The Disturbing Transformation of Kindergarten

nclbOne of the most distressing characteristics of education reformers is that they are hyper-focused on how students perform, but they ignore how students learn. Nowhere is this misplaced emphasis more apparent, and more damaging, than in kindergarten.

A new University of Virginia study found that kindergarten changed in disturbing ways from 1999-2006. There was a marked decline in exposure to social studies, science, music, art and physical education and an increased emphasis on reading instruction. Teachers reported spending as much time on reading as all other subjects combined.

The time spent in child-selected activity dropped by more than one-third. Direct instruction and testing increased. Moreover, more teachers reported holding all children to the same standard.

How can teachers hold all children to the same standards when they are not all the same? They learn differently, mature at different stages – they just are not all the same especially at the age of 4-6.

Is this drastic shift in kindergarten the result of a transformation in the way children learn? No! A 2011 nationwide study by the Gesell Institute for Child Development found that the ages at which children reach developmental milestones have not changed in 100 years.

For example, the average child cannot perceive an oblique line in a triangle until age 5 ½. This skill is a prerequisite to recognizing, understanding and writing certain letters. The key to understanding concepts such as subtraction and addition is “number conservation.” A child may be able to count five objects separately but not understand that together they make the number five. The average child does not conserve enough numbers to understand subtraction and addition until 5½ or 6.

If we teach reading, writing, subtraction and addition before children are ready, they might memorize these skills, but will they will not learn or understand them. And it will not help their achievement later on.

Illinois kindergartenChild development experts understand that children must learn what their brains are ready to absorb. Kindergarten is supposed to set the stage for learning academic content when they are older. If they are going to push our kindergarten children to move faster, what does that say for the push for “educating” Pre-K?

Play is essential in kindergarten – in fact in any child under the age of 5. Through play, children build literacy skills they need to be successful readers. By speaking to each other in socio-dramatic play, children use the language they heard adults read to them or say. This process enables children to find the meaning in those words.

There is a wide range of acceptable developmental levels in kindergarten; so a fluid classroom enables teachers to observe where each child is and adjust the curriculum accordingly.

Two major studies confirmed the value of play vs. teaching reading skills to young children. Both compared children who learned to read at 5 with those who learned at 7 and spent their early years in play-based activities. Those who read at 5 had no advantage. Those who learned to read later had better comprehension by age 11, because their early play experiences improved their language development.

Yet current educational policy banishes play in favor of direct instruction of inappropriate academic content and testing; practices that are ineffective for young children.

The No Child Left Behind Law played a major role in changing kindergarten. Upper-grade curricula were pushed down in a mistaken belief that by learning reading skills earlier, children would fare better on standardized tests. Subjects not tested by NCLB were de-emphasized. Lawmakers insisted that standardized tests assess reading at earlier ages, even though standardized tests are invalid for children under 8.

ccs I cantThese changes have the harshest effect on our most vulnerable children. The UVA study found that in schools with the highest percentage of children of color and children eligible for free-and-reduced-priced lunch, teachers had the most demanding expectations for student performance.

To make matters worse, the drafters of the Common Core ignored the research on child development. In 2010, 500 child development experts warned the drafters that the standards called for exactly the kind of damaging practices that inhibit learning: direct instruction, inappropriate academic content and testing.

These warnings went unheeded.

Consequently, the Common Core exacerbates the developmentally inappropriate practices on the rise since NCLB. Teachers report having to post the standards in the room before every scripted lesson, as if 5-year-olds can read or care what they say. They time children adding and subtracting, and train them to ask formulaic questions about an “author’s message.” All children are trained in the exact same skill at the same time. One teacher lamented that “there is no more time for play.” Another wrote “these so-called educational leaders have no idea how children learn.”

It may satisfy politicians to see children perform inappropriately difficult tasks like trained circus animals. However, if we want our youngest to actually learn, we will demand the return of developmentally appropriate kindergarten.

Wendy Lecker – she is a columnist for Hearst Connecticut Media Group and is senior attorney for the Campaign for Fiscal Equity project at the Education Law Center.

251 thoughts on “The Disturbing Transformation of Kindergarten

  1. Pingback: Challenging the Cold War Pedagogy of Common Core | Creative by Nature

  2. I’ve just skimmed over some of the comments here and have to put in my two cents’ worth. I’m a veteran home educating mom, my youngest graduated 2009. When I first started home educating in 1991, most people thought it was illegal. I took a LOT of flack from Christian friends. My parents were fully supportive. Home education has come a long, long way since then. There are several support groups in just about every county in the country. The law is more flexible in some states than others. Tennessee, where I live, has a very easy law, and Texas is a good place for home educators.

    If you are interested in teaching at home, be sure to make good use of the Home School Legal Defense Association website. (HSLDA) On the home page, you will see “You Can Homeschool” and a lot of links to information. One link says “Support Groups.” At that link, click your state to find a list of major organizations, click to a website there for information about your state’s law and other information. You can most likely find a link to local support groups with contact information for the leaders of those groups. Connect with the people in the trenches before you actually begin to home school! It helps tremendously to talk to people who are experienced.

    If you decide to teach your children at home, you definitely need to be a member of HSLDA. Too many people in authority hate us and will take any opportunity to take children away from parents who home school. A false accusation from a neighbor or vindictive relative, a child playing outside during school hours, etc.

    Best homeschool curriculum, in my opinion: Alpha Omega, ABeka, Saxon, Bob Jones, Christian Liberty Press, to name a few. We loved Switched On Schoolhouse for the upper grades. Google any of those to find their websites. Lots of opportunities out there for buying used materials, too.

    For more info. on Common Core, do a search for Donna Garner. You will find a link to her explanation of Type #1 education vs. Type #2 education here: You can click through to her blog there, and you can access the chart that compares Type 1 and Type 2 methods of education. When you study over the comparison chart, you will understand.

    Two other ladies at the forefront of the fight against Common Core are Karen Bracken and Alice Linahan. I get email from Karen and Donna. They both provide great information and action alerts. We all need to be as active as we can in the fight against this wretched system. I never put my children in school, and my grandchildren that come along some day may very well never enter public school, and that’s good for me and mine, but what about my neighbor’s children? My friend’s children? I want them to get a good education also, not just indoctrination. Sorry this is so long!

    • I agree with most of what you stated except supporting Michael Farris – his HSLDA) is really nothing more than an insurance policy for home schooling parents – he is in the lead as pushing for the Convention of States or ConCon with new constitutions waiting on the sidelines – and in his Parental Rights bill he has tried for years to become a part of our constitution he states parents get their rights from the government not God and by going through the Congress that is where he would be putting the authority over our children.

      I am friends with all the ladies you mention especially Karen Bracken and I can assure you she agrees with me on this one.

      We here in Florida are working with Dr. Pesta in setting up Home School Coalitions around the state. The parents in this state are sick and tired of our Jeb Bush Republican legislature refusing to let even one of our bills regarding Common Core come out of committee for the past 2 years.

      I have been at this a while having created friendships with Charlotte Iserbyt, Anita Hoge and many other long time education researchers. With people like Bill Bennett, Lamar Alexander, Marc Tucker and the Bush’s trying to take control of our babies from “womb to tomb” we have our work cut out for us in reaching the 25-40 age group of parents. Watch them slip the ESEA renewal of NCLB through the legislature in pieces.

      • You are quite wrong about Michael Farris and HSLDA. Parental rights are being taken away from many parents now, in this nation. The framers of our Constitution would never have imagined the current situation in America. He seeks an amendment so that parents can direct the upbringing and education of their children. As a former public school teacher I have seen that the current system seeks to indoctrinate students to believe political correctness and have secular humanistic religious views as opposed to a Christian faith. Going all the way back to Horace Mann the goal of public education was indoctrination and not education. American students test worse than students of other nations due to the methods we use and the goals of our system.

      • Well hopefully I can help you understand where I am coming from. Farris is trying to make Parental Rights part of the Constitution where the rights of parents are already explained rather well in the Declaration of Independence. In an article I wrote some months back, this is part of what I wrote about Mr. Farris and I also do not support him as he is one of the top individuals pushing for a Convention of States. Why in the world is anyone supporting a Con Con to give the legislators more amendments to go by when they refuse to follow the ones we already have including one that covers there being an approved budget every year? More laws ot amendments is not going to make them follow them.

        Michael Farris – He is referred to as a Constitutional Attorney (although this writer has found following KrisAnne Hall to be more truthful when it comes to constitutional law). He is the Executive Director of Parental; founder of the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) and Patrick Henry College. Home Schooler’s parents all over the country look to Farris almost as their protector and savior from the big bad wolves and I see him as a wolf. His total distortion in regards to the Parental Rights Act (PRA) is leading all parents down a path of parental rights destruction.

        The Declaration of Independence tells us our Rights come from God not the government; they are unalienable. The very purpose of the government is to SECURE those rights God gave to us and when the government seeks to take away our rights it is time to throw them out with the “bath water”. The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights enumerates 30 + rights and states they come from “man” (constitution or laws). Not God but Man! Wrong!

        Now to take a look at Michael Farris web site and see what he says about our Rights. If you take the time to go to the web site you will see that once again it is being stated parental rights are coming from the Constitution and not God – that they are fundamental rights not unalienable rights. So now from what I read on the PR website they state:

        Today the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) is approaching a possible ratification by the United States Senate. This treaty, as harmless as it may appear, is capable of attacking the very core of the child-parent relationship, removing parents from their central role in the growth and development of a child, and replacing them with the long arm of government supervision within the home.

        If as Mr. Farris wishes he succeeds in getting the Parental Rights amendment passed it will become part of the Constitution – no longer overseen by the Declaration of Independence and as such especially if the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Child is passed and the parental control will be taken over by the UN.

        Do Mr. Farris’ supports realize what kind of hornets nest they are opening?

        I will take Mr. Farris’ own words and turn them back on him. Yes the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child is a very dangerous document and must never be agreed to by the United States; however, Mr. Farris uses that as an example to his followers as the very reason to support his PRA when they are no different. I wonder if some of the very religious Home School families realize this.

        Now Mr. Farris, for unclear reasons, has decided we should put our entire Constitution on the line in aiding those who wish to firm up our country as a Democracy or even worse Tyranny by government.

        From Publius Hildah: (when it comes to the Constitution – no one smarter) Parental Rights: God-given and Unalienable? Or Government-granted and Revocable? 7/2-/13) Farris uses Supreme Court Justice Scalia’s Dissent in Troxel v. Granville (2000) using this to support his own theory that unless a right is enumerated in the federal Constitution, judges can’t enforce it, and the right can’t be protected. Scalia stated in part: parental rights are “unalienable and come from God and are from the 9th Amendment; the Declaration of Independence does NOT delegate power to the federal courts – only the federal constitution; It is for State Legislators and candidates for that office to argue that the State has no power to interfere with parents’ God-given authority over the rearing of their children, and to act accordingly. [The People need to elect State Legislators who understand that the State may not properly infringe God given parental rights]; the federal Constitution does not authorize judges to come up with their own lists of what “rights” people have; and the federal Constitution does not mention “parental rights” so the federal courts have no “judicial power” over these types of cases.

        In his closing, Scalia warned against turning family law over to the federal government:
        “…If we embrace this un-enumerated right … we will be ushering in a new regime of judicially prescribed, and federally prescribed, family law. I have no reason to believe that federal judges will be better at this than state legislatures; and state legislatures have the great advantages of doing harm in a more circumscribed area, of being able to correct their mistakes in a flash, and of being removable by the people.”

        Parental Rights are a state issue so again, maybe Mr. Farris should go back to law school. When he says: “4. The Parental Rights Amendment does not give the Judiciary legislative power but constrains the judiciary’s exercise of its existing power” his words are false. The PRA expressly delegates power to the federal and state governments to infringe on God-given parental rights.

      • I am with you on Farris. He speaks out of both sides of his mouth. He makes a ton of cash off the dues of people who think they need someone to stand in the gap for them. He supported Cruz’s S306 that those of us who’ve been researching this whole mess know is a disaster when federal money follows the child. Just look at the the way Obama is contorting Title lV to shove the transgender issue into our schools. Home schoolers have been duped to believe they need a middle man – just like teachers believe they need unions. That’s sad.

    • Thank you for sharing. I’m from Malaysia and homeschooling is slowly sprouting in this country even though our gov doesn’t recognise it. Your comment is truly encouraging as we have closed ones who do not support our decision to homeschool our children. Thank you for inspiring. 😀

      • Good luck on trying to bring Home Schooling to your country, however we are watchful here in America as the home schools are the only ones they have been leaving alone and where they don’t have much control. We are watchful for the axe to fall.

  3. I teach FOUR and five year old Kindergarten and it’s disgusting what they are expected to do. K5 is not allowed to have free play and K4 can only have so much. We do have “leveled and differentiated personalized learning goals,” however it’s expected the kids are meeting the standard benchmarks by the end of the year. How is that “personalized?” My eldest student was six in October and is the least mature out of my 19 and is nowhere near ready to read, write or do math. We will do small group instruction together, she’ll get it, but then when it’s time for independent practice, she’ll break down and cry. She doesn’t want to do it without the teacher right next to her! Meanwhile I have K4 kiddos that are reading at a Level B and performing at a first grade level on an app called LEXIA Core5.

    To make matters worse, I came up with an awesome writing project! I read “The Grouchy Ladybug” to the kids and we talked about when they feel grouchy. They wrote their responses down and then they made a ladybug body and I took their picture of them being “Grouchy.” Totally cute right? Totally kindergarten right? HAHA WRONG! My fellow co workers said that was a K4 activity not a K5 activity…because of the art!!!! (Mind you my kids wrote I feel grouchy when I…by themselves…mostly) But guess what…this was their favorite activity from last week! They are still talking about it!!!!

    The standards don’t bother me, it’s the way we have to teach them and the timeline we are under. Analyze and discuss assessments and reflections…THEY ARE SIX YEARS OLD!! Subtract and add fluently up to 5? If you pound it in their brains every day! Wow. Read at a level D by the end of K5? Haha, my 6 year old crier will not be reading at a level D by May…clearly. But I’m happy she’s at a B, that’s a long way from knowing 3 letters back in September!

    Sometimes I go…WTH!?!?!?! These kids are 4-6 years old!


    • Emily, I do pray for today’s teachers who are actually whistleblowers on what is really happening in the classrooms.

      Here in FL we are working at putting together a Home School Coalition called the Red, White and Blue Schoolhouse using home school curriculum and we are looking to recruit the teachers who have quit teaching because of the CC.

      Good luck and you are doing what is right and this is from a parent.

      • I am a k teacher in MO. I am so burnt out from the ridiculous expectations of common core. I have no life outside of school due to the exhausting demands for the teachers to churn out proficient or advanced kids by the end of the
        School year. When I started teaching kindergarten in 1995, it was the first year our school district adopted a full day for k-kids and people were horrified at that change. We even had “rest time” for 30 minutes every day which is unheard of in today’s world of kindergarten. We had a full hour devoted to free play or “choice time” which I now only am allowed 25 minutes a day and I have to fight to keep that in my schedule. Other newer k-teachers have given into the pressure to eliminate free play all together. I will walk into a k-room of one of these teachers and it looks no different than the first or second grade classes. Gone are the cute little wooden kitchen furniture sets, bluilding blocks area, science exploreation table, art area, and puppet/ imagination stations, just to mention a few…. I love
        Job but I’m so disenchanted with what it has become. I’m seriously thinking of taking early retirement in two years even though that would mean a deduction of benefits. I just don’t think I can do this for 7
        My more years knowing what kindergarten use to be
        Like and what has become. Our school adopted a new computer program called i-ready that our administration thinks is the answer to all assessments and academic achievement. I have a real issue with that philosophy because of the diagnostic test results of my kids. I have a boy who is reading at a level J and yet, his scores say he is only in the “mid-k” range and might not meet the end of the year goals!!! What?? The kid is brilliant! Probably gifted, but our school won’t even consider testing kids for gifted services until they complete kindergarten. If he is
        “Mid-k” then all the rest of the kids don’t have a chance to meet expectations! I could go on and on about all the inappropriate developmental practices going on in my school but at least I still get to have “choice time” when other schools don’t even have that option. How do I join your team of teachers when I retire in two years? Ready for a change!

    • Could not agree with you more Emily. I have five children ages 13-6 and I’ve had to endure these mind blowing challenges that our children are being put through at such an early age. I’m just blown away by some of the assignments these children are forced to do. I can remember when not too long ago (probably late eighties, early nineties) the best selling “Everything I needed to know I learned in kindergarten” book was the talk of the day for all the social, engaging, and virtuous character building positive elements that a kindergarten education used to instill. Sadly, that wise advice has been thrown out the window to the detriment of our children.

      • I am right there with you Sandra. These articles help me at least feel like I’m not the only one and to keep fighting for the kids. I never thought I’d think early retirement either, but I am because if it keeps getting worse I will not be able to do what they tell me to……it goes against everything I know and believe.

    • I agree with a lot of this. I, too, teach kindergarten. Our end-of-year district benchmark for “proficiency” is a Level E! crazy!

    • I am a retired teacher myself. I must say that I agree with you wholeheartedly! Children are not ready to learn the way they are being taught, these days. They are not little machines or robots. They all learn at different rtes and in different ways. I know that the teachers are sad and are frustrated with all of the expectations that they have to deal with, I recall actually individualizimg homework for my students…because they all were functioning at different levels. I didn’t want them to be frustrated while doing the homework and so I chose to individualize the assignments. Many parents were not able to help their children because of language barriers or because of the fact that they worked long hours. I never wanted to allow a child to feel unsuccessful….ever. I always wanted each child to have a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. It was a lot of work…I hardly took time for lunch and never left my classroom during a perpetration period. But I was able to teach individually! I don’t think that the teachers of today have the time or the freedom to do that. Hopefully things will return to the way they were.

    • I feel Grouchy when I force 4 and 5 year olds to do developmentally inappropriate activities in the name of test scores!

    • I don’t know you, but I love teachers like you who are thinking “WTH” like the rest of us. I pulled my daughter from public school for a number of reasons, but one was the way she was treated for not being a genius in every field. She is VERY smart, but the pressure they put on her and the others to test well shut her down immediately. The teachers weren’t warm, they didn’t encourage her when she was afraid she’d mess up, instead they fussed at her in the classroom because she didn’t answer fast enough. I knew she knew the answers, but she would tell them “I don’t know”.

      I remember getting a letter that was nothing but the teacher fussing about what my child couldn’t do. Not a single positive word about her. My daughter was crying because she thought I would be mad because the teacher told her I would be. I cried with her and told her all the wonderful things about her. I told her about brilliant people who didn’t speak until they were four, or couldn’t read or write until they were older. I told her how being the smartest person in class is not what’s important. What’s important is being a good person. Being thoughtful, respectful, kind, caring, generous, hilarious, being who you are and being okay with it, that’s what’s important. Her school put so much emphasis on test scores and competitions, and not enough on teaching them to be good people. My daughter had to go to the ER/Dr a few times due to injuries caused by the same child and nothing was done about it.

      She’s in kindergarten, and she was coming home telling me she was the dumb kid in class, that she was the only one who knew nothing. I know she heard this from her teachers because they said it to my face and sent it in letters. When I made a complaint to the principal he was more concerned over whether I paid tuition or if I was in their school zone and she went for free. There was more concerns over her test scores and how it would hurt the school than there was over her actually learning something.

      I pulled her and when I had her placement tests done she’s in a 2nd grade math level, 3rd and 4th grade on reading comprehension and language, science and social studies are 1st and 2nd grade as well. And she is fantastic at painting and drawing. Her confidence is back to what it was before she started school there and she’s reading on her own! She has literally picked up books and just started reading with no help, before homeschool, she wouldn’t even attempt because “If I mess up my teachers will be angry with me”. It’s been an amazing change!

      My cousin pulled her son just before I pulled my daughter because the school punished him for wiggling in class. Nevermind the fact that he only gets to play 10 minutes a day at school, he should be able to sit perfectly still like a statue and work like a little robot. 😦 He has done amazingly well too! Now I have all sorts of friends asking me how to get started with homeschooling because they are pulling their kids too. These are not ignorant people. These are very intelligent people that are seeing the damage that is being done to our children and they are not happy.

      I was not sure I would have any support from my ex or his side of the family before I pulled her. Her father was a Latin teacher, and now he teaches engineering and robotics, her aunt is a special education teacher and several of her cousins are either retired teachers or they are currently professors. I honestly feared they would all hate my choice to pull her from public school, but I’ve had nothing but support because they see and hate the changes they see as well. It’s been terrifying for me, I am not very smart, but I feel like with all these brilliant people rooting us on, I have a village that can help me give her the best education we can. 🙂

      Anyways, thank you for being one of the teachers that’s trying to make a positive difference in the lives of our kids. It means the world to them!

      • Always remember our children are NOT Common no matter what the United Nations, UNESCO or anyone else tries to support. They are individual’s who learn at different paces and for heaven sakes why would we want everyone to be the same?

    • I so understand your frustration. I have been in the education field in some form or manner for 40 years. I currently tutor 1st and 2nd graders in an after school program. I am appauled at some of the work they are expected to do. i also hate what they are expecting from the kindergartners. I also teach preschool and each one varies from place to place but the single most important thing at preschool age is socialization. I feel pressured to make sure they know certain things before K so they will not be behind. This has been only on since mid 90’s/

    • Exactly. Truth coming from an actual teacher who actually shepherds kindergarteners through early learning. The truth is that children are far apart in learning readiness even in fifth and sixth grades (observation from a real sixth grade teacher teaching real children

  4. I remember kindergarten. The goals for us were to know how to tie our shoes, know our full name and address and to learn as much of the alphabet as we could. The letters were in a big circle on the floor and we each would take our turn and as we recognized and could say a letter we then moved on to the next. In this way, we all learned at our own pace and eventually all reached the assigned goals. I learned the ABC’s so fast the my teacher had me going backwards. To this day, I can recite the alphabet backwards as quickly as most people can forwards. It is no wonder that there is so much suicide, depression and drug and alcohol use today. We are so worried about “competing” with the rest of the world that we are killing our children. I think that it is time to take a GIANT step backwards where early education is concerned and let K be what it was meant to be, a time to learn to socialize with other children and learn how to learn.

    • I so agree with you! The Pre-K and K years are to learn so many basics they will use their whole life and most of it is through play and learning how to get along with others. Sharing, coordination – things so important and their Psych is not ready for computers or sitting at a computer all day. This is all about getting our children at a very early age for indoctrination.

    • Agreed! These children will be burned out by second grade. Give the joy of educating children back to the teachers who really understand them and know the meaning of what is “age and developmentally ” appropriate for early childhood learners!

    • but….where I teach, it’s difficult to have the students learn their phone number and address because it changes several times a school year….there are many more examples I can give of how the Common Core is not the challenge in the schools, but the lack of accountability of the PARENTS……..brief discussion, but there are many problems in the school besides the push down of curriculum….

      • Sorry, I cannot lay all the blame on the parents. It is the government of which has put this country in the position it is in – no morals, respect, sent our jobs overseas through NAFTA thank you Heritage Foundation. All of what is being put in place today was in the 1934 Carnegie Report and they have taken their time in doing it piece by piece, so most parents never noticed what was happening. I suggest you go on line and read this publication by Marc Tucker and his cronies – you know, the same Marc Tucker who wrote the Hillary letter laying out the school-to-work format and the education you are seeing today. Go to the bottom of page 8 but make sure you have a bucket handy for when you get sick – written in 2007 just when the CCSSO, NGA and Achieve were bribing our state governors -this is the plan, this is in the works and cannot be denied.

      • I have struggled with this piece of the common core for the same reasons you have listed. The way I see it – when the child is in my care at school – they are safe – very little chance of getting lost from my classroom to the playground & back. The place they will be less safe is at play in their neighborhoods or out shopping with parents, etc. It is then that they may get separated from parents and will need to know their address, phone, etc. It is the parent’s job to fingerprint, take pictures, ensure safety while not at school. it is my job to facilitate learning, teach social and problem solving skills.

        The way I handle the expectation on this one is, I send home a blank form for the parent to fill in the phone and address they want the child to memorize and work on it at home, one on one with Mom or Dad. When they can come back to me able to recite it w/o help – they earn a full size candy bar or other nice prize for having completed this piece of “homework”. It is impossible to work with every child to learn their personal info in any kind of meaningful way. Chances are, the phone # Mom listed at the beginning of the year has already changed by now.

    • I was just thinking the same about the socialization. All the discipline problems, bullying, etc are possible due to the lack of social learning in K. They don’t make friends like we used to, they are always trying to buck the rules when no one is looking. inappropriate hitting and touching is rampant in middle school, worse than ES. Kids have no confidence or skills even in College. Can’t read, write or analyze. Are afraid to. Want to memorize, if they can. We are leaving many more behind than before.

  5. What is disturbing, is the author’s misguided blame on teachers…The author is very misinformed here. Teachers are told what curriculum to teach, how often to test, and what objectives are expected to be met. If you want to go after those insisting on this transformation of the classroom, have issue with the political entities that have forced this upon schools.

    • I agree!! Our education system is broken not because of Teachers, but because of Government involvement, Unions, Political Correctness, and it’s only going to get worse with Common Core!

      • TY! Unfortunately it is already worse and the plans our government has for a children is a Cuban type workforce, teachers under the control of the government and 9 hour class days with their hands on our children from birth to infinity

  6. I may not be the majority, but many of us teachers feel that the most damaging education reform is not NCLB, but it is Race to the Top Grant by the Obama administration. By dangling the money in front of public education during the time they needed it the most, it drove many States to almost insanity and conjured up unsound reforms by legislators rather than educators. The teacher evaluation process is a big part in pushing down these new standards and practices because the districts have to find a uniform way to evaluate teachers, no matter what and who they are teaching. So, if testing score is part of the high school teachers evaluation, it has to be part of the kindergarten teacher, the P.E. Teacher, the speech pathologist, the special education teacher….but one size does not, and cannot fit all in education!

    • I agree with you to a point and tricky congress said in the last budget approval no more money for RTTT – but then they turned right around and allowed Duncan to create another RTTT type grant process for funding for PRE-K; they just have to have their slimy fingers on our children.

  7. This makes me so sad! I began teaching with a masters’ in early childhood education in 1975. I taught Kindergarten for five years in a state/system where it was a new experience. Later, after having taught older students, I was back with three, then four, then five year olds ( eligible for K but no yet ready for the pushy program it had developed into by then, around 1999.) Children have always learned through play! They will always learn BEST through play. WHEN will non-educators listen and stop setting standards for our kids that are not appropriate? I grieve for what has been lost in childhood – educationally, physically, and emotionally, and am worried SICK for my grandchildren and all their peers, as well as for the educators who know what is right but aren’t allowed to do what is right! No other profession is dictated to about how to use their knowledge to serve their clientele.

    • I’m a doctor, we are absolutely dictated by government, insurance companies and administrators about how to treat patients. Nevermind the 12 yrs of extra training we obtain in order to make sound medical decisions with our patients. I’m now told by insurance policies and administrators with no medical licenses, what care should be adequate for patients in a one-size-fits-all sort of way. It’s all about the money, whoever has the most, wins. Sad state of affairs when medicine and education are ruled not by the actual people with the education to make beneficial decisions, but by big government and large corporations trying to make more money.

      • This makes me sad because I know it’s true. I’ve almost died with my appendix because doctor’s hands were tied. Currently, I am praying I don’t suddenly pass away, leaving behind a small child. I’m supposed to have pre-cancerous cells removed every 3 months, but I haven’t been able to afford it in over 3yrs. I need a hysterectomy, but every doctor I’ve seen is unable to help because they are limited on what they are actually allowed to do. (The only reason given by each doctor I’ve seen was “Your husband might want more babies.” I can’t live a healthy, long life without this mess because some idiot wants me to make more babies so he makes more money. Good to know I am nothing more than a baby factory and my health doesn’t matter to those who control the medical world.)

        So, I wait. I pray I live long enough to raise my young daughter, but I fear I won’t. That’s the reality of our “great” country. 😦 We have people dying because the people who could help are legally bound from doing so. My heart goes out to doctors that know they can help people and save lives, but are not allowed to do so. To me, that would be torture. 😦

  8. I keep reading articles like this, but no one ever mentions how detrimental it might be to children with special needs to be put under educational stress when they are probably even less ready for them than typical children, yet we insist on pushing kids with special needs harder and harder, younger and younger. The thinking is that you have to catch them early, but maybe that is more wishful thinking than actual outcome. I don’t know. Any studies on that subject? Early special ed is big business, so maybe the profession doesn’t want to know what the truth is, or maybe they already know, and they are right to get an extra early start. Does anyone else ever think about this issue?

    • I couldn’t agree with you more. I would like to see more writings on tht subject by those in the know about it – I am not!

  9. As a retired teacher of early childhood for over 25 years, I could not agree more with your article. When I first began teaching teaching, we followed developmental appropriate practices for our students. As time went on, more and more was demanded from these kids. When I retired, they expected Pre-K students to know all their letter sounds and 1-1 correspondence for numbers 1-10, which means that they didn’t just have to recognize the number, but understand that 5 manipulatives stood for the numeral 5. Some of these kids could do this, as we all develop at different rates. It doesn’t mean that the child who understands the concept is any smarter than the one who doesn’t. It simply means that one of them was developmentally ready and the other was not. We were expected to drill these kids daily. I always had centers that had educational materials in them, but they “played” with these and learned. People who are not educators do not realize the value of play in early childhood. They walk into your room and think, well all these kids are doing is playing. Yes, they played and they learned. I never pushed a child that was obviously not developmentally ready to learn a skill. I could tell by their level of frustration. I felt it was more important for the child to have a good experience at school and want to come back than have a child that was just a young child frustrated and already hating school. I will say, that the longer I taught, the more I wondered how any of them ever learned anything! Some slick salesman comes along selling books for curriculum and the school spends a ton of money on them, but then, before they even had a chance to learn from it, another slick salesman would come along and they’d spend a ton of money on something else. This was such a waste of money and teachers had to learn to teach it and then they changed it! I loved teaching, but glad that I’m now retired. I have grandchildren in school now and am grateful that they are in a very conservative school district. It is the ONLY district that I have ever observed that had a true gifted and talented school. The gifted kids in this district get as much attention and specialized learning as the kids that are in special ed. (I’m sure that’s probably not the appropriate term these days, but that is what it was called when I retired). We are also blessed to live in Texas where Common Core was not adopted. I believe the way that you do, that Common Core is way out of line when it comes to our beliefs in this country. I will even go further and say that it is evil. We can’t mention God, but social studies lessons include the “Five Pillars of Islam”. Now, why is that being taught in a Christian country? My take is that it is evil and if we can’t teach about God, why are they teaching about a “religion” that has nothing to do with our beliefs? Charter schools are a sham and many people are not equipped to home school their children. Teachers should not have to teach kids how to behave….that’s their parents job. I was widowed at a young age with a young child. I worked and still managed to raise a child that obeyed adults, behaved properly in school and had good manners. I’m so glad to see this article, because it brings the fact of developmentally appropriate practices back into the realm of early childhood.

    • The very sad part, and I am one of those mother’s when raising my children I spent a great deal of time with them, saying words, right, colors, shapes, etc., but what we couldn’t see was what was in the background – the evil men and women of this and other countries laying the groundwork for the demise of America and using our children to get there.

      Now they feel the process has been too slow and the federal government has gone to another step to get control of our children by funding free Pre-K to get their slimy hands on our children sooner. Not sure what the future brings, but it doesn’t seem to have much sunshine. TY for your response!

    • While I am trying my best to be respectful, you are misinformed. Common Core does not address social studies–only ELA and math. It has NOTHING to do with teaching religion. I will keep my personal beliefs away from presenting you that fact so you can have a more factually sound argument.

      • You are mis-informed as schools are using GAIA which is a sacreligious form of a cult. Social Studies is included within the other teaching. Nothing in education today is as we knew it. You might want to try doing your own research and sit in your child’s classroom WITHOUT prior knowledge to find out what is really happening to our children!

    • I totally agree with this post. I live in Texas and teach Pre-K. I am fortunate to work at a school where play is still encouraged. The children discover so much and means so much when they discover it at their own pace.

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  11. Unfortunately, I think the article leaves off at the wrong point…that teachers and classrooms need to go back to play-based, developmentally-appropriate learning. NCLB and CC were both reactions to a “perceived” failure of schools to educate American children, when in fact there is a failure of parents and primary care-givers to educate their children from birth-age 5. Early childhood education, play-based learning, language exposure and development has to happen at home, years before a child goes to school. No classroom, whether its play-based, CC-driven, or NCLB-tested, is going to be able to consistently compensate for American parents’ neglect for their children’s early childhood education at home.

  12. ABOLISH Corporal Pain Punishment/Hitting of Children in America’s PUBLIC SCHOOLS, Cost $0. legal in 19 states today, often against parents’ wishes resulting in severe injuries and trauma with no safety standards and no legal remedy due to “Teacher Immunity laws” Unconstitutionally Denying Remedies Essential to 1977 U.S. Supreme Court Ruling Ingrahma V Wright. See 2008 Report “A Violent Education” by ACLU and Human Rights Watch for disturbing facts including photos of actual shaved baseball bats used by educators and school administrators to hit children k-12 in America’s taxpayer funded PUBLIC SCHOOLS

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  14. As a school counselor in NY, I am completely saddened by what is happening in education. Anxiety in students is so much more prevalent than I’ve seen in my 15 years of working in public education. The opportunity is almost non-existent for professional Master’s Level teachers to be creative and make learning fun when they are being scrutinized for their student’s scores on an unfair assessment. Instead of realizing that teachers are only a part of the formula, with parents involvement and support evidenced by student’s attendance and student’s level of respect for education- including caring about how they perform, poverty level, exposure to culture outside of school and so many other factors. Thinking about my own childhood and about how others had more or less supportive circumstances, not to mention innate ability, how could we reasonably expect every child to meet the same criteria. It really is ludicrous. We are frequently compared to China and Finland. I haven’t been there, but according to what I’ve read, In China, the anxiety and suicide rates are even more prevalent than in the U.S. Children are shamed if they don’t do well- not everyone wins an award for effort like they do here- it is much more competitive. If a student is absent, the parent will often go to school to take notes for their child. In Finland, student’s don’t start school until age 7. Play is encouraged, homework is not and teachers are treated with the same respect as doctors. They are celebrated, not lambasted. There is one, yes ONE, standardized assessment in Finland and not everyone is expected to go to college. To the people in charge…politicians: If you must, roll out common core, but make it a 12 year process instead of trying to change everything overnight and don’t test our kids until they are comfortable- about 5 years in. Don’t demoralize teachers- they are the caretakers of our future generation- celebrate all of the amazing things I have been llucky to be a part of for 15 years. Finally, realize that a teacher’s most important role is to teach a child to love learning so that the child will consider becoming a life-long learner and pursue higher education. Relish in and encourage a teacher’s creativity rather than judging him/her on their student’s test scores without considering such pertinent factors as parental involvement and support, availability of nutrition, attendance, motivation of student to do well, discipline history and of course, innate ability.

    • Thank you too. Some of these comments are way off the mark. I appreciate how you commented and agree with you. Thanks for sharing.

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  18. As a retired kdg teacher, second career day care for teacher’s kids and 3rd career as ELL teacher for young children, all this makes me SAD. Over 60 years with kids so I have been there and seen it all. And I don’t feel I can share this ariticle with teachers, that I know that are teaching Kdg. now, as they have been forced to buy into the new system which is totally child development inappropriate. A perfect example ” give up 10 minute outside afternoon recess or 10 minute free play, can’t have both.:.

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  20. I totally agree. Today we are abusing primary school kids in a organised manner and killing their natural enthusiasm in the name of education. Playtime has been reduced to almost zero in the name of long hours. Its time we return children their right to childhood

  21. Pingback: Are Kindergarten Aged Kids Being Pushed to Learn More and Play Less, Too Soon? - Life At Thirtysomething

  22. I find it harder and harder to repeat myself when I bump into tales like this.

    I sort of cringe myself into almost-anger because what we all see before us is so macabre and so twisted. And it reappears week after week after week.

    In this case, which is hardly unique, a child’s first several moments in school … her first actual memories perhaps! … are of evaluations, testing, and assessments. This sounds awfully army-ish to me … and not very school-ish at all.

    But the essential question … the one that should be asked first … is very simple: Who thinks this is a good idea? Who thinks 60 month-old children should be queued up like draft inductees and then sized up like petite soldiers on their way to the proving ground of the classroom?

    Will these experts step forward and explain themselves to all of us who seem to think that such stuff is abusive and asinine and beyond reasonable? And do it all in human terms … in words we understand. And we’ll talk likewise.

    Where are they? I seldom hear their voices. And if I do, I rush to their credentials, and guess what? I am almost always presented with the same disturbing information … that these new Know-It-Alls have zero classroom experience beyond visitor status.

    But somehow, some way … through this warped reform … these classroom allergic gurus hold sway over a generation of new learners … that would be YOUR children … proposing logic-defying curriculum alterations and procedures that every classroom teacher knows to be worthless … and even damaging.

    And still it goes on and on and on. In fact, it gets worse … because these new Socrates of education are ever more emboldened, and to cement their early assertions, they rummage their own empty heads for more educational absurdity which spews out at volcanic speed. And there are always some political schlubs right there to crown these dopes as the new geniuses of education … and then give them warping power beyond belief.

    Can you see why I cringe? Why so many of you cringe? Here you are … in the moment of one of life’s great moments … your child’s first day of school. The camera is charged, they clothes are extra-neat, the essential paraphernalia is stylishly arrayed from lunch box to pencil case … and you now realize you are escorting your youngster … that child you love more than life … to boot camp. So, we all cringe some more. And lots of you probably cry, too.

    I would cry. A lot. And I am not given to that sort of soft stuff. But I know how my children were once stitched to my heart and my soul when they were tiny human beings … and it doesn’t take great effort to recapture that moment in time.

    All cringing aside … when do we stop begging and imploring educational officials and politicians to STOP! To treat our children like … like children?

    When do they hear us rather than the goofy gurus? When do they realize that we’re not so goddamned consumed with data and test scores and rankings and such? That we’re more concerned with smiles and joy and refrigerator art?

    When does that happen? When do we all get our balance back? And when does childhood make a comeback.

    I can’t believe I typed that last sentence. I’m cringing again.

    Denis Ian​

    • Darn good question Mike. We got lazy and convinced we didn’t need to watch “big government” as it got bigger. The worst part is the NWO guys and gals have been planning the ruination of America through our children since before 1934. One thing about communists, they have a great deal of patience as long as they see their objective in the future will be completed. Even the one most Americans bless, Reagan, signed the huge Education bill with Russsia after being warned he was being used by his very own cabinet. We have been too trusting.

  23. I was asked the question at a teaching job interview yesterday. “How do you assess whether the children have made progress during your lesson?” It is such a common question and yet it is so meaningless and damaging. As a maths teacher i could easily gear my lesson up to show that at the beginning they could not do something but at the end they could. This does not mean any learning has taken place. The trick they have learnt may be forgotten tomorrow.
    On the other hand I may run a lesson where no obvious progress has taken place. Lots of questions have been asked and ideas tried out but no one has learnt a trick. In the long term this is the lesson where learning took place, they developed their understanding which led them to develop the skill in their own way. But no observable progress was made in that small episode.
    Sometimes I have no idea if progress is being made. I know i have engagement, I can see some passion, I can hear enquiry and interest. If you want to experience a country and learn about it you don’t drive as fast as you can up the motorway from one end to the other, you branch off, you dawdle you explore, you retrace your steps, you notice things and enquire about them.
    Does it make any sense to drive children as fast as you can from one end of education to the other? It might be a tidy and efficient way of organising childhood but it sure as hell damages them on the way.
    get the politicians out of education and give children back their childhood.

    • Teachers such as you John should be prayed for every night by parents. I know so many teachers, good teachers who just couldn’t hang in there any more. Parents out there believe Charter schools are the answer yet it is Charter schools which are failing and being used to remove parental control. Now the Community schools are even named and legislation in place through the ESSA. May they all rot in hell!

  24. I completely agree with this article. I would like to read more of the UVA study. Do you have a citation for it and who is the author? I was surprised that the citation was not at the end of the article.

  25. I totally agree….I taught elementary for 16 years. One day, the Kindergarten teacher in my school taught me a VERY valuable lesson. She put five stones in a bag…asked, “How many rocks?”, they all enthusiastically answered, “FIVE!”…she shook the box…then asked to same question…”‘Fourteen!!…Eight!!!…Thirty-two!!!”…at that age, physically (as in brain connections)…they just CAN’T comprehend, It’s PHYSICALLY impossible. Force them to do it…you’re harming them…and I’ve taught 8th grade students in 10 grade geometry with great success…so I get Maslow’s and all those ‘development issues’…

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  29. An impressive share! I have just forwarded this onto a colleague who had been conducting a little research on this.
    And he actually bought me breakfast simply because I found it for him…

    lol. So allow me to reword this…. Thank YOU for the meal!!
    But yeah, thanx for spending time to discuss this subject
    here on your blog.

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  34. PALS testing three times a year is putting a lot on the plate of kindergarten teachers and students. This is a UVA-created test. I always hated the time it took to administer– it took away at least three days from everything more important, more often than not with no para in the classroom–not to mention make-up tests with deadlines looming and test scores to record…..

  35. Pingback: The Disturbing Transformation of Kindergarten – Essence of Child Caring

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