Sunday, May 4, 2008

Kindergarten Requirements

A reader emailed me because she feels kindergarten requirements need to be changed.

She wrote, “More and more children are involved in pre-school education and are prepared to begin working at a different level when they begin school. I think it would be an interesting inquiry as to what has really changed in terms of kindergarten curriculum to recognize the fact that many children are better prepared upon entry. My first child began kindergarten in 1999. I am betting not much has changed in that time to up the standards."

This sounds like a valid point to me, but I was surprised to learn the opposite seems to be true.
Kids now are learning more than ever before. Kindergartners are learning what we did in first grade and some parents are worried their kids might be learning too much.

Here's the story that ran on WHOI-TV:

The Pearson's have seen the changes made to early education first hand. They have 6 children.Five-year-old Deven is in kindergarten at Valeska Hinton in Peoria. His older sister Nikia was in the first kindergarten class at Valeska in 1993. I asked Nikia, "What do you think about Deven learning now what you were learning in first grade?” She said, “I'm still smarter than him. I still remember things about Valeska. going back, it's interesting to see how stuffs has stayed the same and how it has changed."

Former kindergarten teacher now literacy specialist Beth Crider-Olcott has seen a lot of changes in the curriculum. She taught Nikia in kindergarten and is now the reading specialist for Deven.

Beth said, "Kindergarten when I was a child was 1/2 day, the letter people, graham crackers, milk and recess. Kindergarten today is full day-more than likely. It's demanding, rigorous academics in the morning,then all those traditional things sprinkled throughout."

One of the major differences deals with social issues, reading and writing and computer work. Those used to be things that were taught to kindergartners. Now five-year-olds have the basic concepts like listening to the teacher and logging on to the Internet before the first day.
Deven and Nikia's mom Janice said, "When I was in kindergarten, you learned how to tie your shoes. Now you know that going in."

So what should we be doing as parents to ensure our children are successful in school?

1. Get your kids to talk about school.

Beth said, "When you ask what happened at school today and the answer is noth'in, change the question. Ask them what they did during math time or what they did at recess. Don't give up."

2. Make sure the conversations about school aren't just you asking questions.
Beth said, "We say in early childhood have a conversation that takes five turns, where you talk, your child talks, you talk, your child talks and you talk. Do that 3 times a day. It grows the vocabulary."
3. Most importantly, read to your children daily.
Beth said, "Reading books with your child teaches them how books work. It teaches them school talk and reading books with your child grows vocabulary like nothing else."

The Pearson's have taken Mrs. Crider-Olcott's advice and they feel like it has paid off. Nikia is the senior class president at Woodruff High School, Jamara is in the gifted program at Washington and Deven is already reading. From parents to teachers and former students, they all say the new 70 plus learning standards can be good *and* bad.

Mary Ann Randle is the Family, childhood and Community Programs Director of for District 150.She says other schools in the district are modeling after Valeska Hinton's school plan because it allows kids to meet the requirements, but still sprinkles in some free time for kids to explore and learn to socialize.

Mary Ann said, "There's only 6 1/2 hours in the day. You have to really think about how you're doing to use that time. In some of our schools we have mandates we must fulfill."

After hearing this story, you might be surprised to find out there are still schools in the area that only offer half-day kindergarten. Dunlap is one of them. It is one of the best performing school district's in the state. Some Dunlap parents have asked to extend it to full day. Others are adamantly opposed to full-day. It will be interesting to see if full-day kindergarten becomes a state mandate at some point.

Did your kids have full day or half day kindergarten? What are your thoughts?



Anonymous said...

I recently retired from a position in the San Diego Unified School district where I worked closely with new first graders. I was very surprised to find out what 5 year olds are expected to know on the first day they begin kindergarten. A child who spends the first 5 years at home or in a preschool where they are not learning will most assuredly begin their academic education already "behind". said...

I got an email today from someone who says a lot of the inner city kids are not as prepared as they should be when going into kindergarten. The reader says that is becoming a huge problem. No one keeps track of how prepared a child is when going into school, but teachers say there's a definite difference between those who go to preschool and strong parental involvement and those who don't.

Diane Vespa said...

I helped with pre-testing in our son's K-garten. There was a very large disparity in the Kids abilities. It made me wonder how on Earth one teacher could teach to so many levels. It made me more determined than ever to be a "hands on" parent at home. It would be far preferable for your child to be at the top of the curve vs. the bottom of the curve as they enter K-garten. I worry that some may never catch up.

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