Kindergarten readers

Kindergarten is the new first grade, reports the Washington Post.

Kindergarten used to be mostly about play: singing songs, “housekeeping” in a Little Tikes kitchen and being read to. That is changing largely because of full-day kindergarten, which has swept the nation’s public schools in the past 20 years, stretching the instructional day from 2 1/2 hours to six.

Full-day kindergarten teachers are expected to teach beginning reading skills. Most students are able to learn the basics.

Last spring, nearly 90 percent of kindergarteners in Montgomery (County) passed a simple test that required them to read a short storybook, which would have been unthinkable in the county a decade ago. The percentage of kindergarten readers has more than doubled in five years.

There is virtually no racial achievement gap on the kindergarten reading test, but the gap appears in first and second grade as the reading tests get harder.

About Joanne

Comments

  1. Mark Roulo says:

    I agree with the Washington Post on this one. It matches what
    I see at my local school district.

    What is amazing is that even after pushing 1st grade down one full
    year, our 6th graders *still* are years behind the 1880’s students
    who used McGuffey’s Readers. A McGuffey’s 6th Reader contained
    text as a reading level roughly equivalent to Wall Street Journal
    editorials. I don’t think very many of today’s 6th graders can
    read Wall Street Journal editorials.

    Sigh.

    -Mark Roulo

  2. Mark,

    It was explained to me that a McGuffy Reader was TWO years of information, not one. The third reader would have been used in the sixth grade. Furthermore, the drop out rate was attrocious in the 1800s so few students would have made it to that 6th reader. I wish I had a source to cite, but it said that most people never made it past the third reader.

    Is it true that in Japan kindergarten is reserved to teaching children organizational and social skills rather than academics? What are the high achieving countries doing in K?

  3. GradSchoolMom says:

    Maryland has both implemented full day kindergarten and raised the entrance age over the past five years. Students use to be required to be 5 by December 31st and now must be 5 by August 31st. So by putting our slightly older children into classes for longer periods of time, we have increased reading levels in kindergarten children. I’m not convinced that is any indication of a better and brighter future for our country or reason to celebrate. I also find it interesting how many children are now able to read before they can use the potty. Has anyone without recent children noticed how much larger the diaper sizes now go? My sons were not allowed in nursery school until they were potty trained. Obviously, our priorities have been changing.

  4. Mark Roulo says:

    It was explained to me that a McGuffy Reader was TWO years of information, not one. The third reader would have been used in the sixth grade.

    This would explain a lot. I’ve been looking for info on
    what percentage of children actually made it to 6th grade back
    then (I *thought* it was fairly high, with some percentage dropping
    out after 6th grade, and another block dropping out after 8th…)
    , but figured that the readers were still one reader per grade.

    But … I have copies of the readers. The 2rd reader is only 158
    pages long. I’d guess 100 to 125 words per page. I don’t see how
    this can be stretched out over two years :-). Additionally, I’ve
    run a 1930s pulp story through the reading-difficulty-quantization
    S/W. If shows a vocabulary difficulty only slightly easier than
    WSJ editorials. The pulp magazines were mass market back then,
    and so had to be targeted at the average adult reader or below.
    This doesn’t “fit” with a claim that the McGuffeys were 2 grades
    per reader.

    Do you have sources? I’d love to get this clarified, because
    I have quantitative data showing a sharp drop in difficulty
    of readers from 1880 to 1930 to 1950. Obviously, if the McGuffey’s
    are two years per reader, then the 1880->1930 drop-off is an illusion.

    -Regards,
    Mark Roulo

  5. Mark Roulo says:

    Is it true that in Japan kindergarten is reserved to teaching children organizational and social skills rather than academics? What are the high achieving countries doing in K?

    I don’t know about Japan and Singapore. Russia doesn’t start
    math until 1st grade, and Russian 1st graders are 7 years old,
    not 6 like in this country.

    I have read that 6 is the traditional age to introduce formal
    academic education in Japan, but don’t have a reliable source
    for this.

    I think what has happened is that with most children in daycare
    and then pre-school, the older socialization function of Kindergarten
    has been handled by these other institutions. The thinking is
    that (a) the kids have already sang songs and learned how to not
    bite each other, and (b) we need to improve out academics, so starting
    early is one solution. What *I* see is more parents holding their
    K-aged kids back one year (“if K is the new 1st grade, then I’ll
    wait until my kid is old enough for 1st grade,” is the observed
    behavior). This makes good sense to me, especially for boys, as
    in California one can still be 4 years old when one enters
    Kindergarten. A lot of 4 year old boys can’t sit still long enough
    to do group academic activities (which may help to explain why
    Ritalin is so popular now compared to 30 years ago).

    What is more interesting is that if one uses test scores, our
    K-4th graders are doing fine. The drop-off shows up starting
    at 4th grade (more or less). Starting early won’t fix that …

    -Mark R.
    -Mark R.

  6. Mark Roulo says:

    Has anyone without recent children noticed how much larger the diaper sizes now go?

    I have a recent child, but I have noticed it. I think we do have some later potty training going on, but also larger children. My son is very bulky for his age (6 years old, 70 pounds … not fat, just solid … I’m thinking linebacker). I see other kids with similar builds. That might be part of it (as well as the later potty training).

    -Mark R.

  7. According to Answers.com:

    Even though there were originally four Readers, most schools of the 19th century used only the first two. The first Reader taught reading by using the phonics method, the identification of letters and their arrangement into words, and aided with slate work. The second Reader came into play once the student could read, and helped them to understand the meaning of sentences while providing vivid stories which children could remember. The third Reader taught the definitions of words, and was written at a level equivalent to the modern 5th or 6th grade. The fourth Reader was written for the highest levels of ability on the grammar school level, which students completed with this book.

    The McGuffey Readers “were among the first textbooks in America that were designed to become progressively more challenging with each volume.” Pre-McGuffey, many rural schools used the Bible to teach reading in lieu of a textbook.

  8. Mark Roulo says:

    The third Reader taught the definitions of words, and was written at a level equivalent to the modern 5th or 6th grade.

    This matches my data, but doesn’t answer the questions: (a) what age was the typical kid who was using a McGuffeys 4th reader, and (b) what percentage of kids at that age were still in school back then.

    Maybe time for me to do some digging…

    -Mark Roulo

  9. Mark,

    The didn’t have school for 185 days per year. I vaguely remember it being mentioned that sometimes a school year would be a total of 60 days! That might explain why it would take so long to make it through one reader.

  10. Mark Roulo says:

    From a web page at the Murdock Historical Society:

    http://www.murdockmuseum.org/One-room%20school%20website%20info.doc

    “The first subject of the day was reading. The textbook of choice for many years was the McGuffey’s Reader. It contained excerpts of great works, like Shakespeare, the Bible, biographical sketches of great men, and portions of orations and Socrates. It was intended to inspire children with noble goals and give purpose in life. It also indoctrinated the students with moral lessons. Morals were taught as much as possible, incorporating them into the opening exercises, reading, penmanship and other lessons. The McGuffey’s Reader has six volumes and an eighth grade graduate was expected to complete the fourth or fifth reader. Even for high school graduates today, mastering the sixth reader would be a formidable task.”

    So it does look like roughly two years per book. The same
    page mentions that class ran from 8AM to 4PM while school was
    in session, but that classes were not held 9 months per year.

    -Mark Roulo

  11. Mark Roulo says:

    So … 2nd reader (grades 3 and 4) … 158 pages … figure
    158 days of schooling over those two years. They read 100-125
    words *PER DAY* as part of their formal reading schooling????

    I don’t get it.

    How can that possibly work?

    -Mark Roulo

  12. McGuffey’s First Eclectic Reader is available at http://www.gutenberg.org along with all the rest at http://www.gutenberg.org/browse/authors/m#a5671. You have to scroll down to McGuffey.

Trackbacks

  1. […] are children old enough for kindergarten? As kindergarten becomes “the new first grade,” states are moving start dates back to ensure kindergarteners are more likely to be ready to start […]