An article in U.S. News and World Report written by Robert Pondiscio, a journalist turned fifth grade teacher for a while (how he became a teacher is unclear), is entitled, “No Time to Lose” and “Early Reading Isn’t a Threat to Kindergarten, Nor is Common Core.” Pondiscio is now a senior advisor to a charter school named Democracy Prep Public School, in Harlem, and executive director of CitizenshipFirst, a group emphasizing the teaching of civics. He is not a reading specialist that I know of.
Pondiscio was also vice-president for the Core Knowledge Foundation, an independent, nonprofit, nonpartisan organization founded in 1986 by E.D. Hirsch, Jr. Hirsch is considered the father of the Common Core. You can learn more about him and the group in the link above.
Of course, Pondiscio likes Common Core, though he acknowledges he understands why some might question it. But he believes children should be learning to read in kindergarten. The use of the title words No Time to Lose presents an element of emergency to scare Americans into thinking they need to accept the changes being foisted upon their children.
Pondiscio makes a serious mistake, however, in this article, criticizing a paper done by Defending the Early Years (DEY) and The Alliance for Childhood entitled “Reading Instruction in Kindergarten: Little to Gain and Much to Lose.” Both are well-respected, well-known, early childhood advocacy groups, run by experts with serious credentials in the area of early childhood education. The paper, authored by Nancy Carlsson-Paige, Geralyn Bywater McLaughlin, and Joan Wolfsheimer Almon, is critical of Common Core State Standards and forcing children to read earlier than is developmentally appropriate.
Not only does Pondiscio argue that the points made in the paper are not right, he gives short shrift to child development, scoffing at the likes of Swiss child developmental psychologist Jean Piaget. Instead, he argues in favor of Common Core and its “foundational skills” developed by the likes of David Coleman. Coleman v. Piaget? Is there anything more outlandish? Most everyone knows of Coleman’s missing professional background when it comes to teaching and children.
If only Piaget were alive today. I’d like to see a debate between the two. Then again, why hasn’t there been a debate between the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (and Coleman) with the DEY and The Alliance for Childhood experts? Common Core ideology is being foisted on every kindergartner and school across the country. Just where are the debates that include the early childhood experts? Here are the Common Core State Standards for kindergarten.
Pondescio states: The broad thrust of Common Core for kindergarten is ensuring kids are ready to read by the first grade. There is arguably no more important task in American education. Here are several problems with his arguement.
- Pondiscio implies that the report stifles children who might come to school capable of reading. He acts like the real experts somehow wish to discourage early reading. This is misleading and far from the truth. But it raises a serious question. What is being done for the child who shows up to kindergarten already reading? I have heard of gifted children who are made to sit and do repetitive phonics tasks that are dull and irrelevant. Common Core claims to give harder work, but there is no proof it is better. Pondiscio relies on a couple of professors who support his beliefs disregarding the many others who disagree.
- Pondiscio misuses the term “struggling readers” implying that every child not pushed to read early will struggle later. But children don’t struggle to read for this reason. They struggle for other reasons–like having learning disabilities. And it certainly doesn’t make sense to push real struggling readers to read faster.
- Sinister things have been done to kindergarten—less play, no recess, incessant testing. All of these harmful actions really do go a long way towards making struggling readers!
- Along with the above, students will appear to have increasing difficulty learning to read when the bar is set too high. Such difficulty creates frustration. How many young students are being retained a year due to standards that lack appropriateness?
- And what about children with learning disabilities? Who is addressing dyslexia?
- Nor does he mention Finland, considered to have one of the best educational systems in the world. They don’t begin formal reading until third grade!
- How sad when a child who is perfectly capable of reading, if given a little more time, finds they can’t keep up with other children and decides they are a failure.
- There is also no proof that Common Core State Standards will lead young children to the reading promise land. The standards were rolled out with no field testing. There are no peer reviewed studies.
What Pondiscio and the Common Core enthusiasts should be worrying about are the effects of the pressure children face when forced to read early. Often children, labeled as struggling, turn their frustration into acting out negatively.
I would suggest those who understand little about the reading process, read another excellent report by the Alliance for Childhood. “Crisis In the Kindergarten: Why Children Need to Play in School,” by Edward Miller and Joan Almon, discusses nine studies that look at the declining behavior of our youngest students. The results of those studies are riveting. They show that the focus should be on relieving the pressure on kindergarten students. Sadly, in this report, Psychiatrist Bruce Perry states, Too many schools place a double burden on young children. First, they heighten their stress by demanding that they master material beyond their developmental level. Then they deprive children of their chief means of dealing with that stress–creative play.
A year ago a post I did entitled “Setting Children Up to Hate Reading,” resonated with parents and teachers. That post continues to draw significant numbers of readers every day. Parents and teachers recognize how today’s kindergarten class, along with Common Core, are setting children up to fail.
We must make reading an enjoyable and age-appropriate activity. We must bring back sanity when it comes to teaching young children in their schools. In regard to this message, there really is no time to lose!