Why do corporate CEOs, foundations, and policymakers want kindergartners to learn more advanced material at a faster rate? Why is this important to them? If children are made to grow up quickly, what happens to childhood?
Why are they against play and art for children in public schools? Why do they push children to read earlier and earlier?
They claim they want to ensure that children will get a great start, that a rigorous kindergarten will lead to a better future. But when does it turn into child abuse?
Pushing children to learn more difficult material in kindergarten will not be found in wealthy private schools. Those schools still have recess, include a well-rounded curriculum, and they make kindergarten an enjoyable experience.
Child development specialists, the experts, disagree with pushing advanced work in kindergarten.
- The Alliance for Childhood “Crisis in the Kindergarten: Why Children Need to Play in School.”
- Defending the Early Years “Straight Talk About Kindergarten Readiness Assessment,” by Stephanie Feeney, Ph.D.
- Defending the Early Years “Reading Instruction in Kindergarten: Little to Gain and Much to Lose,” by Nancy Carlsson-Paige, Geralyn Bywater McLaughlin, and Joan Wolfsheimer Almon.
- Defending the Early Years “The Disappearance of Child-Directed Activities and Teachers’ Autonomy from Massachusetts Kindergartens,” by R. Clarke Fowler, Ph.D.
The Chalkbeat recently highlighted questionable studies to push tougher kindergarten classes. One particular study tries to connect positive social-emotional learning, good behavior, to standards.
But social-emotional learning is a troubling concept tied to data collection, student profiling, social impact bonds, and pay for success schemes.
The Chalkbeat also stresses raising test scores. One unsurprising connection: being in a classroom with a greater academic focus in both language arts and math meant students were more likely to earn higher test scores in each subject.
Look at the picture in the article. Making kindergartners sit and work on tasks for hours at a time might get them to be more proficient at doing well on tests, but haven’t we ruled out the importance of such tests and unproven standards?
What about the children who can’t function at a higher level, but who are fine developmentally? Will they be considered as having learning disabilities because they can’t keep up?
It’s difficult to believe that there won’t be long-term repercussions with a more demanding kindergarten. Kindergarten is the gateway to learning. It’s a child’s first experience with school.
The best list of all time is of the standards that are most important in a child’s life. The standards were written by a teacher with much knowledge and experience who cares deeply for children. This will never get old. It’s Sarah Puglisi’s 100 National Standards.
The Chalkbeat is sponsored by corporate reformers who blur the news to make it look like they are a friend to children and public schools. Here’s the list of supporters. It includes the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, The Walton Family Foundation and many corporate groups.
None favor public schools and the teaching profession.
Some children might enter kindergarten capable of doing more advanced work, and expecting it. Teachers should help the school accommodate their needs.
But that’s not what this is about. The intent is to make kindergarten more difficult because corporate reformers want this. It’s a way to make public schools and teachers look like they are incapable.
Another theory is that they want children to be compliant and capable of sitting still in front of screens. The push is for technology to replace teachers and public schools.
Here’s a simple way to check how a child’s kindergarten experience is shaping up.
Is the kindergarten student:
- eager to go to school each morning?
- proud of the art work they bring home?
- excited about singing, dancing, and fun in class?
- making friends in school?
- excited about getting to play in school?
- not complaining of eye strain?
- getting to participate in plays?
- attending a cheerful looking classroom?
- able to be active (not always seated)?
- curious about books?
- not feeling pressured about reading?
- getting only minimal time on the computer?
- interested in picture books?
- happy about school?
- getting lots of time for play?
- participating in recess breaks?
- getting some time to rest?
- liking their teacher?
- not bringing home lots of dull worksheets?
Is Kindergarten the New First Grade also looked at the rigor applied to kindergarten. Study after study has shown that children become anxious and often display problematic behavior later if they are forced to learn too soon or beyond their developmental capabilities.
The studies mentioned by The Chalkbeat raise ethical questions.
The titles and links to those studies are listed below. Some only share the abstract.
Advanced Content Coverage at Kindergarten: Are There Trade-Offs Between Academic Achievement and Social-Emotional Skills? HERE.
Do academic preschools yield stronger beneﬁts? Cognitive emphasis, dosage, and early learning? HERE.
How Much Regulation? A Fuzzy Regression Discontinuity Analysis of Student Literacy Skills in Prekindergarten vs. Transitional Kindergarten. HERE.
Boosting school readiness: Should preschool teachers target skills or the whole child? HERE.
Academic Content, Student Learning, and the Persistence of Preschool Effects. HERE.
Mathematics Content Coverage and Student Learning in Kindergarten. HERE.
Debbie Dermady says
If the child experiences “purposeful play,” and not rigor, I am all for it. But to have a child just be a piece of data for the government is crazy!
Nancy Bailey says
I am uncomfortable with the term “purposeful.” Sometimes it is used to refer to play in general. But other times it refers to adult guided play. I fear adults just can’t quit controlling.
But thanks for commenting, Debbie, and giving me the opportunity to note this.
Yes. You are right on. But, to be honest, I don’t believe we will go back to more play and less rigor. So we must get our kids as ready as we can for school, while also teaching them coping skills to deal with the stress and anxiety of the high demand life.
This means that you have bought into the madness and the child abuse! Learning should NEVER be about or cause stress and anxiety. Schools should NOT be in the business of teaching kids the coping skills of a high demand life. NO NO NO NO! Stop the madness, REFUSE the tests (especially the KRA!), don’t allow your child to sit in front of a screen all day, say NO to homework before 4th grade, demand that children get recess, music, art, PE, science and social studies (after kindergarten of course).
Andrew F Foertsch says
Why should kids have to deal with stress? They’ll get it soon enough and many, if they are from dysfunctional families or environments, are already stressed. For many kids, class rooms are the only places where they can be free from stress. Years ago I remember a Kindergarten kid who was a terror in the classroom but when it came time to go home didn’t want to because “there’s shooting going on”.
Nancy Bailey says
Robin, I fear that a lot of parents feel the same way. But parents need to get together and say no.