Sunday, February 13, 2011

What Happened to Kindergarten?

Kindergarten is the new first grade.

This has not happened overnight. I am aware that it has been creeping up over the years. But the "red-shirting" I just read on-line about is shocking. (Red-shirting is holding your child back from starting school because they are "not ready", even though they are age-eligible, so that they have an advantage over their peers.) One elementary school teacher wrote that in his school, kindergarteners were expected to be able to read a simple sentence BEFORE starting kindergarten. When did this happen????

I thought kindergarten was a time for kids to get ready for learning. Fifty years ago, most of us knew our colors, the alphabet and could probably count to ten before entering kindergarten. During our kindergarten year, we learned to obey the teacher's instructions. We learned when it was time to be quiet and when we could talk. We learned that we needed to raise our hand if we wanted to speak. We learned how to stand in line without shoving each other. We learned to listen during story time. We learned that when it was time to move onto another activity, we had to put away our favorite toys/crayons/blocks.

Fifty years ago, learning to read was reserved for First Grade. At the end of the kindergarten year, if someone was deemed not ready for First Grade, he/she spent an additional year in kindergarten, maturing so that he/she would be ready to learn when they entered First Grade.

By the time my son entered kindergarten twenty years ago, things had changed from when I was in elementary school. Twenty years ago, most children went to pre-school or daycare prior to kindergarten, while I had stayed at home with Mom. The children of my son's generation had already learned all the things that were expected of me in kindergarten, before they even entered the classroom door. My son's kindergarten teacher did a lot of pre-reading (and pre-math) conceptual assignments with her students, so that when they entered First Grade, he/she would be ready to learn to read and understand first grade math.

Fast forward to today. It sounds like today's "kinders" are expected to "be able to read" when they enter kindergarten. Perhaps many are able to read simple sentences, with the access and variety of electronic learning available at home today, in addition to socialization skills learned in pre-school. Perhaps we even need our children to learn to read in kindergarten, if we want to be competitive in a global environment.

But if parents are holding their children back another year, entering their children in kindergarten when they are six and have already learned how to read, then what is the point? If this trend is true and widespread, then Kindergarten has just become the new First Grade. Its just a matter of semantics.

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