An NPR News education blog called Mindshift has an interesting story that illustrates concerns Kindergarten teachers have had with the Common Core State Standards.
Lisa Minicozzi was an elementary school principal before she went back to school for her doctorate in early childhood education. She’s now a professor of education at Adelphi University, where she instructs teachers in-training and studies effective teaching practice in classrooms. She recently published an article in the Global Studies of Childhood journal entitled “The garden is thorny: Teaching kindergarten in the age of accountability,” in which she documents how veteran kindergarten teachers navigate more rigorous expectations for students along with their own deeply held beliefs about how young children should learn.
“I have witnessed the changes myself and have felt the frustrations as an administrator and as a parent of a young child myself,” Minicozzi said of the “academic trickle down” that has affected day-to-day kindergarten routines. In classrooms that seemed to be navigating the shift well Minicozzi saw some common themes: first, the kindergarten educators had the support of administrators to determine what was developmentally appropriate.
Second, veteran teachers saw themselves as experts and were confident dissecting the standards and designing units that met them, without giving up their beliefs about how young children learn. In exemplar classrooms Minicozzi never saw kids sitting in rows for long periods of time or doing worksheets. Rather, teachers held exploration and movement at the center of the practice, essentially designing thematic project-based learning units.
“We know from educational theory what works,” Minicozzi said. “Kids should be actively engaged. They should be outside. They should be moving, exploring. They should have multiple opportunities to explore at different times.” She worries that as schools adopt Common Core State Standards school administrators will continue to push more content and direct instruction into kindergarten. She sees veteran teachers who are successfully navigating the shift as important mentors for novice teachers who will need that same strength and skill when they get into classrooms.
“I feel that most of the programs that have come out of alignment to Common Core have academic challenges that are way above what they should be doing,” said kindergarten teacher Mojdeh Hassani. She co-teaches at a public school on Long Island. She says she believes in challenging students, but the difference is that now there are many more discrete units that have to be crammed into each day, forcing her young students to move too quickly between tasks.