What Happened to Kindergarten?

Some sobering graphics from Education Week:


Anonymous said…
I find it ridiculous how we as a society have accelerated expectations for kids of such a young age. There is no need for this, and I believe it's harmful. Let your youngster remember his or her kindergarten class as a time when they learned how to have fun, did imaginative things, played with other kids *and* got used to being at school for 6 hours a day. I think these are big enough "goals" for little kids.

Finger Painting
Po3 said…
Be interesting to add % of kindergarteners being treated for ADD then and now. Personally, I think that chaining students to desks and reducing PE, art, music and recess has increased the number of kiddos being "diagnosed" w/ ADD and ADD related issues.
Lynn said…
As always, I envy children, parents and teachers in Finland.

Anonymous said…
I find it sad. Children are children for such a short amount of time.

age matters said…
It would be interesting to see the average age of kindergartners in those different years, as well. Maybe many more kids are red-shirted now. I lived in the South when I was little. I started Kindergarten when I was 4 (about to turn 5).

Here, my kids, who started when they were just turning 5 (summer babies), seemed like an anomaly. I see so many kids 14+ months older than my kids in the same grade as them. It creates problems. I always thought it was strange that those parents think their kids are so "gifted", but maybe they should have started a year earlier. Of course the kids are bored...

Anyway, I wonder if kindergarten is the new 1st grade since the kids in the past would have been in 1st grade.
Ann D said…
Yes and yes.

No free choice, dramatic play, learning stations in SPS kindergarten.

My second child I'm being told needs to work on site reading of common words. Nope, I don't care what the state and schools say. He will start to read when he is ready and he is perfectly on track as a late summer birthday boy.
Anonymous said…
My end of kindergarten year public school report card from the mid-1970s had these components, and the teacher marked either a + (goal attained), S (sometimes), or N (not yet) beside each one:

I know:
My name and address
Nursery rhymes
Eight colors
Right from left
Numbers 1-10
The Alphabet

Academic growth:
Sees likenesses and differences in objects, pictures and letters
Hears likenesses and differences in sounds
Is acquiring readiness for number work

Social work habits:
Listens and follows directions
Works and plays well with other children
Attentive when others talk
Obeys quickly and cheerfully
Takes part in class discussion
Uses art materials (paint, paste, crayons, scissors)
Participates in music and rhythms


Lynn said…
age matters,

I've never seen the school system adjust curriculum to the needs of their students. This isn't a reaction to older children enrolling in kindergarten - it's exactly the opposite. Parents see that kindergarten is no longer appropriate for four and five year olds and respond appropriately.
Anonymous said…
I notice that, too, the red shirting---> gifted thing. But I don't doubt that the kids are bored, because kindergarten is so academic now. Ironically if we took it out- moved kindergarten back to dramatic play and socializing- I bet more people would wait longer to let things settle out, because their kids would not be bored, and as they get a little older the age gap creates less of an achievement gap. But if you are going to drag every kid to emerging reader status whether they are ready or not by spending hours on letter identification every day, of course the 6.5 year olds who can read will be bored. They'd almost all be better off playing, but if they are going to be doing academics, they won't have the patience (nor should they) to wait through hours of (to them) tediously easy stuff all year and will want to move to a more right level setting.

Anonymous said…
But I also agree with Lynn that this is top down, not parent driven. To a person everyone I know who red shirted thought their kid was just not ready behaviorally for the sitting and attention expectations, which aren't very appropriate for 5 year olds, especially boys.

age matters said…
It's the chicken and egg question. Did all the parents who red-shirt their kids for athletic and academic benefits cause SPS to increase academic rigor for kindergartners, or did the increased rigor cause all the red-shirting? I think most likely the latter, but I am not going to argue since it's just my gut. Part of my belief stems from the Mom who hijacks every Principal coffee chat at our neighborhood school by repeatedly asking how the school will challenge her "advanced" child. The kid was 6 1/2 when starting kindergarten. I wish the principal one of these times would say, put her in the right grade to start. I also think red-shirting started when I was little for athletic advantage and it's morphed into academic advantage now. Again, no basis for that opinion.

Ann D. My sentiments exactly. My summer kid is probably at grade level if you compare with kids the same age.
Anonymous said…
Well, does your school adequately address the needs of advanced learners? If so, it's a rarity. And assuming the next grade has the same red shirting percentage, what you suggest puts the red shirted child in with 14 month older than her kids, with behavioral and social expectations she can't match. There's no answer that serves summer birthdays reasonably well, which says to me pretty strongly it's systemic.

When I was little grade skipping was the norm, which I think is a mostly terrible idea now. I only started hearing the term red shirting as slang riffing off the college athletics practice(elementary club athletics are only age based- no advantage to holding a kid back in school), but unrelated in kind, and then only really after NCLB and its ratcheted up testing requirements.

Outsider said…
The age cutoff has shifted so that kids are an average of 3 months older now in Kindergarten. It's not a huge thing, but makes some difference. Mostly schools are just responding to the pressure put on them to deliver passing standardized test scores. They made the kids 1/4 year older at each grade level, and started academics a bit earlier.

But please no one panic. My son went through kindergarten last year, and was never remotely stressed. I never heard any playground gossip about kids being stressed, or saw much evidence. For those who were stressed, it could come as much from a complicated art project as from reading or numbers. Also from another direction entirely -- kids with complicated home lives being asked questions by their peers and feeling judged and wondering where they stand.

It's fine if parents red-shirt their kids. Parents should be trusted to make reasonable decisions, and the ones most to worry about are tiger parents who push too hard rather than the red shirters. Remember also that kids don't mature emotionally and socially at the exact same pace they mature intellectually. It's totally possible to have a boy who is socially ready for kindergarten but academically ready for first grade, and not unreasonable for a parent to wish the school might accommodate that.
Po3 said…
It's the mega corporate testing machine that is swallowing up our kids, not red-shirting.

Anonymous said…
Shout out to Loyal Heights Elementary K teachers who do a long stretch of free choice at the end of the day (at least 30 minutes). They also do a long morning recess (as long as 30 minutes), plus lunch and afternoon recess. Not sure about this year, but last year they also did a "rest time" where the lights were turned off, relaxing music was played and kids got to lay down and snuggle with a stuffie.

-Keep K, K
Jan said…
Reader said -- There's no answer that serves summer birthdays reasonably well, which says to me pretty strongly it's systemic.

Boy, isn't that the truth! one of my kids was an August boy -- we had assumed (even back in the 90s) that we should hold him back, because boys often mature a little more slowly and he was in fact a slow maturer -- BUT he was an early reader, and his K teacher said that he would be wildly bored if held back (socially immature and bored, both? NOT a great combo). So we didn't hold him back. He was smaller than every other boy in the class, and struggled socially (but was well matched academically). We wished there had been an academic option (almost like K+) where he could have gotten some challenge, while not being so far off the norm in terms of social maturity.

Ideally, schools should be able to form classrooms around children's needs (academic challenge, time to mature and learn to socialize, time and space to NOT focus on reading for kids who are naturally just late decoders, etc.) -- rather than forcing them to all conform to an aged norm that is mythical -- especially from birth to about 9 or 10, normal kids vary broadly in their rates of growth and their learning styles. By refusing to build a learning system that accommodates the variances, we do a lot of kids a great disservice.
Anonymous said…
Do we finally get to hold the teachers accountable or are they still victims of the system?

Teacher Greg said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Teacher Greg said…
Gotta prepare them for the 28 criteria (I think) WA Kids test, and since your job might be tied to student "growth" on these "measures" there is no time for having fun.
Anonymous said…
my kids had a good kindergarten experience - plenty of recess and finger painting. But it's clear that's not the case for all kids.

My kid was a September birthday. He entered the system almost a year older than some of his classmates. Should I have pushed him up? I doubt it - full day K, even a gentle one, was exhausting for him. Our local school had a waitlist every year for K; the school let us know that kids being pushed ahead, even from the neighborhood, went to the very end of the waitlist (which seemed fair).

While I have never met a parent who said they held their kid back for academic or athletic reasons, I HAVE met parents who held their kids back because they were immature or not ready for a full day schedule. I'm inclined to agree with posters who say that red-shirting is a symptom of the educational system pushing stuff onto kids that's not age-appropriate.

-September pink shirt?
"Do we finally get to hold the teachers accountable or are they still victims of the system? "

And this has what to do with this discussion? Don't put up cryptic remarks.

My son had an early September birthday and we held him back. We based that on size - he would have ended up being one of the youngest and smallest in his class (like forever.) As well, he was in a Montessori pre-K that we liked very much.
Anonymous said…
This has everything to do with the discussion.
The general sense is that the Kindergarten shifts noted in the graphic you posted are undesirable, no? That the majority of parents do not agree with the 80% of teachers that believe K's should be taught to read and that we are more in-line with the 30% from the 1990s.

How are the teachers and their ideology not the very first line of attack on our children's ample play time and joyful engagement?

Clearly, everyone involved is responsible. But so often I hear teachers are made out to be victims of the system rather than held responsible for standing up for our children. "Just following orders" doesn't cut it with me anymore.

Anonymous said…
If you think the current kindergarten overly academic emphasis is bad, you need to look at what has happened in Headstart program for four-year olds.

Is the goal to have a larger percentage of elementary school kids on antidepressants than the general population?

-- Dan Dempsey
FedUp, if you think these changes are at the hands of teachers, I'm not sure you have been paying attention. It is very much about Common Core and Ed reform.
Anonymous said…
The teachers are the ones actually implementing the changes, no?

Are you saying they are enacting reforms that they disagree with? What does that say about the integrity of the teachers?

I'm suggesting that teachers are responsible to fight FOR students and not to roll over to the whims of Common Core and Ed reform.

The CC/Ed reform types exploit the passive nature of teachers, the vulnerability of children, the exhaustion of parents, and the careerism of the leadership. We each have our part to play. I'm suggesting the data you posted here highlights ways the teachers need to examine ways their beliefs may contribute to education woes.


Teacher Greg said…
FedUp, I agree that teachers should stand up for what's ethical and have integrity, but a key point of the corporate ed reform movement is to crush all protections teachers have to speak up... And it's not by accident. When a Michelle Rhee type rides into town, the vocal get canned or leave and the right wing and their Democratic conspirators applaud.

A great many teachers in the past 10 years have left for ethical reasons.... There isn't good data on exactly how many, because there isn't any data collected. The current teacher shortage says a lot though... The shortage in the next few years will be worse I suspect.
Anonymous said…
Teachers responsible??? Baloney

Consider this fact... teachers have a hard time even getting the law enforced.
Classroom Disruption RCW.

Read RCW 28A.600.020 see (2).

Teachers have little impact as individuals and the WEA, SEA are highly political in decision-making. Common Sense, the good of the children, and occasionally the good of members are ignored.

Take a look at WEA officials support for Common Core early on, without ever consulting membership. Look at SEA officials support for Valued Added Measures factored into teacher evaluations.

To think that Kindergarten teachers have much control over the kindergarten changes seems incorrect to me.

Remember the schools of Ed also train new teachers in what to believe.

-- Dan Dempsey
Anonymous said…
I recall that 2 issues in our teacher strike were protecting recess & decreasing testing. Those benefit children more than they benefit teachers.

-HS Parent
Anecdote said…
My nephew is in a first grade. His class was working on a ONE MONTH project/book report. No fiction- a biography which is in keeping with Common Core which requires less fiction.

He decided to do a book report on Obama. During the process, she learned that Obama went by the name "Barry".

Students were required to provide six supporting facts, which I think is a bit much for a first grader. They were also required to draw a photo. My nephew drew a strawberry because "Barry" and "berry" sounded similar to him.

He hates school.

Outsider said…
To blame teachers for the kindergarten curriculum is absurd and totally counter-productive. It shows how far we have gone down the rabbit hole and lost all bearings. Teachers seem to have very little independence nowdays. Their every move is dictated from above, and responsibility lies with whoever elects the congresshacks, state legislators, and school board members who are ultimately responsible for what gets dictated from above. Who is responsible for electing those people?

Teachers should not be charged with regulating the political battles over education. In an ideal world, teachers would have the independence normally accorded to professionals; and would care about students as individuals; and would follow their own professional judgments about how to serve those students. And parents would have some choice of which teacher they think is a good fit for their children. And all the social engineering bureaucrats would be out of work. Never gonna happen, of course.

A lot of the anecdotal frustrations people mention in this thread come from the adamant refusal of the schools to do any sort of academic tracking and give students instruction appropriate for them as individuals. They only care about racial head-counting and social engineering.

p.s. it's too bad that anecdote's nephew hates school, but it's fine that he drew Obama as a berry. Kids learn by stretching themselves, and experimenting with whatever connections they see, and then talking about it. I am guessing the teacher had no problem with it. It's a great opening for the parent to start a conversation -- In what ways is Obama like or unlike a berry? Do you think he likes the nickname berry? Did you know the founder of Motown records was actually named Berry? In English, sometimes words sound the same but are spelled differently .. etc.
Po3 said…
Fed up - Would you defy your boss? Risk your job?

Would love to hear what you would do if you were told to do XYZ, would you really do ABC?

Come on, let us know. If you were a teacher, what would your classroom look like?
Anonymous said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said…
@ Po3

Are you saying if the right thing to do inconveniences you in your job, then you don't do it?

I served in Afghanistan. I was told to do XYZ and I did ABC.

If our 20 and 30 somethings can stand up with integrity amidst tremendous threat, then so can our teachers from the comforts of their own homes. It all boils down to what you believe your job is. If it's to collect a paycheck and be a corporate puppet, that's one thing. If it's to fight tooth and nail for the most vulnerable among us (let's say Kindergartners), then how one approaches one's job probably looks a bit different.

I know there are good teachers out there. My children, however, have had a number of not-so-good ones who appear to SUPPORT common core, ed reforms, cutting back recess, increasing discipline measures, and endorsing testing.

I do not support this blind-eye approach to a profession that deals with the education of very young children.

And so, yes, I hold teachers to the same standards I hold myself to in my own profession.

Our common foe (CC, ed reform, corporate interests, high stakes testing, etc) is exploiting the passive nature of our teachers. We can complain but it won't change anything. The ONLY way is to fight back. Instead, it appears teachers are fighting the parents because parental interests are often at odds with what teachers need to do to collect a paycheck.

Teachers may not have created the Kindergarten changes but they sure appear to be enforcing them with gusto, and for that they are responsible.

I don't buy it that teachers get to sit back and be educational Switzerland, do you?


Teacher Greg said…

I totally agree with your post above. However, much like the war in Afghanistan this war has gone on a long time. There are casualties. I assume that most of the people you fought with there are no longer still there. The attrition among teachers has always been high, but in these corporate reform districts and high poverty regions attrition has been really high. I too feel a strong sense to fight for what you outlined above, but in the end decided to move to a district that shared my same values rather than keep fighting an uphill battle. It wa ether that or leave teaching altogether. Do I feel good about that, sometimes no, but in the end I came to believe that life is too short to spend it miserable, stressed out and scapegoated for the obvious failure of poorly designed, executed and funded policies.

That's my two cents.
Anonymous said…
Here's what I don't get about all this. Let's pretend that having kids reading by the end of kindergarten is the correct goal -- either because we think it's important or because the kids need to perform well on standardized tests. Why would we then assume that taking away pretend play areas and cutting choice time is what we need to do to get those kids closer to that goal? Is there any research that shows young kids do better on statewide assessments when you take away playtime and finger paints and having them do worksheets instead?

Chris T
Jan said…
Fed Up: I have a little (but not much) sympathy for the position that somehow teachers should just refuse to follow orders coming from above, and use better teaching practices. When the system changes wholesale -- there is not much that one teacher can do to change things -- except get fired under circumstances that may make the next job very hard to get. With "math coaches" pacing the halls to ensure fidelity of implementation, no books or materials to support pedagogical approaches that actually work, and parents being indoctrinated into ideas that suggest that high stakes testing, endless workshops, close reading of book excerpts (rather than the reading of whole books), etc. -- are necessary to get their kids ready to pass high stakes tests, there is not much teachers can do. What do you think would happen in a "no recess" school if a teacher just started taking his kids outside for a half hour twice a day? I suspect it wouldn't end well. Frankly, I think it is much more the fault of the citizens of the school districts that elect the school boards (who in turn elect the superintendent -- who in turn hires his staff and the principals). Places where parents have lost their ability to vote for schools districts get a pass -- but those who slumber along while people like Sharon Tomkiko Santos and my personal nemesis, Ed Pettigrew, try to take away OUR right to select a school board -- which includes Seattle -- need to wake up and realize the source and nature of the attack.

Admittedly, if huge numbers of teachers in a district (or even in a school) all band together, things can be accomplished (like the dropping of MAP in high schools in part at least due to GHS's boycott of the test, etc.). This, however, is harder to do because the SEA (and the WEA, and the national union organizations) are generally weak and feckless. And that, ultimately, IS on teachers. Teachers vote for union representatives (or, it appears, they often can't be bothered to vote)-- and their apathy, inattentiveness, or outright cluelessness allows small groups of union hacks to maintain in powerful positions people who aren't interested in helping teachers push back against ed reform effectively and without losing their jobs.

While there are individual teachers totally on board with the bad parts of ed reform, it shocks me that anyone would point a finger at teachers in general. They are getting chewed up and spit out in this war. They are NOT the enemy.
Anonymous said…
This, however, is harder to do because the SEA (and the WEA, and the national union organizations) are generally weak and feckless. And that, ultimately, IS on teachers. Teachers vote for union representatives (or, it appears, they often can't be bothered)

There you have it. Jan has identified a major factor.
Many of the SEA, WEA, and NEA leaders manipulate the members rather than serve them.

-- Dan Dempsey
"I served in Afghanistan. I was told to do XYZ and I did ABC."

I was totally not aware that in the armed services you could go against what your boss or commanding officer tells you to do. Hmmm. And thank you for your service but I don't think a volunteer job in an organization like the armed forces really compares to being a teacher.

There is a national teacher group - BATS, for Bad-Ass Teachers - with state/city chapters that DO raise these issues and loudly.
Po3 said…

"I served in Afghanistan. I was told to do XYZ and I did ABC."

I think they call that grounds for court-marshall, but whatever.

I have an idea for you Fed up: Charter schools! You may be right at home at a school where rules don't need to be followed. I hear there is one handing out gift cards if you enroll.
Maureen said…
I'd be interested to see those responses broken down by age of teacher. I expect that the teaching colleges increasingly push Common Core and early reading and that many new teachers don't have that much personal (as opposed to professional) experience with young children. My kids were fortunate enough to have "old" kindergarten teachers who truly believed that childhood is a journey, not a race. Over time, the teachers were put under increasing pressure by the admin staff to toe the line and up the academics (gotta say, I really liked that one VP, but he was wrong there--probably under pressure himself.) One teacher decamped for a school with a principal who was willing to shield the teachers from the pressure and the other one retired. Big loss for my kids' school.

I agree that much red shirting now is due to increased emphasis on sitting still and doing academic work in K. Unfortunately, there is also pressure, on poorer families especially, to get the kids into school as soon as possible to reduce child care costs. So in some schools you have a huge range--underprivileged young kids and privileged old kids in the same classroom. No wonder so many poor kids get labelled as ADHD and medicated (or suspended.)
Maureen, good thoughts.
Anonymous said…
It's not just poor kids getting medicated for ADHD. It's boys and it's in almost every young grade classroom in this district. The pressure is on teachers to cram academics but many many many boys developmentally are not able let alone willing to sit and cram for long stretches of time. The teachers lose their tempers and shame the boys and not subtly introduce the idea of an ADHD diagnosis. Then parents jump on the bus and claim their girls cannot learn because of "those boys". "Those boys" are no different from boys of previous generations. They are simply getting behavioral and academic expectations shoved down their throats when they are not capable of the sit down and shut up expectation of Raise the Standards Raise the Scores mentality that passes for education these days. Take away creative time in the classroom and take away physical activity and what is left for these boys? Then the boys tune out or shut down or act out. By middle school the state of the classroom is horrid and boy interactions with teachers and school subjects far too often are unproductive or worse destructive. Holding a boy back a grade does not help either. It simply makes for a bigger boy who is blamed more often for failures to study. We need a reset on how we are teaching in the classroom. It's a wonder half the populace of Seattle isn't homeschooling at this point. I know many moms of boys who wish they could do so but economically cannot. Today's kindergarten is the start of the steady decline of boys in school.

Owler said…
When a school is overcapacity, it's not given more space outside for playing. Even better, many Seattle schools lose space in some way. So where do you go for recess when every inch of the outdoor space is already scheduled? You get your students out for 15 minute recess before lunch and 15 minutes at lunch and be happy that for the little time you have. Hopefully the playground isn't taken over by portables; perhaps your school uses the parking lot for recess like my kiddo's school?
Anonymous said…
I saw this article today on the Greater Good site and thought it would add value to this discussion (and I wish she presented an opinion of what age and how to introduce APP curriculum so we don't crush little spirits):
"In short, an academically focused curriculum for preschoolers is highly uneducational. They don’t need scholastic skills; they need opportunities to be creative and productive and try new things, to grow self-regulation and communication skills, and even to develop a sense of humor. They need magic, and boredom, and room for their imagination, fantasies, and feelings."


Big hearts little minds

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