Free-Range Kids

Daycare Dismantles Swing Sets To Score Higher on State ‘Early Achievers’ Test

Penalizing play time

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Swings
Elizaveta Galitskaya / Dreamstime

At least one childcare center in Washington—Three Rivers Christian School—is getting rid of its swing sets in an effort to bolster kids' scores on the state's Early Achievers test, which penalizes schools that let toddlers and preschoolers use the swings for more than 15 minutes a day.*

If the kids' scores go up, so do the subsidies the state gives to day care centers. Every dollar counts: Due to punishing new regulations that will force early childcare providers to undergo expensive training and cerification, Washington daycare centers will need more financial support than ever.

According to The Daily News:

The hope is that swingless playgrounds will bolster the institution's score on Early Achievers, a state rating system for child care centers. Schools lose points if their students use swings for more than 15 minutes a day, said James Murphy, director of the early learning center at TRCS. Removing the sets eliminates any temptation students have to spend longer in the swings — and negatively impact the score.

Early Achievers ratings are directly tied to how much a child care center receives in state subsidies: The higher the score, the more state subsidies a center gets.

The rating system is optional, but centers that opt out don't qualify for any subsidies.

Ironically, the school's homepage features a kid on a you-know-what.

There is little that kids love more than swings, recess, and running around. It turns out there is a reason for that: Playing is how kids learn. That's why Mother Nature baked the drive to play into all of us.

I recently came across this report on the importance of physical activity for mental health and education. The National Center for Biotechnology Info writes that "state-mandated academic achievement testing has had the unintended consequence of reducing opportunities for children to be physically active during the school day and beyond." This is a problem, according to the report, because "children respond faster and with greater accuracy to a variety of cognitive tasks after participating in a session of physical activity."

Play is not the opposite of education. It is education. And in fact, taking play out of kids' lives may be leading to awful things like anxiety, depression, and helplessness, as Let Grow co-founder Dr. Peter Gray lays out in this piece, "The Decline of Play and Rise in Children's Mental Disorders."

It's understandable that the Three Rivers Christian School, which looks so wholesome and sweet, needs to make sure its subsidies don't disappear. What really needs to change is what we value and consider educational success in young kids.

*Update: The Washington State Department of Children, Youth, and Families disputes that outdoor swing use is counted against daycares. The school is only penalized when infants are left in indoor swings with nothing else to do for a significant period of time, according to a spokesperson.

Here is a follow up article.

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42 responses to “Daycare Dismantles Swing Sets To Score Higher on State ‘Early Achievers’ Test

  1. “”The rating system is optional, but centers that opt out don’t qualify for any subsidies.””

    Government has a totally different definition of optional.

    1. Take the mafia’s money, play by the mafia’s rules.

      1. But isn’t the mafia supposed to be kinder and gentler?

        1. To enter the NYC subway system you may have to allow NYPD to search your bag. They say it’s voluntary, but you are not allowed to enter if you decline.

          That might be a little more in line with how LE defines voluntary. As in you voluntary gave information we beat out of you.

        2. GREENER!

        3. Kinder and gentler than the government? Yes, yes it is.

          Still a bunch of amoral thugs, but still kinder and gentler than the government.

    2. Government has a totally different definition of optional.

      And that’s at the syntax level. At the more semantic level, there will be schools that didn’t participate in the program at all, those that participated but didn’t win subsid… I mean grants, and the high achieving schools that participated and won grants.

      ‘Choose to opt out and you don’t get the carrot.’ almost certainly means ‘Choose to opt out and we’ll give you the softer stick.’

    3. Step 1: Take people’s money.
      Step 2: Offer some of the money back.
      Step 3: But only if they do what you want.

      Remind me why states and localities can’t just pay for their own schools without federal involvement.

      1. 40 years ago our schools were “in crisis”. “The people” wanted someone to “do something”. Congress obliged with DOE.

    4. Hey, breathing is optional. You can always choose asphyxiation. That’s pretty much the government’s idea of “optional”.

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  2. Aha!

    This article says it all: Shriek, Tony, Rev. Kirkland, et al didn’t get enough swing time.

  3. Another thing that may bolster Three Rivers Christian School’s test scores…Stop teaching children to believe in fairy tales.

    1. Young Earth creation or Old Earth creation? It’s important.

    2. You mean stop teaching that government is your benevolent friend? That Officer Friendly is looking out for your best interests? That taxes are the price we pay for civilization?

      Some fairy tales are more damaging than others.

    3. I saw nothing about Climate Change in the article, and I assume they’ve all been vaccinated…

  4. Daycare Dismantles Swing Sets To Score Higher on State ‘Early Achievers’ Test

    For a second, I had pictured a TED talk-style presentation where some slightly eccentric daycare program advocates showcased toddlers with socket wrenches disassembling a swing set.

    Then my the more rational side of my brain took control again. Still, it would be kinda awesome to replace the spelling and geography bees with pit crew trials, ‘forged in fire’, and lockpicking competitions.

    1. Why replace? Why not just add?

      1. Why replace? Why not just add?

        Modify? I kinda see the abstract spelling as exceedingly statist-style academic. I don’t mean to banish spelling from school entirely of course, but if we roll a toolchest up on stage, randomly draw a tool from it, and ask you to spell it’s name, is it still a spelling bee?

        1. Academic endeavor that is. The employers looking to hire someone based largely/solely on their spelling bee acumen are few and far between.

          1. Spelling bees are out, spell check is in.

    2. I am now imagining a Montessori kindergarten with a lockpicking activity.

      Seriously.

      It fits the Montessori philosophy perfectly.

      Seriously.

      OMG! I have to go make some sets and start selling them to Montessori schools!

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  6. So what’s with the creepy euro-gay footwear on the kid in the stock photo?

    1. He identifies as gay euro trash.

      1. I thought it was a girl.

        Anyway, I’d like to know more about this state Early Achievers program’s specificity. Does it really put a lid on just swing time, or does it include all playground fare? The linked article may have couched it in ridiculous specificity. It also said there’s a matter of sufficiency of meal tiime.

    2. The normal conflagration of circumstances (SNAFU) where Europe is the only place freedom and aptitude make it possible to photograph children playing on the playground and post those photos on the internet for everyone to share.

  7. Something, something, separation of church and state, something, something – – – –
    Doesn’t the DOE violate the interstate commerce clause or something?

  8. Ironically, the school’s homepage features a kid on a you-know-what.

    On a … *regulation-development board*?!

    1. State Board of Education’s Committee on Educational Achievement?

  9. Wait a min.?is there some fed w a stopwatch keeping a log of each kid’s time on the swings?!

    1. Well, he was wearing a trenchcoat and fedora like a fed, but his hands were in his pockets.

  10. I absolutely loved swings, recess, and running around. Ah, the care-free life of a middle-class 4th grader! I may be a mildly depressed 59 year old, but reminiscing about swings and recess makes me smile.

  11. Wow, just wow. Kids at that age should be on the swingsets more than 15 minutes a day.

  12. Right. It makes you wonder what Rebublicans like Mitch McConnell are thinking.

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  13. Swing sets are where toxic masculinity starts. We all had competitions to see who could swing the highest or jump away from the swing at the apex of motion. Swings were all about choosing winners and losers.

  14. Top people.

  15. Keep your kids out of any school that does not understand the importance of play time in early education .
    The State has totally fucked up education .Home School !

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