Monday, September 11, 2006

Is Kindergarten the New First Grade?

It is according to Newsweek, whose cover story last week made the oft-repeated point that kids are under too much pressure, too soon.

As I've pointed out before on this blog, I'm skeptical. Certainly, there are schools that make kids do too much pointless homework. And certainly some kids aren't ready for academic work at age five. But plenty are. They're jumping at the bit to start reading and doing fun things with numbers. That kindergarten is starting to nurture this curiosity -- rather than just involving nap and playground time -- is not a bad thing.

Indeed, I'm not sure about the point of kindergarten if it's not going to have an academic bent. In this day and age, most children have some experience dealing with other kids in social settings by age five -- through day care, private preschool, or public preschool programs like Head Start. Kids do arrive at kindergarten with a wide range of skills, which makes excellent teachers who can accommodate individual children's needs a necessity. But we shouldn't lament that now schools are saying it's OK -- and maybe even worth a little pushing -- for kids to start reading in kindergarten. If all grades were challenging kids more, we wouldn't have so many of the educational problems we do.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

I absolutely agree that children who are ready and eager to learn to read, write, and do math should be able to.
However, the kind of pressure that this report is talking about is different. The powers that be have decided that all children must start learning to read, write, and do math when they enter school at age 4 or 5. Unfortunately, not all are developmentally ready at this age.
The pressure on teachers from above to force all students to meet a yearly academic standard does translate into too much pressure on kids who develop later.
It has also translated into drilling for standardized tests, instead of an enriched curriculum for all. It has contributed to the lack of funds for gifted education because, to school officials, it's more important to get the lower kids' scores up.
And finally, the amount of time spent in school on recess, art, music, drama, and P.E. has declined. No first grader, no matter how gifted, should be expected to concentrate for 5 1/2 hours with only a 10 minute break in the morning and 20 minutes for lunch, half of which is spent standing in line. Particularly when what they're supposed to concentrate on is so tedious.

Anonymous said...

Four-year-old children who are not ready for beginning math and reading should not enroll in Kindergarten until they are five. However, four-year-olds who are ready should be allowed early entrance!!! In our area this is not permitted even though the state law allows exceptions.

I was stunned by the simplicity of the required objectives on the Kindergarten report card. 1st quarter-identify numbers 1 thru 5, 2nd quarter-6-10,ect. When I questioned the teacher after the first report card was sent home, she emphasized that the objective was number identification, not just counting. Yeah, got it! She did that before 20 months and ended up the oldest in her class because her birthday just missed the cut-off for K entrance. She was reading chapter books also (2nd grade level).

I have no objection to allowing frequent and long recess. I would just like to see the time in class used for learning something new. I hated that my daughter was evaluated and praised for what she had known years before entering Kindergarten. Maybe it is necessary to allow some kids to enter K at three and others at the usual age of five.

Debbie said...

My goodness, now THERE'S a great idea! What if we could actually enroll our kids in school when they were ready, at the level they were ready for?! How wonderful would that be!!! I suppose it all goes back to the age/grade level thing, which we know was designed to make public education of the masses easier for the educators - not the learners!

Quiltsrwarm said...

Here's another perspective...

Kindergarten teachers in our district spend most of their time identifying the kids who *might* need help. They don't have the time to teach much more than the colors, the alphabet, and numbers 1-100. After spending a good portion of their time corralling the kids with unidentified developmental delays, learning disorders, and economic disadvantages, then managing those delays, disorders, and disadvantages for families who may have never had to deal with them before, teachers have no time left to teach an early reader how to read, much less add two and two (even if that kid knows basic multiplication already, like mine did).

It comes down to the fact that an estimated 40% of our local population takes up more than 80% of these teachers' time (time estimate is anecdotal). The gifted kids get left behind big time and kindergarten is the first place my second child experienced his first disappointment in school. A time when school should have been fun for him and he was sorely disappointed... hmmm...

Teachers have a lot more on their plates nowadays that has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with teaching. They have become more social worker than teacher. It is a sad state of affairs when the government and educational theorists -- and NOT the folks on the front lines, the parents and teachers -- have decided how much kids should learn and when.

My above mentioned child's teacher went to K from 1st grade thinking it would be a refreshing change of pace. It was so refreshing it blew her right back to first grade -- she HATED Kindergarten! Her comment to me was that in first grade she actually got to teach!

I agree that kids who are ready to read should be allowed to read way beyond their age peers if necesary, accellerate to upper math classes (even in Kindergarten), yet still enjoy the social arena of Kindergarten. But, that isn't reality in my neck of the woods.

Anonymous said...

My son was denied early entrance to kindergarten because he could not hop on one foot. yet...I was going through his bed every evening to remove books and make room for a child to sleep. I was teaching him basic math.

The result: a year of boredom at 5 watching other kids learn about shapes and colors and basic letter sounds when he would rather be doing three digit math and reading chapter books. I had to fight to get him any academic instruction at all. I believe this has done more harm than good and I now wish I had bitten the bullet and kept him home.

Now he is in a first grade in another school with instruction that is not even up to the speed of his kindergarten last year and the rigid teacher thinks that without testing him over the course of several weeks like all the other kids that she should not have to challenge him up to his abilities and that it is important for him to do what the rest of the class does and PAY ATTENTION AT ALL COSTS. This is creating behavior problems at home because it is so mind-numbing! He has a hard time following the simplest of instructions after a day of this. It is the equivalent of forcing an adult to watch Barney for 6 hours.

He wants to attend a real brick-and-mortar school and yet comes home in tears complaining that everything is "too easy" and he wants someone to teach him something.

I say teach them to read in kindergarten and open up the academics--at least for those who can handle it.

Anonymous said...

Just another perspective: In India you would not believe the work load of kindergarteners in a "good school". They are being taught in 2 languanges, they have history, geography etc, tons to memorize, pages of letters & numbers to copy. Well into addition. In a country where there are fewer resources than people, it is necessary to do this. I am certainly not a proponent of this but I do find articles like the Newsweek laughable. It is a competitive world and if we have to stretch a little early on, I personally believe it will save a whole lot of stretching later on! In fact, I push my bright daughter constantly, beyond her already high level, just so she understands this. Schoolwork may be far too easy now, but one day it won't be and she needs to know how to cope when things aren't so simple & obvious.

Anonymous said...

I know this is a gifted website, stop complaining and use your talents to teach your own children. The public school system is designed to teach all children. They are trying very hard to do this. Take your challenged deprived gifted student and start a home-school for gifted students whereby your child will be challenged by other gifted children. Take your child's education into your own hands.

Quiltsrwarm said...

Um, I'm not sure how to take this comment -- is it an affront to homeschoolers or gifteds or both? Either way, as a homeschooling mother of three highly gifted kids, this comment rubs me wrong...

lee said...

i am the mother of 2 children, both boys. my 10 year old makes straight A's without trying. My 5 year old is in kindergarten this year with a class size of 30. granted there are 2 teachers in the class i feel that he would be doing better if the classes were separated. i have been told by the kindergarten teachers that my child is just not performing well and may need to be held back. This has been very upsetting for me because i had seen great progress with my child since pre-k and thought he was doing well. he can sound out words, starting to slowly read, knows his numbers and shapes, letters, etc. but he will not be consistent at school with this even though he does with me at home. i have been overwhelmed with what he needs to know in kindergarten and i wonder if this is all just too much or am i just looking at this wrong. the classes were separated the first few months of the year and i never heard anything from the teacher until they joined the classes together. please let me know what you think. thank you.

Davidson Institute said...

Parents who want to measure their preschooler's level of giftedness are cautioned that testing them before age five may not provide conclusive results. Children younger than 4½ can be especially difficult to test because they often lack the maturity necessary for testing. However, in some cases, testing children this young can have its merits in providing a general idea of the child's abilities, which can help direct a parent's efforts to nurture their child. When it is obvious that a child's intelligence surpasses his/her age peers, the child may benefit from an individualized education plan once they start school.

We recommend utilizing the Iowa Acceleration Scale to gauge if a gifted young student is a candidate for early entrance to kindergarten or 1st grade. We also suggest helping your child explore his/her passions as they develop (whether it's dinosaurs, marine biology, or geography). Foster a love of reading by reading aloud to your child and by going to bookstores and the library. If your child shows interest in music, offer music lessons (research shows the study of music enhances brain development).

For more information, please view the Nov. 2006 Genius Denied eNewsletter.

Anonymous said...

My daughters four and I've homeschooled her since she was 2 1/2. She can read, tell time, addition, subtraction, mostly 1st grade curriculum. I was wondering if anyone has kids in kindergarten that recieve any GATE type of program? After reading the other comments, I'm now really worried about her going into kindergarten with no challange what so ever.

Anonymous said...

I know in my area there is no gifted programming at the Kinder level. I know that my son had an absolutely horrible experience with a montessori setting for Pre-K. I think it had much more to do with the teacher than the method. He hated school and that broke my heart. I had always loved school. (I was identified as gifted in Kindergarten. I was retested in 4th grade because I wasn't working up to my supposed potential. Retested at 151 on the SB in 1978.) Friday the school sent home his stanford 10 scores from last year. Reading 98; Math 97; Environment 94; Listening 84. I am pretty impressed but now am wonder what should I do with him. He loves math and science.