Did anyone else catch Matt Lauer's interview with an elementary principal in Boston? It was part of NBCs Education Nation series that coincides with the two day education summit being held in Washington.
In the video, Lauer visits a school that was formerly one of the lowest scoring schools in the state, and is now one of the highest scoring schools in the state. The principal of the school links the improvement in test scores to a new program, Kindergarten One. K1 is a pre-kindergarten program for four year olds. The difference between kindergarten one and nursery school is that the teacher must have their masters. In the story, statistics to support kindergarten one are given, yet the studies used to generate these statistics are not named. Students who attend pre-kindergarten programs are 35 percent less likely to be held back in kindergarten, pass the literacy test (not sure which literacy test?) at 24 percent higher rate and were 30 percent less likely to repeat a grade later.
At the beginning of the video, Lauer says, "Curriculum, assessment, academic achievement, these are no longer foreign words to a kindergartner, it's the standard." I have to admit, the lead to the story definitely caught my attention. In the interview, the principal says they are "fully immersing four year olds in a school day" so they can learn the rituals and routines of being a learner. She assures the public that they are fully immersing the children in "fun". Really?? I don't think being bombarded with things like curriculum, assessment, and academic achievement is always just "fun".
To prove that the school is using developmentally appropriate aspects of play, clips are shown of the students playing with play dough and coloring with markers. Umm, couldn't I just fully immerse my preschooler in fun play with play dough and markers at home? Nope. According to this school, a teacher with a Masters must be leading these fun activities. Now, I'm not knocking preschool teachers or preschool teachers with a masters. I am a mommy with a masters in education. Yet, my husband, who has degrees in psychology and computer technology, is much more successful in guiding my child's learning through play, even minus the masters degree! I can think of many more examples of people who do not have a master's degree yet are efficient in teaching their own children through play and developmentally appropriate experiences. Some of these are parents who stay home all day and engage with their children and some are parents who send their kids to childcare during the day and still have available time to engage their child in play and learning.
Another thing that I noticed was that the deciding factor of the success of kindergarten one was student's achievement on standardized tests later in their educational career. Can I say that the fact that now EVERYTHING, including early childhood, is now about gearing up for "the test" is enough to make me want to vomit??? Before you know it, we'll be measuring a child's ability to play constructively with play dough while using all levels of higher level thinking strategies!
I understand that this issue is multi-layered. I don’t think such programs are bad. They are a good substitute for what is best. In my opinion, what is best are parents engaging with their children in play which will naturally lead to learning.
I understand there are single parent homes where a parent has to work 3 jobs to keep food on the table and do not have any available time to spend with their children. That is not what’s best for those parents or children. And I do believe that those parents need people (and sometimes programs) to reach out and help them—if helping them provide early learning to their child is a benefit, then let it be available to those who need it.
I am an advocate of early childhood intervention. Yet many of the interventions that are currently in place are under-funded and under-staffed. Now we are going to add more programs instead of stabilizing the programs that are already in place? It just doesn’t add up for me.
I don’t understand why we are doing more of what doesn’t work. The same people who tell us our schools are broken are telling us, let’s put them in school for longer periods of time each day, for more days each year, and now for more years of their life.
Here's the video. Check it out and let me know,
What do you think about children starting formal schooling at age four instead of age five?
Full Disclosure Statement: I may have gotten a lump in my throat and teared up a bit when I watched other people drop their four year olds off at kindergarten. Maybe I'm just an overprotective momma who is not ready to send her child off to school in only 2 years! (BTW, I'm not letting Logan watch this. He's totally ready for school. He found a backpack in the basement, put it on, and said, "Bye mom. I'm going to school!!")