Words like alarm, crisis, and loss should never be used to reference kindergarten reading or any learning. What must children think? It destroys the trust parents have in teachers and public schools. This is school privatization on steroids flamed by the pandemic!
Dana Goldstein’s recent fear-mongering report by The New York Times: Children Are Severely Behind in Reading claims kindergartners are woefully behind due to the pandemic. The reading crisis started before Covid, she reminds us, in case we’ve been allowed to forget.
This report seems mostly about selling online reading and math programs. Almost all the studies she cites in her links come from companies! Companies use this early reading deficit message to sell phonics and math programs.
The reality is that formal reading instruction once began in first grade. Now kindergarten is the new first grade, and while some parents and educators accept this, there’s nothing to indicate it’s best to expect children to be reading so early.
These higher expectations placed on the backs of children focus on failure, driven by education policies like No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, and the Every Student Succeeds Act.
For years, corporations and politicians have promoted this destructive message, manipulating higher and higher standards to where the youngest and most vulnerable learners will appear to fail.
Goldstein mentions the 2019 NAEP and PISA results being stagnant or having declining reading scores and widening gaps between high and low performers.
These gaps involve the disadvantaged, children with disabilities, second language students learning English, and children who might find reading challenging.
Parents and educators read these reports and become frightened that kindergartners are behind. They believe their child’s teachers and their public schools fail them.
Then they double down and drill young children on reading skills earlier than ever, sitting children in front of computer screens instead of encouraging them to play and do more age-appropriate activities! This early pressure, in turn, sets children up to hate reading!
What should be a huge concern, is the pressure placed on young children, kindergartners, to read. How many children learn to despise reading? How many public schools close in part due to this harmful message?
Goldstein appears to be a privatization enabler. Here are some of the advertisements linked to in her report.
Amplify is a controversial online company with a long history started by Rupert Murdoch with former New York superintendent Joel Klein as CEO. Both were critical of public schools.
The Emerson Collective, founded by Laurene Powell Jobs, purchased Amplify in 2015.
Amplify is now described as the Science of Reading because they have phonics lessons. Besides hyper marketing, it’s hard to know why the program is revered today. Where are the independent peer-reviewed studies?
Oklahoma teachers noted their dislike of Amplify due to its age-inappropriateness and connection to Common Core.
Another company Goldstein links us to is i-Ready, by Curriculum Associates. Here’s a recent post about i-Ready. Parents are concerned about data and transparency.
Here’s another post about Amplify and iReady profiting from learning loss talk during the pandemic.
Goldstein cites another so-called study from the University of Virginia. They bemoan poor early results on a phonics assessment called PALS, more advertising.
Virginia is known for its excellent public schools.
There are more references to companies selling reading programs like Fundations and math programs like ILearn. Stimulus funds are going to these programs due to teacher shortages.
So, whenever a report berates the early reading progress of kindergartners, question it. Protect children from being forced to read before they’re ready and from alarmist messages.
Find out how you can support good kindergarten programs, teachers, and real public schools.
Goldstein, D. (2022, March 8). It’s ‘Alarming’: Children Are Severely Behind in Reading. The New York Times, Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2022/03/08/us/pandemic-schools-reading-crisis.html.
Linda S. Locke, PhD says
I am so grateful for your posts. Where are the ones who can make the right decisions to return us to developmentally appropriate practices? Did you know that 25% of children (mostly boys) do not have fully developed eye muscles to fluently track print until age 8? Yet we continually demand they read at age 5. This creates a negative attitude about reading that rarely if ever changes. I have tried so hard to push back up the curriculum in my state to no avail. Who is willing to take on the fight? More information about this topic and my journey to rectify this travesty of making children do things they are not yet physically or cognitively mature enough to handle is in my blog: https://lindaslocke.com/my-blog/f/journey-update.
Nancy Bailey says
Thank you, Linda. Thanks for sharing your interesting website.
Do you ever feel like you are banging your head against a brick wall? Keep banging!
Nancy Bailey says
Maybe that’s why I have headaches. Ha! Yes. It’s easy to get frustrated but always fascinating how they pull this stuff off. Thanks.
I’d say that Kindergarten is now the new 2nd grade. Now that KRA’s are acceptable practice in many districts, there is no stopping the abuse of small children. Sorry, but I am totally against universal Pre-K because it will have testing built into it to justify its means. In 2009, my 2nd child entered full time K and it was mostly seat time with a 20 min recess and most of the toys were gone from the rooms…. It’s no wonder that he hated school and cried almost daily that year.
Nancy Bailey says
I have heard that concern from several teachers. And I share your concern about universal PreK.
Working parents need good childcare. I wish that were the focus.
Thanks for commenting, Lisa.
Judy Smizik says
I was a kindergarten teacher for over 3 decades. Worse than forcing our kindergartners to read before they are ready is forcing all children to learn long lists of sight words. This is doing many of our most vulnerable students more harm than good. Teachers have no choice in the matter as students are tested on sight word acquisition. So they must comply.
Reading was never a required skill in kindergarten years ago. If kindergarten children were able to read and write one simple sentence, they were considered advanced. Now they are expected to read short stories and write paragraphs.
What’s worse, we have eliminated what our kindergartners really need: creative exploration, hands-on activities such as using blocks and manipulatives, puzzles, experiences with different art mediums, movement and music, and joyful learning to motivate and establish a positive attitude toward school and learning.
To prove that all of these activities promote success and learning and you don’t need to stuff sight words down kindergartners to make good readers, in 2006, with 33 full day inner city children in a public school, My kindergarten class was able to outperform 13,000 other school districts in kindergarten and even in many first grades on the Waterford Early Learning Summary Reports. I never focused on sight words and I only guided children in reading skills who were developmentally ready and expressed a desire to learn to read. I used an individualized approach so children could begin reading instruction when they appeared ready. Pre reading skills were addressed with the entire class or in small groups when using the adopted kindergarten reading program. I was able to supplement the pre reading program with additional phonics practice and a researched perceptual motor program developed by the Learning, Research, and Development Center at the University of Pittsburgh. This program provided the support my students needed to develop visual and auditory motor skills that are needed for beginning reading and math acquisition. I found my students far above other kindergarten classes. The main diff was my perceptual motor training that helped many of my students’ learning difficulties early in their educational program. I later used the same program with older struggling students and it helped them tremendously.
When I look at pictures of some of the current kindergarten classrooms, they don’t even resemble true kindergartens. Where are the dramatic play areas, blocks, easels, clay, etc. ?
I know this post is long, but I feel kindergarten teachers today may need to know what kindergarten classrooms looked like years ago, and that many of our students who were taught at their developmental levels appropriately were able t perform well above grade expectations without forcing sight words or reading before students are ready.
Nancy Bailey says
This explanation covers the before and after comparison that is most concerning. Thank you, Judy.
Judy….Would that I could reverse the hands of time…I would. I was instructed by the reading teacher (in 2007 before my 1st child entered K) that the summer before K should be spent learning the 50 sight words or my child would fail K. I listened to this teacher, but deep down inside I knew it was wrong. I was always told that I should trust teachers. Both summers that I did this were difficult for me and my kids. Sure, they knew their sight words, but as teens and young adults they both really hate to read. The consequences of this nonsense are great. It’s no wonder kids have become behavior problems and hate school.
Judy Smizik says
I can’t begin to tell you how many students I have seen for private instruction because they were having reading challenges in school. Many of their problems can be attributed to the inappropriate kindergarten education they received. Sight words were the biggest hurdle for me to overcome. These students could only read by sight They had weak or no decoding skills and their ability to use proper vowel rules were non existent.
My own grandson brought home a list of 50 sight words to learn in October of his kindergarten year. I refused to provide support for such nonsense.
Yet kindergarten teachers are following curriculum guides which demand sight word knowledge. Once my advanced kindergarten students figured out the code, they were able to pick trade books to read. Before long they knew many sight words. but they learned them naturally. Their ability to decode and encode made them great, “word detectives..”.
What publishers and administrators fail to take in consideration is the wide chronological difference of kindergarten students. While students are naturally at different developmental levels, there is a huge disparity between those who have just turned five and those turning six. Teachers must be able to adapt the curriculum to meet the educational needs of all their students. Unfortunately misguided administrators, who know know better, insist teachers be in a certain page in their lesson plans and write them up if they are not where they say they are when they observe. This is happening in our schools today!! I’ve only been out of the schools since the pandemic. I subbed and volunteered kindergartens and primary classrooms. Until 2019. I have seen first hand what sos wrong with our educational system , and it begins in kindergarten and even pre-school.
Judy Smizik says
When I read about “so called Kindergarten gurus having alphabet boot camp and showing teachers the most horrible way to teach reading through sight words, I cringe. On top of the inappropriate strategies, they are making a lot of money just like the publishers. I watched one video and many of my kindergarten colleagues and myself first thought the video was a joke, Unfortunately, it wasn’t.
Judy smizik says
Lisa, you are so right. We can’t blame the teachers. They are forced to teach the curriculum and May find themselves in danger of losing their jobs if they don’t. The severe behavior problems began long before the pandemic. They were just exacerbated by Covid. The inappropriate curriculum, teaching to the needs of the tests and not the needs of our students has left our students stressed and feeling like failures. I’ve seen them put their heads down and look so confused and frustrated. This leads to many behavior issues. The lack of play and socialization also have contributed to the problems.
Paul Bonner says
When I saw the headline in the Times I about fell out of my chair. With the exception of Valerie Straus, the media has fallen for this reading debacle hook, line and sinker and they lazily report on faulty data because they don’t take the time to understand this.
Nancy Bailey says
Absolutely agree. Have you noticed they include reports that look real that are actually advertisements written by company representatives?
Sight words!? The push where I am is to teach phonics. We always had phonics just in a natural part of story way. Rhymes, poetry, etc. Now they are pushing a formalized program. I am not against formal instruction at the appropriate time, especially for children who are struggling to read, BUT NOT IN KINDERGARTEN. All of a sudden (well, not so sudden) the curriculum has become more important than the child. Everything is being pushed earlier to prepare them for when they get older. Really!? How about helping them “master” the age they are? I remember pictures from some child care book about potty training babies before they could even sit up on their own! No wonder there are frustrated, angry children! Let them be the age they are!
Monica Plaza says
I totally agree, there is not preparation in creating irrealistic goals. These kids are being victimized with unachivable goals. It is a recipe for failure.
Nancy Bailey says
Thank you, Monica.
Monica Plaza says
While this pandemic has been hard, it has been a great opportunity to be forced to homeschool. When my son was in pre-k, I told the teacher that I was more worried about a North Korean attack than my son not being able to read any sight words haha. Then he was fine. I continued to observe, throughout the years, the absurdity of the reading contents and I realized what you confirmed factually in this article. My son also had an expresive speech delay and my only worries is for my children is to learn to love and enjoy learning. Most of the adults could not digest or comprehend some of the readings given to middle schoolers. During PT meetings, I only care about the professional opinion of my children’s teachers. I always remind the teachers that I am well aware of these scamming numbers and ridiculous lexile levels, so I don’t care about these numbers. The teachers give me this look in agreement and relief. And we move on with the real opinion about my children’s performance. This intimidation into buying is despicable. My kids are 13 and 11 and i refuse to inject them with anxiety and fear to school or learning. I feel very bad for parents that do not have the ability to discern this trend and they are scared into believing that their children are in trouble academically. I shadowed my son in sixth grade before the pandemic and it was painful to watch how demoralized and how the teachers are being robbed from the opportunity to perform their skill. Classes were run by apps in laptops. I know you have covered this issue before. Again your articles are very motivating and very empowering. Thank you again and again!!!
I wish more stents were astute as you.
Forcing sight words in kindergarten does more harm than good for many students.
Nancy Bailey says
Thank you, Monica. I am so glad you help your children not feel pressured when it comes to learning.