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New Pressure Placed on Kindergarteners

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I like to read a couple books at a time. Currently, Zealot (2013) by Reza Aslan is my commute book; Fire in the Ashes (2012) by Jonathan Kozol is my upstairs book and Alfie Kohn's collection of essays entitled, Feel-Bad Education (2011) is my living room and downstairs book. I know, it seems like I would be hornswoggled by all the different input. But in my particular brain - it all works. In addition, I get articles from various publications via email so I am always getting articles from Education Week, Workforce Journal and the NAEYC online journal, specifically. It all comes together to inform my opinions and provide some guidance for my suggestions and recommendations to parents, supervisors, administrators and teachers. Today, I opened my email to find an article on EdWeek.org that cited some research about to be publicized and provided free on the American Education Research Association (AERA) website, http://aer.sagepub.com/content/early/2013/11/25/0002831213513634 . The article stated that many children come into kindergarten with the ability to identify numbers and some words for example, and yet K teachers are spending an inordinate amount of time on those concepts. This research led the authors to conclude that Kindergarten, while perceived by many to be First Grade in its rigor, may actually be "too easy." I want to take the opportunity being an Examiner author allows me to respond to the notion that Kindergarten could be too easy on any level (but I will choose two specific levels).

Alfie Kohn wrote in one of the essays in the aforementioned collection, Feel-Bad Education (2011), that traditional models of education just aren't cutting it for millions of American children. He lists some of the qualities of a progressive educational model that may be near impossible to implement, but with the state of our education, may be the best answer. Kohn made a list in his introduction that he entitled, "Well, Duh!" because in his opinion, they are conclusions that are so strongly embedded in common sense, research and the instincts of great teachers everywhere as to inspire the response, well duh!

1) Much of the material that students are required to memorize is soon forgotten.

2) Just knowing a lot of facts doesn't mean one is smart.

3) If kids have different talents, interests and ways of learning, it's probably not ideal to teach all of them the same things, - or the same way.

4) Students are more likely to learn what they find interesting.

5) Students are less interested in whatever they're forced to do and more enthusiastic when they have some say.

6) Just because doing x raises standardized test scores doesn't mean x should be done.

7) Students are more likely to succeed in a place where they feel known and cared about.

8) We want children to develop in many ways, not just academically.

9) Just because a lesson (or book, or class, or test) is harder doesn't mean it's better.

10) Kids aren't just short adults.

11) Education policies that benefit (or appeal to) large corporations aren't necessarily good for children.

12) Substance matters more than labels. (Kohn, 2012).

Several of these apply to the primary grades but I will only point out a few to respond to the notion that Kindergarten is too easy.

Kindergarten can only be too easy if there is a standardized core curriculum. Otherwise, standards and goals are set in collaboration with the children and their caregivers so that they have a vested interest in achieving them. Kindergarten is about appreciating and valuing the individual differences of those wonderful minds and not about pushing, pulling and prodding them to a standardized goal. The rigor in Kindergarten comes from the children themselves as they investigate and discover the world around them through engaging environments and meaningful curriculum.

The meaningfulness of the curriculum comes from the children, the manner in which they approach and engage the curriculum is determined by the children and the difficulty level of the task is guided and facilitated and collaborated on by the teacher and the children themselves. This is how you show progress.

I am just consistently, and for the past 20 years, surprised by the Education community's disregard for what we know works best. Get to know our students and their families, allow the children to drive the curriculum and do away with grades, the "common core" and standardized testing.

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