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UVa School of Leadership and Public Policy: Is kindergarten the new first grade?

In a working paper entitled "The Changing Nature of Kindergarten in the Age of Accountability,”relates that a study undertaken by researchers Daphna Bassok, Assistant Professor at the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy, and Anna K. Rorem, Policy Analyst at the University's Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service. The authors looked at whether there was any correlation between the increased emphasis on accountability in kindergarten in recent years, and important changes in "the "kindergartener's experience"

Ginger McCarthy | Wikimedia Commons
The Rotunda of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville

Bassok’s and Rorem’s study is the first that provides nationally representative empirical evidence about the actual changes.
“We went into this project expecting to see some change over time,” Bassok said. “What was surprising to us was to see substantial changes in the kindergarten experience along essentially every dimension. And the magnitude of these changes was striking.”

The study focused on four dimensions: Teacher beliefs about school readiness and kindergarten learning, how teachers used their time during daily activities, what specific curricular content was covered and kindergarten teachers’ views about assessments.

There is a challenge to have the right balance of social interactions and other kinds of skill-building and academics. Spending additional time on academics can be particularly useful, especially if the early literacy and math is presented in an engaging way and holds their interest because it's fun as well as a challenge to be met.

As teachers spend more time and attention on academic content, time centered on play, exploration and social interactions may drop.

“It certainly doesn’t have to be an ‘either/or’ scenario, where academics crowd out everything else,” Bassok said, “but I worry that in practice, this is what is happening in many classrooms.”

Over the last decade, both media and research accounts have suggested that kindergarten classrooms were increasingly characterized by mounting homework demands, worksheets, pressure to learn to read as early as possible, and heightened levels of stress.

The Center on Education Policy and Workforce Competitiveness joins in collaboration with the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy at the University of Virginia, for this mission.

The purpose of the Center is to address significant questions relating to educational policy that relate specifically to the competitiveness of labor in the workforce, in what's often called the "era of globalization."

The mission of the Center is fourfold

to provide rigorous and timely research to inform the design of education policy targeted to improving educational outcomes and the economic competitiveness of American workers in an increasingly globalized world

to promote the exchange of ideas that inform policy decisions regarding educational policy and workforce competitiveness

to foster the development of data related to these efforts

to provide a setting where faculty and students transcend disciplinary boundaries to engage in collaborative, evidence-based inquiry.

This story is continued in:

UVa Leadership & Public Policy Center: The new trends in 'academic kindergarten'


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