It seems that in this day and age, with what we know about education and learning, we would spend less time blaming people and programs and spend more of our time addressing the needs of children. After all, that is why we got into education isn’t it?
On February 6, 2015, Joanna Weiss wrote a piece in the Boston Globe http://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/2015/02/05/will-common-core-lead-joyless-kindergarten/VVkdXi00uKdSJkNRULhlTM/story.html referencing the work and research Nancy Carlsson-Paige, an early childhood education expert. The premise of the article written by Weiss and the research done by Carlsson Page focused on what they deemed would be a “joyless kindergarten” resulting from the implementation of the Common Core State Standards and increased pressures to have students read in Kindergarten, among other skills.
The reality is, that Common Core State Standards are not the root of Kindergarten becoming “joyless”, if that is in fact the case. In 1957, the launching of the Sputnik by the Russians let to complaints about early education in the United States to include both kindergarten and pre-kindergarten. As a result, there was increased infiltration of academic skills into kindergarten to help prepare students for later academic success.
Again, in 1983 with the publishing of A Nation at Risk, focus was also placed on academics in an effort to help prepare US students to compete with the intellectual capacity of the Japanese. Later, with the advent of Goals 2000, another push came to make sure that kindergarten students were prepared for academic success. This followed an increase in kindergarten enrollment in the early 1980’s as well.
How is it that after almost sixty years of increased accountability for kindergarten students, that people are now coming about to blame the Common Core State Standards for a “joyless” kindergarten experience?
In actuality, you could teach a kindergarten student physics if you taught it to them at their developmental level. Key words: Developmental Level. Teaching kindergarten students how to read does not need to be devoid of joy or fun. Skilled teachers should be able to differentiate learning experiences for all children coming in to kindergarten. For those students coming in knowing how to read, teachers should be able to provide them an experience commensurate with their skills, while those students coming in not knowing how to read should participate in activities that build their love of literacy, are enjoyable, and move them along from where they are at developmentally.
The changing times in kindergarten and education reform came into play a long time ago. Researchers need to stop blaming those responsible for the Common Core and start placing their focus on how to support teachers and school leaders in providing meaningful, developmentally appropriate teaching and learning experiences for our children. Common Core’s greatest strength, is that it should unify us educationally, and ensure that children come to us and leave us with a body of knowledge and experiences that prepares them for post-secondary learning and job opportunities.
For further thoughts about Common Core and Creativity and Engagement with students, here’s a piece I wrote almost 2 years ago addressing this.