Congratulations, we killed kindergarten


Apparently between 1998 and 2010 we killed kindergarten. Lots more testing. Much less music and art. Fewer centers and unstructured play time. Fewer student-driven activities. Greater disregard for young children’s variation in development. More emphasis on teacher-directed instruction and textbooks and worksheets…

We knew this but now it’s not just widespread anecdotes. We now have comprehensive research on data from the U.S. Department of Education’s Early Childhood Longitudinal Study.

We should be ashamed of ourselves.

Comments credit: Winter math and literacy packet NO PREP (Kindergarten)

6 Responses to “Congratulations, we killed kindergarten”

  1. The death knell started sounding in 1983-84 with the aftershocks from the Nation at Risk report. NCLB was just the final nail.

  2. No need to read too much into the comments. I am sure they were made by the authors to sell more books. Who in their right mind would use a textbook to teach kindy!

    But I agree, kindergarteners are dying a slow death in our present poisonous environment.

    • Pete, I think those credits were left by other kindergarten teachers who think the worksheets are just so helpful!

      • I think that the worst part for me is the endorsements from so many teachers who are just AMAZED at these worksheets. Can that many people really buy into the suck of this work for Kinder?

  3. For longer than I can remember–at least 3 decades–the research has shown that American (and Canadian) schools have a much higher rate of illiteracy than schools in say Sweden,and the rates of reading dysfunction are climbing steadily here but not elsewhere. The explanation seems to be that North American education starts to teach reading too soon. Although a percentage of students are ready for reading in Kindergarten, there is strong evidence that the vast majority are not. 50 years ago when I was in kindergarten, the target was for students to know the alphabet at the end of the year; now it seems the expectation is that students read starting Grade 1. Teachers will work hard to reach expected targets, whether those targets are healthy or not. As long as one parent can claim their child is reading Nancy Drew in Grade 1, other parents in our competitive society will put pressure on their teachers and their children to match that…with the result that large numbers of students who are not yet reading-ready learn that reading is difficult, tedious, and to be avoided whenever possible. But instead of learning from other school systems (Sweden et al) that by delaying the START of reading until at least age 7, we can reduce the % of weak readers down to almost nothing…we keep escalating what we expect from Kindergarten to exceed what the research says is possible at this age. We are creating the problems that we claim we are trying to address! And that’s just the research for reading–pretty sure the same applies to math and the rest. Test results that show X number of kindergartners can read at the start of Grade 1 miss that N-X=lifelong reading difficulties that could have been avoided. If we look at reading habits at the end of high school and our system is producing worse readers than systems that start reading at age 7, then maybe that is something we should be attending to…

  4. Shelby Gregoire Reply July 3, 2016 at 6:59 pm

    Hello All!

    I enjoyed reading this post because it raises some of the concerns I have with the test-driven mindset within our education system and highlights some of the serious impacts it has had on early education. The initial post and many of the comments that were made draw attention to the fact that new developments in standards based teaching have adversely impacted the quality of education our students are receiving at an early age. Although I teach high school, it is easy to tell how education has changed in the past few decades and its quality has dropped. An endless amount of studies show how essential early education is, however this post and a great deal of research has revealed how children as early as 4 or 5 years old are falling behind before they have even truly begun. Although I am a high school teacher myself, I have begun to recognize how weary my students are of testing and how they lack any sort of creativity or imagination when it comes to their learning. While I know there could be an endless amount of reasons why this trend has developed, I know it has a direct connection to transitions in the past few decades away from student-driven instruction and with the shift towards standards-based and high-stakes testing. As an educator working with the Common Core I often feel like my autonomy has been taken away as a teacher because I have a strict set of standards and lessons I must teach in order to prepare my students for their state test. Student test scores are connected to each teacher and are used as a measure of evaluation for the teacher in my state, which means that many teachers do whatever it takes to prep students…even if it means teaching for the test. Although I do not do this personally, I think this kind of behavior speaks to the greater issues at play. The fact that kindergarteners are already feeling the pressure of these changes in our school system is alarming. I agree with the comment made by Dr. Robert Runte that the competitive nature of our society has helped create the kind of educational environment that is part of the problem. Rather than dealing with the root of the issues in our system we are adding to the problem by putting too much pressure on young students to learn things far beyond what is age appropriate and expecting teachers to be able to produce a certain outcome when it isn’t feasible. These are definitely harsh realities, yet they are ones we should be addressing to prevent further damage to our already fragile system.

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