A Call to Action on the Education of Young Children

December 9, 2005

The Alliance for Childhood| Tel/Fax 301-779-1033| info@allianceforchildhood.org
A Call to Action on the Education of Young Children
WE ARE DEEPLY CONCERNED that current trends in early education, fueled by
political pressure, are leading to an emphasis on unproven methods of academic instruction
and unreliable standardized testing that can undermine learning and damage young children’s
healthy development.
Many states are moving toward universal preschool so that all children can benefit from early
education. We strongly support these efforts, provided that preschool programs are based on
well-established knowledge of how children learn and how to lay a foundation for lifelong
learning—not on educational fads. We call for early education that emphasizes experiential,
hands-on activities, open-ended creative play, and caring human relationships.
Preschool education must not follow the same path that has led kindergartens toward intense
academic instruction with little or no time for child-initiated learning. If such practices were
effective for five-year-olds, we would have seen better long-term results by now. We call for
a reversal of the pushing down of the curriculum that has transformed kindergarten into de
facto first grade.
Education is not a race where the prize goes to the one who finishes first. To help young
children develop literacy and a lifelong love of learning we need to respect and, when
needed, to strengthen their individual abilities and drive to learn. Instead, current trends in
early education policy and practice heighten pressure and stress in children’s lives, which can
contribute to behavioral and learning problems. We call for research on the causes of
increased levels of anger, misbehavior, and school expulsion among young children.
Justified concern for low-income children, who often lag academically, has been a powerful
force behind the current overemphasis on early instruction in literacy and math. This wellintentioned
but misguided policy may actually put children at increased risk of school failure
by denying them positive early learning experiences. We call for additional research that
examines the long-term impact of different preschool and kindergarten practices on children
from diverse backgrounds.
Creative play that children can control is central to their physical, emotional, and cognitive
growth. It contributes greatly to their language development, social skills, and problemsolving
capacities, and lays an essential foundation for later academic learning. Yet many
children do not have the opportunity to develop their capacity for socio-dramatic play.
Preschool is the place to intervene and restore childhood play. We call for teacher education
that emphasizes the full development of the child including the importance of play, nurtures
children’s innate love of learning, and supports teachers’ own capacities for creativity,
autonomy, and integrity.
Prepared by the Alliance for Childhood, a partnership of educators, health care professionals,
researchers, and other childhood advocates who are working together to improve the health
and well-being of all children. This statement has been endorsed by the following individuals
(organizations included for identification purposes only):
G. Rollie Adams, President and CEO, Strong Museum, the National Museum of Play,
Rochester, NY
Joan Almon, President, Alliance for Childhood, College Park, MD
Paul Ammon, Professor and Director, Developmental Teacher Education Program,
University of California, Berkeley
Regina A. Arnold, Professor of Sociology and Associate Dean, Sarah Lawrence College,
Bronxville, NY
William L. Bainbridge, Distinguished Research Professor, University of Dayton, and
President, SchoolMatch Institute, Westerville, OH
Nancy Balaban, Infant and Parent Development and Early Intervention Program, Bank
Street Graduate School of Education, New York City
Ann C. Barbour, Professor of Early Childhood Education, California State University, Los
Jerry P. Becker, Professor of Mathematics Education, Southern Illinois University,
Marilyn B. Benoit, M.D., Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry, Georgetown
University Medical School and past president, American Academy of Child and Adolescent
Psychiatry, Washington, D.C.
Karen D. Benson, Professor, California State University, Sacramento
Doris Bergen, Professor of Educational Psychology, Miami University, Oxford, OH
Sally Botzler, Faculty Development Coordinator, Humboldt State University, Arcata, CA
T. Berry Brazelton, M.D., Professor of Pediatrics Emeritus, Harvard Medical School
Robert Brown, Operations Manager, Extras for Creative Learning, Boston
Lorayne Carbon, Director, Early Childhood Center, Sarah Lawrence College, NY
Virginia Casper, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, Bank Street College of Education,
New York City
Rhonda Clements, Professor of Education, Manhattanville College and past president,
American Association for the Child’s Right to Play, Purchase, NY
Sandy Cmajdalka, Professor of Bilingual Education, University of Houston
Lynn Cohen, Assistant Professor, C. W. Post Campus, Long Island University, Brookville,
Renatta M. Cooper, Commissioner, First 5 Los Angeles
Sage Cowles, Fellow, Hubert Humphrey Institute, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis
Ellen F. Crain, M.D., Professor of Pediatrics and Emergency Medicine, Albert Einstein
College of Medicine, Bronx, NY
William Crain, Professor of Psychology, City College of New York
Jan Drucker, Professor of Psychology, Sarah Lawrence College, Bronxville, NY
Claude S. Endfield, Chair, Early Childhood Development Program, Northland Pioneer
College, Holbrook, AZ
Billie Enz, Professor of Early Childhood Education, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ
M. Jayne Fleener, Professor and Dean, College of Education, Louisiana State University,
Baton Rouge
Lauren Franco, Coordinator, Child Development Institute, Sarah Lawrence College, NY
Margery B. Franklin, Director, Child Development Institute, Sarah Lawrence College, NY
Ellie Friedland, Assistant Professor of Early Childhood Education, Wheelock College,
Annapurna Ganesh, Assistant Professor of Early Childhood Education, University of
Howard Gardner, Hobbs Professor of Cognition and Education, Harvard University
Claire Ryle Garrison, Director, Whole Child Initiative, Mill Valley, CA
Nathalie Gehrke, Professor of Education, University of Washington, Seattle
Dan Goldman, attorney, Education Law Center, Newark, NJ
Elizabeth Goodenough, Lecturer, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
Stanley Greenspan, M.D., Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Pediatrics, George
Washington University Medical Center, Bethesda, MD
Tobin Hart, President, ChildSpirit Institute and Professor of Psychology, University of West
Georgia, Carrollton
Jane M. Healy, educational psychologist, author, and lecturer, Vail, CO
Mary Hebron, Associate Director, Art of Teaching Graduate Program, Sarah Lawrence
College, NY
Susan Howard, Chairperson, Waldorf Early Childhood Association of North America,
Amherst, Mass.
Olga Jarrett, Associate Professor of Early Childhood Education, Georgia State University,
Jim Johnson, Professor-in-Charge of Early Childhood Education, Pennsylvania State
University, University Park, PA
Muktha Jost, Associate Professor of Education, North Carolina A&T State University,
Greensboro, NC
Susan Kingsley, Assistant Professor, Rhode Island College, Providence
Amelia Klein, Associate Professor, Early Childhood Education, Wheelock College, Boston
Susan Klein, threes teacher, The Lucy School, Rockville, MD
Tovah P. Klein, Director, Barnard College Center for Toddler Development, New York City
Edgar Klugman, Professor Emeritus, Wheelock College and co-founder, Playing For Keeps,
Alfie Kohn, author, Belmont, Mass.
Susan Kotansky, pre-K teacher and Adjunct Professor of Early Childhood Education,
Lehman College of New York
Jonathan Kozol, author, Byfield, Mass.
Vicki Kubler LaBoskey, Professor, Mills College and President, California Council on
Teacher Education, Oakland, CA
Patricia Lambert, WECAN Lifeways Program, Davis, CA
Mary Larue, Associate Professor, J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College, Richmond,
Diane Levin, Professor of Education, Wheelock College, Boston
Susan Linn, Ed.D., Instructor in Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School
Yeou-Cheng Ma, M.D., developmental pediatrician, Albert Einstein College of Medicine,
Bronx, NY
Jim Marsh, resource teacher/coordinator, pre-K and extended day programs and
WOODBUS, Stockton, CA
David Marshak, Professor of Education, Seattle University
Deborah Meier, senior scholar, New York University and founder, Central Park East
Schools, New York City
Doreen Downs Miller, Parenting Matters LLC, Garden City, NY
Edward Miller, senior researcher, Alliance for Childhood, Wellfleet, Mass.
Susan A. Miller, Professor Emeritus, College of Education, University of Pennsylvania-
Lowell Monke, Associate Professor of Education, Wittenberg University, Springfield, OH
Candice Moratti, teacher, Mission Montessori School, Scottsdale, AZ
Kathryn L. Morrison, Assistant Professor of Early Childhood Education, University of
Texas at Tyler
Michael O’Connor, Professor, Department of Counseling and School Psychology, Seattle
Sharna Olfman, clinical and developmental psychologist, Point Park University, Pittsburgh
Vivian Gussin Paley, teacher and writer, Chicago
Katharine M. Pell, Chairman of the Board, Conservatory Lab Charter School, Boston
Bruce D. Perry, M.D., Senior Fellow, ChildTrauma Academy, Houston, TX
Jane P. Perry, Harold E. Jones Child Study Center, University of California, Berkeley
Alvin Poussaint, M.D., Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School and Judge Baker
Children’s Center, Boston
Kyle Pruett, M.D., Clinical Professor of Child Psychiatry, Yale University School of
Medicine, New Haven, CT
Margaret B. Puckett, Professor of Education (retired), Texas Wesleyan University, Fort
Worth, TX
Patricia G. Ramsey, Professor of Psychology and Education and Director, Gorse Child Care
Center, Mt. Holyoke College, S. Hadley, Mass.
Alvin Rosenfeld, M.D., child and adolescent psychiatrist, co-author, The Over-Scheduled
Child, New York City
Frances O’Connell Rust, Professor, New York University
Barbara Schecter, Professor of Developmental Psychology and Director, Graduate Program
in Child Development, Sarah Lawrence College, NY
Peter L. Schneller, Associate Professor of Education, Mount Union College, Alliance, OH
Dorothy G. Singer, Senior Research Scientist, Child Study Center, Yale University, New
Haven, CT
Dorothy Justus Sluss, Associate Dean of Teacher Education and Professional Services,
College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, VA
Laurie Stevahn, Assistant Professor of Education, Seattle University
Deborah Stipek, Dean, Stanford University School of Education
Doug Stowe, Director, The Wisdom of the Hands, Clear Spring School, Eureka Springs, AR
Elaine Surbeck, Associate Dean, Teacher Education and Professor of Early Childhood
Education, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ
Eric Utne, founder, Utne Reader, Minneapolis, MN
Rosario Villasana-Ruiz, child development specialist, Children’s Council of San Francisco
Sandra Waite-Stupiansky, Professor of Elementary Education, Edinboro University of
Robert Welker, Professor, Wittenberg University, Springfield, OH
Trina Westerlund, Executive Director, Children’s Institute for Learning Differences,
Mercer Island, WA
Sara Wilford, Director, Art of Teaching Graduate Program, Sarah Lawrence College, NY
Frank Wilson, M.D., Clinical Professor of Neurology (retired), Stanford University School
of Medicine
Arthur Zajonc, Professor of Physics, Amherst College, Amherst, Mass.
Julie Zuckerman, Ed.D., Principal, Central Park East 1 Elementary School, New York City
Updated December 9, 2005