Now that the presidential election is over, American Principles Project has revamped its important political blog, changing its name from The Pulse 2016 to the National Pulse. Here is an excerpt from Dr. Effrem’s first article for that new effort:
In good news this week for student privacy and safety, the Trump administration announced it would be dropping objections raised by the Obama Justice Department (DOJ) to a nationwide injunction from a Texas judge against transgender student access to bathrooms and locker rooms corresponding to gender identity instead of biological sex. Oral arguments were to have begun this past week in the case, the first time federal courts have been asked to review whether laws prohibiting sex discrimination also apply to gender identity, a subjective and changeable construct. A preponderance of research shows that most gender confused youth return to identifying as their biological sex by adolescence or early adulthood.
The move by Trump was widely cheered by groups such as Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), who said:
This is good news for the privacy, safety, and dignity of young students across America. The Obama Administration radically distorted a federal law that was intended to equalize educational opportunities for women and misused the law to place members of the opposite sex into students’ private facilities. Today, the Trump Administration took the first steps to end that error.
While a number of other cases involving this issue are still pending across the country, including G.G. v. Gloucester County School Board which is set to be heard by the Supreme Court next month, this is not the only way in which transgender ideology has begun to intrude upon schools. Lesser known, but perhaps more troubling, is the move towards federal social emotional standards, especially those for children as young as preschool age.
The Head Start Performance Standards, recently approved at the end of the Obama administration, require the Head Start Child Outcome Framework and include completely inappropriate “Baby Common Core”–style standards. These contain a whole section of social emotional learning standards, including one on gender identity affecting 3-5 year old children:
The column ends with the following concerns about how Secretary DeVos will handle this issue:
While parents deeply concerned by this ideological agenda have some reason to hope for relief from the Trump administration, it is worth noting that new Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has a complicated history on the issue of transgenderism. As The New York Times reported last month:
Ms. DeVos’s personal experience with the debate over gender identity and bathrooms dates back decades. As chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party, she came to the aid of a transgender woman who wanted to use the women’s restroom at a call center, upsetting some of the other women there, according to two associates at the time — Mr. McNeilly, who was the party’s political director, and Eric Doster, the general counsel…’ A lot of the co-workers weren’t happy with it. But that’s who Betsy is.’
With Head Start reauthorization coming up soon, let us hope that DeVos cares more about protecting the innocence, hearts, and minds of young children than she does about the political agendas of adults.
Read the full article HERE.
New Head Start Performance Standards Cement National “Baby Common Core” Content Standards, Assessments, and Curriculum
The federal government continues its long march to ensnare more of our children in its tentacles at an ever-younger age. “Baby Common Core” has reared its ugly head.
Head Start, the failed but lavishly funded federal pre-K program, recently released its new Program Performance Standards. These standards are the yardstick by which Head Start programs nationwide will be evaluated. Chief among the many problems with these standards is the cementing in section 1302.32 of the mandate occurring 11 times in the federal Head Start Act of 2007 requiring that all curriculum be “aligned with [or “based on”] the Head Start Early Learning Outcomes Framework: Ages Birth to Five” (Framework). This Framework provides federalized “Baby Common Core”– style curriculum content standards. In fact, efforts have already been made to align both the Framework itself as well as state pre-K standards, often based on the Head Start Framework, to the Common Core national standards for Kindergarten through grade 3. So under the new Performance Standards, any Head Start program will implement Baby Common Core in order to achieve a good rating.
Addressing the 2007 reauthorization of the Head Start Act, the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge (ELC) grants, and the harmful $250 million preschool grants in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) – grants that must be used to develop programs in compliance with Head Start — we warned of the dangers of nationalized preschool content standards, assessment, and curriculum. Particularly concerning is the intense focus on subjective and indoctrinating social emotional learning (SEL) standards. Yet that is exactly what the Head Start Act and these new Performance Standards have produced.
The controversial content standards in the Framework not only exist in Head Start programs, but are intertwined with many state preschool standards that govern private preschool programs when there is a quality rating system. According to CASEL (the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning), the national SEL bully, “approximately 48% of states consulted the Head Start Framework when developing their standards, and 60% of states relied on the NAEYC [National Association for the Education of Young Children] Developmentally Appropriate Practices.” The following examples explain why every parent should be alarmed with the Head Start and NAEYC standards and curriculum.
Gender Identity for 3-Year-Olds and the LGBT Agenda
Most concerning of the many problematic standards in the Framework is this set:
This standard goes beyond having children identify their biological sex, an objective physical characteristic, but rather embroils them in the complex and controversial issue of gender identity. The gender-identity issue has been central for a long time in Head Start, NAEYC, and the many state standards based on both. The curriculum Making Room in the Circle: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Families in Early Childhood Settings defines gender identity as follows:
… a person’s internal, deeply felt sense of being either male or female, or something other or in between. Because gender identity is internal and personally defined, it is not visible to others. (Emphasis added.) [The same definition appears in The Policy Institutes of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, p. 8]
In its diversity handbook for preschool programs titled Anti-Bias Education for Young Children and Ourselves (p. 91), NAEYC identifies these goals regarding gender identity and gender roles:
- Children, regardless of gender, will participate in a wide range of activities necessary for their full cognitive and social-emotional development. (Anti-Bias Education [ABE] Goal 1)
- Children will demonstrate positive feelings about their gender identity and develop clarity about the relationship between their anatomy and their gender role. (ABE Goal 1)
- Children will talk about and show respect for the great diversity in appearance, emotional expressiveness, behavior, and gender roles for both boys and girls. (ABE Goal 2)
- Children will recognize unfair or untrue messages (including invisibility) about gender roles. (ABE Goal 3)
- Children will practice skills for supporting gender role diversity in their interactions with peers. (ABE Goals 3 & 4)
NAEYC also foments gender confusion by encouraging cross-dressing by young children (p. 93):
Some of the favorite costumes in the center are made from women’s skirts. Small slits cut just under the waistbands for the children’s arms let the skirts become super hero capes, princess gowns, doctors’ uniforms – anything the children want them to be. One morning the teacher puts out some of the costume skirts. Brad puts on the red one, but Victor hesitates. He reaches for the bright turquoise satiny one. “Is this a boy’s costume?” he asks. “Are you a boy?” the teacher responds. “Yes,” he responds soberly. “Then if you wear it, it’s a boy’s costume,” she says. Victor’s face brightens and he puts it on and with arms outstretched swirls around with delight.
Without asking why childhood innocence must be breached to discuss these issues at all, NAEYC also recommends using anatomically correct dolls to guide the conversation:
Many programs use anatomically correct dolls. Some put the dolls out for children to play with freely; others use them in persona doll stories to help children explore issues of gender identity. These stories also provide teachers opportunities to use anatomical terms in a matter-of-fact way. Sometimes a family may object to your using an anatomically correct doll with their child. If this is an issue in your program, having respectful conversations with the family can lead to a third space solution (as described in chapter 4). – p. 95
Head Start also seems more concerned about making LGBT families comfortable in its programs than about families who believe in traditional marriage. In fact, Head Start created an entire webpage about the issue titled Creating a Welcoming Early Childhood Program for LGBT-Headed Families:
One of the resources on this page contains a checklist that includes these items:
❏ Do images show people who represent diverse races/ethnicities, economic status, physical ability, age, and family structure?
❏ Do posters, children’s art, children’s book displays, and photos of your real families (including staff) depict the many ways that people work, play, and live as families?
While all children and families in these programs should be treated with respect, there is no concern for the confusion and difficulties this will bring to the majority of preschoolers by portraying these minority and very alternative lifestyles as normative. And regardless of one’s beliefs on this contentious issue, should taxpayer-funded government programs be deciding how gender identity is discussed or family structure portrayed? And what about parental rights and religious liberty?
Turning Uncle Sam into Uncle Shrink – Government-Mandated Emotional Norms
Among the other controversial Head Start standards is this set that mandates empathy in young children:
Empathy can be a highly subjective and difficult trait to assess. This and many others of these social emotional standards are expecting teachers to function as psychologists, for which they have neither the time nor the training. Even highly trained psychologists and psychiatrists and experts on preschool standards admit that there is little agreement on standards, assessment, or diagnosis based on them for young children. Additionally, gender differences would penalize boys compared to girls, because boys by their normal emotional make-up do not tend to be empathetic at that age. So boys will be more likely to receive low assessment scores, or referrals for unnecessary evaluations and treatments, for non-existent emotional problems. And of course, this subjective data would follow them for life in their government dossiers affecting “college and careers.”
Government Takeover of State, Local, and Private Preschool and Childcare
Federal law also mandates that Head Start coordinate with other federal programs such as the Child Care and Development Block Grants (CCDBG). This federal childcare law heavily promotes the Baby Common Core curriculum by strongly incentivizing grantees to implement state quality rating systems, many of which mandate these same Head Start Framework or state standards based on the Framework or NAEYC curriculum described above. This is analogous to what the federal Race to the Top grants did to impose the K-12 Common Core standards on the states. The result is a state takeover of private and religious childcare, because now these programs outside of the state system (about 80% of childcare) are being bribed or coerced to teach the public program curriculum in order to get a good rating. Minnesota admitted this in its ELC application when it said, “….to reach 3 or 4 stars requires both familiarity with the ECIPs [standards] and also alignment of curriculum and assessment with them.” (Emphasis added). Minnesota’s standards are heavily based on an earlier version of the Head Start Framework and discuss gender identity, family structure diversity, careers, and environmentalism with preschoolers. This then allows the latest Head Start Framework and curriculum to be interwoven into the state and local, public and private, preschool programs outside of Head Start.
As with the Race to the Top K-12 and Early Learning Challenge grants, the Head Start grants usurp power from states, parents, and local programs. This is federal control of academic content, designed to influence the thoughts and attitudes of our youngest children. Regardless of their positions on any particular topic, parents should be alarmed at allowing such control over their children by any government.
The K-12 Common Core standards promote social emotional goals as well, but are much less overt than the Framework. The feds were likely emboldened to directly impose national Pre-K content standards because Head Start is housed in the Department of Health and Human Services rather than the Department of Education (USED). Thus, some of the constitutional and statutory objections that parents and other citizens have addressed to USED’s overreach are less applicable to HHS (although the constitutionality of HHS as well is a valid debate to have).
On top of all of this, Head Start just does not benefit children. Hundreds of taxpayer-funded studies about the program have produced no good evidence that it is effective beyond third grade. That is why we support major cuts to the program this year and a major overhaul or better yet, elimination of the program in the next Congress. As stated in our recent analysis of the federal education budget, “With $19 trillion in debt, we should not be spending $430 million more [as the House is proposing] on failed preschool programs. Nor should the federal government be spending any of our hard-earned tax dollars to mold and monitor the thoughts and emotions of our children. “
Congress is now completing its work on the budget or continuing resolution that will fund the government until after the election. The fiscal year ends on September 30th. Make your voice heard. (202-224-3121)
Thanks to The Federalist for publishing Dr. Effrem’s article showing the growing research consensus confirming her contention that there is no research basis to justify massive federal expansion of preschool: Sending Government Agents Into People’s Homes Won’t Fix Preschool’s Failures. Here is an excerpt discussing preschool:
First, the good news: even think tanks generally aligned with the education establishment in supporting federal involvement in education, particularly early childhood education, are starting to admit the stark truth of the longstanding and stunning lack of evidence for preschool as an effective means to close racial and economic achievement gaps and improve life outcomes.
Dale Farran is one of the co-authors of the 2015 Vanderbilt University study showing not only government preschool’s oft-seen fadeout of benefits to children and society but also the increasingly frequent academic and emotional harm of these programs. She recently admitted in a Brookings Institution white paper that despite 50 years of research, the early childhood research is too small to support: 1) “the proposition that expanding pre-K will improve later achievement for children from low-income families;” 2)“the presumption that solid research exists to guide the content and structure of pre-K programs;” or 3) evidence “about which skills and dispositions are most important to effect in pre-K and what instructional practices would affect them.”
Farran also rightly discusses the sad truth that preschool quality measures have “no empirical validity.” She goes on to say, “Despite being included in national and state policies and used to hold pre-K providers accountable, none of the widely used measures of classroom and center quality relates strongly, if at all, to child growth on the school readiness outcomes on which most pre-K programs are focused.”
AEI’s promotion of home visiting is even more alarming. Despite their contentions that parent-child programs like Perry, Abecedarian, and the NFP are the most effective early childhood programs, they fail to mention many significant problems. Besides the IQ issues discussed above, at least one study shows a decline in behavioral parameters for child participants in the Abecedarian program.
The Perry Preschool Project was a very small, unique, and difficult-to-scale program that has been consistently criticized over long periods for many methodological flaws, with the most noticeable one the same as discussed with the Chicago study: the program required significant parental involvement—a mother home during the day—making the experimental group very different from the control group.
Even home visiting programs like the NFP admit their own flaws in the realm of child development. A 2004 review by Olds and Robinson stated that children paraprofessionals visited regularly saw no effects on language, organization (executive functioning), emotional regulation, or behavior. Nurse-visited children had no statistically significant differences in “sensitive-responsive mother-child interaction, children’s emotional regulation, or externalizing behavior problems.”
Here are the conclusions and recommendations:
Jeynes’ review of data from more than 20,000 African-American and Hispanic high school students in the National Educational Longitudinal Survey shows the spectacular result that two-parent families and religious observance actually erases the achievement gap. Students with intact families and high levels of religiosity scored as well as all white students on most achievement measures, and higher than black and Hispanic counterparts without intact families or high religiosity.
This is something that more than $2 trillion dollars and 50 years of oppressive, unconstitutional federal interference have never come close to achieving.
The two-parent family part of this equation can be promoted by removing the marriage penalty in programs like Obamacare (which should be eliminated altogether), ending the penalty for paternal involvement in welfare, and reducing no-fault divorce. The religious involvement part can be achieved by returning to release time to allow students to participate in religious services with their families or extra-curricular clubs. We cannot jump from the preschool frying pan into the home visiting fire, because government programs replacing parents have not ever been nor will ever be successful.
Jane Robbins, attorney and senior fellow at the American Principles Project wrote another excellent article about invasive federal involvement in early childhood education, this time in the context of Hillary Clinton’s dangerous pre-K plan. In it she discussed Clinton’s strong desire to to extend her work as First Lady of Arkansas where she expanded a failed childcare/home visiting program called Parents as Teachers and then as US First Lady when she wrote the book It Takes a [Government] Village.
Robbins discusses the help Clinton has received on her quest from both President Obama who has been promoting universal preschool for his entire presidency and the Congressional Republicans who caved and gave him another $250 million for preschool in the Every Student Succeed Act.
She also discussed the push for even more national pre-K standards aligned to Common Core, especially the invasive social emotional standards and the terrible track record of failure and harm caused by these programs. On the last two issues, she was kind enough to mention or link to Dr. Effrem’s research in these areas, for which we thank her. Here is an excerpt:
In any event, the Gates-funded ETS argues that as long as the federal government has pushed Common Core onto the states, beginning in kindergarten, the accomplishment-inducing preschool standards should be aligned with Common Core. That way preschool can be standardized across the country, eliminating the dreaded “inequity” by ensuring all preschoolers are drilled according to the same garbage standards. Alignment would also allow teachers to share instructional strategies and all teach the same thing. We can’t have children in Kansas coloring duckies while Minnesotans are focusing on kittens.
And of course, these standards should emphasize “social-emotional learning.” The government must expect teachers to observe and record toddlers’ psychological development and attributes, which information will be fed into the state longitudinal database for future use. Children will be affected — perhaps haunted — by these subjective observations throughout their school careers, and maybe beyond.
Where to begin? First, much research establishes that government-sponsored preschool either has little benefit for children, or actually damages their development and learning.
For example, multiple studies (see HERE and HERE for the most recent) have established that the federal Head Start program doesn’t benefit children beyond the earliest years of elementary school. A federally funded study from 2012 showed that Head Start participation produces little to no benefit in either cognitive or social-emotional development. And in some areas, Head Start even has harmful effects. (Of course, this evidence has not diminished federal funding for Head Start taxpayers have coughed up around $200 billion for this useless-to-harmful program since its inception.)
A more recent study of Tennessee’s pre-K program was similarly discouraging. This study found that participants in the state program showed no benefits by the end of kindergarten, and in fact, by first and second grade performed worse than children who avoided the state pre-K.
Numerous studies of Head Start and other state programs have shown initial gains but then either “fadeout” or decline/harm in subsequent years. According to pediatrician Dr. Karen Effrem, it’s not unusual to see an initial improvement that then disappears, or even deteriorates into decline, in both academic and behavioral parameters.
But even if there were solid evidence supporting government preschool, the suggestion that Common Core-aligned national standards be imposed is, to use a technical term, nuts. Early-childhood educators and other development experts have blasted the Common Core K-3 standards as grossly inappropriate from a child-development standpoint. In 2010, over 500 early-childhood experts issued a joint statement urging rejection of the standards as utterly incompatible with real human children and how they learn.
Read the full article – No, Hillary Clinton Won’t Make Preschool Great Again.
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