Open Letter to NAEYC

Open Letter to NAEYC:
A Call for Leadership in the Field

“We are doing earlier and earlier to children what we shouldn’t do later.”
-Dr. Lilian Katz (keynote NAEYC PDI, June 2011, Providence, RI)

NAEYC has long played a valuable role in identifying and supporting best practices in early childhood education. The strong position NAEYC took with its 1986 publication, Developmentally Appropriate Practice, focused attention on respectful, child centered ways of working with young children and helped to unify the early childhood field and slow a “back to basics” push that began in the early 1980’s. Since that time, a growing concern with standards and accountability has moved education in the United States in another direction. The drive for performance standards and accountability for meeting the standards (usually in the form of scores on standardized tests) was first legislated by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, and that has now gained traction from Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge. The national push for standards and accountability has led to the development of academic curriculum and assessment practices that are inappropriate for young children. These trends have led schools to focus on accountability rather than on meaningful learning experiences for young children. Excitement about learning and motivation to learn has been replaced by drill on skills that is tedious and often meaningless to children.

NAEYC appears to have gradually retreated from its strong defense of DAP. The voices of its leadership have not been heard vigorously protesting the proliferation of standards and assessments or offering meaningful alternatives to them. As a growing number of early childhood educators attest, many of these standards, curricula and assessments are developmentally inappropriate, ignore children’s needs, capacities, and cultures, and do not honor how they learn or their uniqueness as learners.

Dr. Lilian Katz, international education leader and former NAEYC president, has helped many parents and teachers understand the key differences between academic goals and intellectual goals. “I believe that we tend to overestimate children academically and underestimate them intellectually,” she writes. And “…early introduction of formal academic instruction may not be in the best interests of many of our children and, in fact, may be damaging in the long term.” (Katz, STEM in the Early Years, 2012) NAEYC would do well to listen to the words of Dr. Katz and make every effort to help keep children’s intellectual curiosity alive and supported in our early childhood classrooms.

Last month, NAEYC released their paper, The Common Core State Standards: Caution and Opportunity for Early Childhood Education. We were glad to see them weighing in to the national dialogue. We encourage NAEYC to provide the leadership that young children and the early childhood field desperately need to push back against the rapidly escalating academic push down. We call on the leadership of NAEYC, as the largest organization of early childhood professionals in the country, to stay true to our historic commitment to the healthy development of young children and to the original ideas of DAP and to forcefully and publicly take a stand on what is happening to early education in our country. We urge NAEYC to offer our expertise to help to revise standards to better reflect what we know about brain development and early childhood pedagogy and to participate in the development of curricula and assessments that are appropriate for young children. We further urge NAEYC to take this active role soon before the push for more academic content in early childhood classrooms puts more young children at risk for failure at the very time in their lives that they should be coming to love learning.

We often encounter members of NAEYC who are disappointed that the association has not spoken out against current harmful practices. Many of these members would welcome strong action and leadership from NAEYC. We realize that there are many pressures in today’s world—financial and political—that can make it difficult to stand up for what we know to be right. Nonetheless, the time has come for NAEYC to embrace its historical commitments and strongly defend what we all know is best for young children.


    Geralyn Bywater McLaughlin, Director of Defending the Early Years
    Nancy Carlsson-Paige, Senior Advisor of Defending the Early Years and Professor Emerita at Lesley University
    Diane Levin, Senior Advisor of Defending the Early Years and Professor of Early Childhood Education at Wheelock College

And members of the DEY National Advisory Board:

    Sherry Cleary, Executive Director, New York City Early Childhood Professional Development Institute, City University of New York
    Ayla Gavins, Principal, Mission Hill School, Boston
    Stephanie Feeney, Professor Emerita, University of Hawaii at Manoa
    Constance Kamii, Professor of Early Childhood Education, University of Alabama at Birmingham
    Edgar Klugman, Professor Emeritus Wheelock College & Co Founder Playing for Keeps – An Initiative of the Association for Children’s Museums; Facilitator Play, Policy & Practice Interest Forum – NAEYC
    Deborah Meier, senior scholar at NYU’s Steinhardt School, author and activist

And the following early childhood professionals:

    Deborah Abelman, Ph.D., Early Childhood Education Supervisor, Strong Start, Family Service of Greater Boston, Inc.
    Jeremy Arendt, Owner of Sprouts Home Day Care
    Dr. Kelly A. Baker, Asst. Professor and Early Childhood Education Program Coordinator, University of Central Oklahoma
    Angela Baum, Assistant Professor of Early Childhood Education, University of South Carolina
    Margaret S. Benson, Ph. D. Assistant Professor of Human Development & Family Studies, Penn State Altoona, Altoona, PA.
    Christy Bezrutczyk, Mom, Special Education Teacher, Curriculum Coordinator and Early Intervention/Preschool Administrator in Plattsburgh NY
    Janet C. Bliss, Associate Professor, Department of Social Sciences & Education, Colby-Sawyer College, and Director of Windy Hill School (the college’s early childhood lab school)
    Susan Bumgarner, Pre-Kindergarten Teacher, Wilson Arts Integration Elementary School, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
    Blakely Bundy, Executive Director of The Alliance for Early Childhood; Past President of Chicago Metro AEYC
    Mimi Brodsky Chenfeld, teacher, writer, presenter
    JoAnne Craig-Ferraz, Kindergarten and Elementary Education, Sacramento, CA
    Lynn Cohen, Associate Professor, LIU/Post
    Marjorie Cohn Dolan, MAT; ECE Instructor Broward College, FL; FL-AEYC Board Member
    Jan Crow, M.Ed, Director Early Childhood Special Education and Title I Preschool Services, WSESU, Vermont
    Denise Da Ros-Voseles, Professor, Department of Curriculum & Instruction, Northeastern State University
    Sharon Davisson, Pacific Oaks College, Adjunct, School of Human Development and Family Studies
    Lousie Derman-Sparks, Author, Consultant, Speaker, Anti-Bias Education with Children and Adults
    Deborah DeLisle, Program Director, Hot Springs Community Learning Center, Hot Springs, NC
    Renee Dinnerstein, Early Childhood Literacy Consultant, New York City
    Dana C. Doyle, Professional Development Coordinator, Child Care Council of Westchester, Inc.
    Diane Edwards, Associate Professor/Director of Teacher Education, Colby-Sawyer College
    Jen Ensign, MS, Toddler Teacher at the Windy Hill School,Colby-Sawyer College’s Early Childhood Laboratory School and Adjunct Professor Infants and Toddlers, Colby-Sawyer College
    Beverly Falk, Professor and Director, Graduate Programs in Early Childhood Education, The City College of New York
    Megan Floyd, National Board Certified Teacher: Generalist/Early Childhood – Broadalbin-Perth CSD, NY
    Dr. Vicki Folds, VP Education/Professional Development, Children of America
    Nancy Freeman, Associate Professor of Early Childhood Education, University of South Carolina, Past President of the National Association of Early Childhood Teacher Educators (NAECTE)
    Judy Goth-Owens, Professor, Child Development and Early Education, Lansing Community College,Lansing, Michigan
    Christine Gerzon, early childhood activist, parenting coach
    Karen Haigh, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Columbia College Chicago
    Marilyn Hayward – Preschool Teacher and Early Years Consultant, South Australia. President of the Early Childhood Organisation (EChO) South Australia
    Lorilee Herbert, Kindergarten Teacher and Early Childhood Advocate, South Hadley MA Public Schools
    Carol A. Herbst, M.Ed., Early Childhood Educator, Bapchule, Arizona
    Carol B. Hillman, author and early childhood educator
    Carla M. Horwitz, EdD, Director, Calvin Hill Day Care Center & Kindergarten and Lecturer, Yale University Child Study Center
    Mary Hynes-Berry, Erikson Institute, Chicago IL. author of Don’t Leave the Story in the Book (2011, TCP)
    Tamar Jacobson, Chair, Department of Teacher Education, & Director of Early Childhood Program, Rider University, Lawrenceville, New Jersey
    Susan Jensen, Early Childhood Educator
    Linnea Johnson, Educational Therapist, Body Smart-Brain Smart
    Sharman Johnston, early childhood educator and doctoral student, Texas Christian University
    K. Craig Jones, Ph.D. Associate Professor of Early Childhood Education, University of West Florida
    Jo Ann Joseph, Education Coordinator, Newark Preschool Council, Inc.
    Carol R. Kautz, Calvary Children’s Center
    Karel Kilimnik, M.Ed., retired teacher, Philadelphia School District
    Margaret King, Professor Emerita, Early Childhood Teacher Education, Ohio University, Athens Ohio
    Duane Kirksey, Education Coordinator for Dorothy Sutton Branch Head Start 8601 State Street Chicago Illinois
    Tovah P. Klein, Ph.D, Director, Barnard College Center for Toddler Development and Associate Professor, Psychology Barnard College
    L. Kozlowsky, Kindergarten teacher, New York City
    Lisa P. Kuh, PhD, Assistant Professor Family Studies, P-3 Teacher Preparation Program Coordinator, University of New Hampshire
    Marie Ellen Larcada
    Amy S. Lasseter, Licensed Professional Counselor, Georgia (and mother to three children ages 5 and under)
    Debbie LeeKeenan, Director, Eliot-Pearson Children’s School
    Toni H. Liebman, Early Childhood Consultant
    Amy Makice, LCSW, Therapist, Bloomington, Indiana
    Flavia Mastellone, Program Advisor, Early Childhood Education, Berkshire Community College
    Dr. Joan Scanlon McMath, Professor, Early Childhood, Ohio University
    Paula McMurray-Schwarz, Associate Professor of Early Childhood Education, Ohio University Eastern Campus
    Peggy McNamara Ed.D, Chair of General Teacher, Bank Street College of Education
    Phyllis McWhorter, Technical Assistance in EC
    Darrell Meece, Professor of Child Development, School of Education, University of Tennessee-Chattanooga.
    Jeanne Millman, retired, Director of Early Childhood, Newburgh City School District, Newburgh, NY. and Adjunct Professor, Early Childhood, State University of New York, New Paltz.
    Dianna Morton, MLS, Media Literacy Educator
    Rabbi Meir Muller, PhD, Early Childhood Education Instruction and Teacher Education, University of South Carolina
    Regina Nazzaro, Director, Russell J. Call Children’s Center, Northeastern University
    Hannah Nissen, Associate Professor of Early Childhood Education, Ohio University Zanesville
    Shanna Nowosielski, PreK teacher, Day Nursery Association, Indianapolis, IN
    Anne E. Oberlin, MS, Early Field Experience Coordinator and Early Childhood Instructor, Ohio University
    Lucía Obregón, M.Ed., Assistant Professor, Early Childhood Education, Miami Dade College
    Leslie C. Oppenheimer, M.Ed., Curriculum Coordinator, Center for Young Children Laboratory School, University of Maryland
    Cynthia Paris, PhD; Associate Professor; Director, UD Laboratory Preschool;           Coordinator, Graduate Certificate Programs in Early Childhood;University of Delaware
    Jane P. Perry, Teacher Researcher Emeritas, Harold E. Jones Child Study Center, University of California, Berkeley
    Rae Pica, Author and early childhood consultant
    Barbara Plochman, Board of Trustees, Winnetka Public School Nursery and Advisory Board, The Alliance for Early Childhood
    Juana Reyes, EdD, Assistant Professor, Chicago State University
    Cindy Ryan, Assistant Professor of Early Childhood, College of Education, Western Oregon University
    Gil Schmerler, Graduate Faculty, Bank Street College of Education
    Stan Schwartz, Adjunct Professor of Education, Middlesex Community College; Consultant, School Committee member
    Kelly Shehee, M.S.  Preschool teacher of 10 years which includes teaching at a co-op, university child center, and head start.  Currently raising my children and homeschooling.
    Paulette Shreck, Ph.D., Professor of Early Childhood Education, University of Central Oklahoma, Edmond, Oklahoma
    Jennifer Smallwood, MS,Ed., Director, YMCA’s Center for Children and Families; Adjunct Faculty Ivy Tech Community College School of Education,  Bloomington, Indiana
    Andrianna Smyrniotis, Faculty, Child Development, ICC
    Jim Sullivan, Assistant Professor, Early Childhood Education, Miami Dade College
    John Surr, early childhood advocate
    Maureen Sollars, Coordinator, All Our Kids: Early Childhood Network, McLean County Illinois; Member: National Association for the Education of Young Children, Illinois Association for the Education of Young Children Governing Board
    Cadey Sontag, Detroit Public Schools, Head Start Teacher
    Kelly Etu Stanton, Assistant Principal, Columbia Jewish Day School and Adjunct Faculty Member, College of Education, University of South Carolina
    Nora Thompson, Early Childhood Special Education Teacher, Okemos, Michigan
    Vicki D.Vick, Minnesota LqPV School District, Kindergarten teacher
    Paula Ward, Pre-School Teacher at Pathfinder School, Traverse City, Michigan
    Heidi Weiman, Professor of Child and Family Development, School of Education, American Public University
    Amy Wolfe, M.S., CFLE; Assistant Professor of Education, WVU at Parkersburg
    Bart Zehren, life long marketing researcher and, more important, the beneficiary of a life time spent with close family members who have done the real work of teaching young children with unending commitment and dedication as well as unbelievable resourcefulness, endurance and creativity.

To add your name to our letter, please email our director, Geralyn Bywater McLaughlin at [email protected] Write “Open Letter” in the subject line and please let us know how you would like to be identified. Thanks!