teacher requires in order to "pass the test," that tells me the system is broken and I'm not feeding my kids into it. We started reading when they were babies and kept reading and storytelling every day. Math was counting at home. Counting, then basic arithmetic for everything. We never did work sheets unless the kids wanted to do them. There were fine. We sent kids prepared to learn. I never felt we needed to do any more than that and our teachers, with a few exceptions, never asked for more. For everyone, the "Don't stress me out" rule should apply.

Mr. White
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Anonymous said…
@Grey Watch

We did Waldorf too and loved the no homework aspect of it (other than the couple of projects each year, like the house in 3rd grade). I have a junior at the Waldorf High School and a freshman at Nathan Hale. They both have homework now and they have adapted to the amount. Both are excellents students at their respective high schools.


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