Kindergarten, the New 1st Grade
There is no doubt that kindergarten has changed substantially in the last few decades, and not for the better according to many teachers. There is a growing consensus among educators that kindergarten students are being pushed into learning rigid academic standards which are simply beyond their ability to grasp and comprehend.
Groups such as Defending the Early Years (“DEY)” and the Alliance for Childhood are taking a stand. Part of their efforts aim to “defend play and playful learning in the face of misguided education reform.” You can read more about their work here:
Another interesting article states that requiring kindergarten students to read may actually be harmful since many children are simply not developmentally ready for this challenge. Furthermore, “there is no evidence to support a widespread belief in the United States that children must read in prekindergarten or kindergarten to become strong readers and achieve academic success.”
Despite this lack of evidence, the Common Core State Standards for kindergarten, currently in use in over 40 states, “place huge emphasis on print literacy and state bluntly that, by the end of kindergarten, children are to ‘read emergent-reader texts with purpose and understanding’.”
No one can argue that children learn best through play and engaging in hands-on experiences in language-rich environments. In fact, “research shows greater gains from play-based programs than from preschools and kindergartens with a more academic focus.”
So, what is a parent to do? You know your child better than anyone. Monitor their feelings and moods closely during their transition to kindergarten and talk to them about their daily experiences. The last thing you would want is for them to become discouraged about learning. Yet, that is exactly what these educators fear.
Overall, please be aware of these very critical classroom changes and the potentially negative effect they may have on your kindergarten student. Many dedicated, passionate teachers and other educators are fighting for your children’s best interests. I urge you to join them.
DEY even offers an early-childhood-activist-toolkit for those who feel especially compelled to get involved on a deeper level.