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Topic: The New First Grade: Kindergarten
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Jerry P. Becker

Posts: 16,576
Registered: 12/3/04
The New First Grade: Kindergarten
Posted: Dec 20, 2013 5:51 PM
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From THE QUICK & THE ED, Tuesday, December 17, 2013. See
The New First Grade: Kindergarten

By Jill Walston and Kristin Flanagan

Remember kindergarten? Remember the sand table where you poured and
measured? The dress-up corner where you pretended to be a "community
helper?" The science center where you explored with magnets and
sorted pine cones? These kindergarten staples are disappearing. Art
and music are fading too.

In many ways, kindergarten is becoming the new first grade.

According to an AIR analysis of data from U.S. Department of
Education's early childhood longitudinal studies, America's public
school kindergarten has become dramatically more academic. [See
; See ]

* In 1998-99, only 29 percent of kindergartners' teachers said that
children should learn to read in kindergarten. In 2010-11, this rose
to 78 percent.

* In 1998-99, 53 percent of kindergartners were in full-day
kindergarten programs, in 2010-11, 81 percent.

* Even with those extra hours, time for art and music has dwindled.
The percentage of kindergartners who have music three or more times a
week? Down from 51 to 27 percent. Or art? Down from 54 to 25 percent.

* The time children spend in whole-group instruction (seated, all
paying attention to the teacher at the same time) is up. In 1998-99,
14 percent of kindergartners were in whole group instruction for
three hours or more a day. By 2010-11, 30 percent were.

* The presence of some common kindergarten classroom areas has also
declined. Sand and water tables (51 to 27 percent), dramatic play
areas (88 to 61 percent), science areas with objects to manipulate
(66 to 43 percent).

What are kindergartners learning? They are learning much more
advanced skills than kindergartners were learning 12 years earlier.

* In 1998-99, 48 percent of kindergartners' teachers considered
'reading fluently' too much to expect of kindergarteners. In 2010-11,
only 10 percent of teachers did. In 2010-11, 90 percent of
kindergartners were being taught to read fluently and 41 percent
worked on this skill every day.

* In 2010-11, 97 percent of kindergartners were in classes where
"composing and writing complete sentences" was considered a
kindergarten skill. Fifty-three percent were working on this every
day. Ninety-nine percent of 2010-11 kindergartners were in classes
where "using capitalization and punctuation" was considered a
kindergarten skill and two-thirds worked on both daily.

Also on the rise are expectations about the skills children need to
know to be kindergarten-ready on the first day of school. Many
kindergarten teachers consider it "very important" or "essential"
that children entering kindergarten already know how to use pencils
and paintbrushes (68 percent), know most of the letters of the
alphabet (47 percent), and can count to 20 (35 percent).

Given these high expectations, the value kindergarten teachers place
on preschool is hardly surprising. Eighty-four percent of 2010-11
kindergartners' teachers agree or strongly agree that "attending
preschool is very important for success in kindergarten."

Traditionally, kindergarten was the transition year before formal
schooling. If kindergarten is the "new first grade," is preschool the
new "kindergarten?"

The conversation about access to high-quality preschool for all
children is an important one. For children who do not attend
high-quality preschool programs, what chance at success will they
have in today's kindergarten? [See ]
This post was written by Jill Walston and Kristin Flanagan, principal
researchers with the American Institutes for Research.
Education Sector occasionally invites experts from the education
community to contribute to The Quick and the Ed. Guestblogger bylines
always appear within the actual blog post.
Alice Donlan December 18, 2013 at 12:10 pm
As a developmental psychologist, I have to say that Piaget and
Vygotsky must be rolling in their graves! Anyone who has studied
cognitive development knows that 5-year-olds don't think or learn the
same way as 8-year-olds do. Young children need to interact with the
world, engage in imaginary play, and participate in fun, interesting
activities with peers and teachers. Sitting still in desks is not
doing these children any favors. I'm sure the teachers and parents
pushing this are well-meaning, but it's not helping children learn!
Organized Chaos December 17, 2013 at 6:26 pm
When I started teaching ten years ago I taught first grade. Now I
teach kindergarten special Ed. But I am teaching the exact same
lessons, just to younger students. In only ten years I have seen a
shift in our expectations of what we believe five years should be
able to do. But the nature of being a five year old hasn't changed.
Jerry P. Becker
Dept. of Curriculum & Instruction
Southern Illinois University
625 Wham Drive
Mail Code 4610
Carbondale, IL 62901-4610
Phone: (618) 453-4241 [O]
(618) 457-8903 [H]
Fax: (618) 453-4244

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