The Boston Globe published an article over the weekend that dealt with how the Common Core State Standards were impacting kindergarten students.
Here is one excerpt dealing with the impact of the ELA standards:
In two reports published earlier this year, the Boston-based nonprofit Defending the Early Years took aim at the kindergarten standards in ELA (focused on literacy at this age) and math. The first report singled out the expectation that kindergartners should be able to “read emergent-reader texts with purpose and understanding.”
Emergent-reader texts include repetitive lines like, “Brown bear. Brown bear. What do you see?” or, “The fat cat sat on a mat.” These are no trouble for some 5-year-old kindergartners and even some 4-year-olds, says Nancy Carlsson-Paige, an emeritus professor of early-childhood education at Lesley University and the report’s lead author. But, Carlsson-Paige adds, many normally developing kids won’t read these books on their own until age 7. “When we require specific skills to be learned by every child at the same time, that misses a basic idea in early childhood education,” she says, “which is that there’s a wide range to learning everything in the early years.”
Take walking as an example. An average child might learn to walk at 1 year, while some will be walking at 8 months and others might not take their first steps until they’re 15 months. They all end up walking just fine.
What does earlier reading in kindergarten predict for reading proficiency and academic success in later grades? Not much, according to the report, which cites study findings that by fourth grade, children who were reading at age 4 were not significantly better at reading than their classmates who’d learned to read at age 7. The report also points out that in Finland and Sweden, kids don’t even start formal schooling until they are 7 years old. Yet, Finnish and Swedish teenagers regularly trounce their American counterparts in international tests of reading, math, and science.
Given the wide developmental variation in young learners and the evidence that early reader advantages fade, the report concludes that a kindergarten literacy standard will simply crush the spirits of the late bloomers, linking school with “feelings of inadequacy, anxiety, and confusion.”
Here is another excerpt dealing with the math standards:
That’s the argument of Constance Kamii, a longtime professor of early-childhood education at the University of Alabama. Kamii wrote the second DEY report, published last month, attacking several of the Common Core’s kindergarten math standards, including that students should be able to count to 100 by ones and 10s, as well as compose and decompose numbers from 11 to 19 into 10 ones plus some further ones.
Kamii notes that the foundation of math is the ability to think abstractly about numbers — what five really means, beyond the numeral 5, or its place in a memorized sequence from one to 10 — as well as the logical relationships between numbers. “Not many 5- and 6-year-olds understand words like ‘forty’ and ‘fifty,’ ” Kamii writes in the report. So, while kindergartners can memorize the numbers from 1 to 100 with enough repetition, Kamii says that’s, “like making them memorize nonsense syllables.”
This leads to the other major criticism of the kindergarten standards — the pressure to meet them will intensify a push that began with No Child Left Behind for more academic drills, more lecture-style instruction and work sheets, and more testing in kindergarten.
“Young children learn best in active, hands-on ways and in the context of meaningful real-life experiences,” notes a statement of “grave concerns” about the kindergarten standards signed by hundreds of teachers and education scholars, including Howard Gardner, the Harvard developmental psychologist known for his theory of multiple intelligences and their importance in learning. “Overuse of didactic instruction and testing cuts off children’s initiative, curiosity, and imagination, limiting their engagement in school,” according to the statement.