'Kindergarten ready' kids

Getting children “kindergarten ready” is just as important as college and career readiness, argues Elanna Yalow in Education Week. She wants “common standards for early-childhood learning” that “both capitalize on the unique abilities and interests of all children and create a clear path to helping them develop the skills they will need in school and beyond.”

Much of the development that influences achievement throughout life occurs before children even set foot in school, and kindergarten teachers will tell you that they are not molding fresh pieces of clay. Not only do we need to create consistency across state lines for early learning, but we also need to expand content areas beyond language arts and mathematics, the focus of the Common Core State Standards Initiative, to include social and emotional competencies that are the foundations of learning itself.

It’s critical that children arrive at kindergarten with the cognitive, emotional, and social skills needed to succeed. We know that children who start behind tend to stay behind.

Children develop at very different rates. Is it possible to create a common standard for all five-year-olds?

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  1. SuperSub says:

    More important than the possibility of creating a common standard for five-year-olds is that it will be futile to even set a standard given that a large proportion of pre-kindergarteners are still with their parents.
    Are schools going to deny entry to a 5 year old because they can’t perform some task that the school defines as being kindergarten ready?

  2. SuperSub says:

    After reading the article itself…

    First off, about our having the greatest achievement gap between the most and least able amongst all developed countries… that is a ludicrous statement. Until there is a true protocol for testing all students in each country, such comparisons are baseless.

    “This does not mean that individual differences are to be ignored, but rather, that quality early-childhood programs must both capitalize on the unique abilities and interests of all children and create a clear path to helping them develop the skills they will need in school and beyond.”

    So, to me Ms. Yalow is advocating for universal pre-K. Hmmm… Ms. Yalow also happens to be top management in two different companies that provide early-childhood programs. I wonder what parents will do to ensure their pre-K children will meet the state Kindergarten-ready standards?

    “social and emotional competencies that are the foundations of learning itself.”


  3. Kindergarten preparedness training is a regimen with an ancient history. In some more primitive areas it is still referred to by its archaic designation of “parenting.”

    When my daughter was 18 months old she knew the entire alphabet (capitals only, we’re still working on lowercase) and could count to 15. The only “resource” we employed was a $10 fisher-price writing pad.

    A large number of students in the building in which I teach come into pre-K not knowing what a letter is or what a number is. Many of them live in houses in which every family member has >$100 shoes, an iPod and a cellular phone, but there is not a book to be found.

    In many cases the parent(s) literally do not know what to do to prepare their children. Whether the notion of school as the exclusive bastion of education is a cause or effect of this situation is a question which is probably a chicken-and-egg* situation which can only be answered as “6 of one, 1/2 a dozen of the other.” Formalized standards would be insane. Some sort of public awareness campaign about what sort of things kids need to know and easy ways to teach them, however, is probably in order.

    *by the way, the actual question of the chicken and the egg was answered simply by the theory of evolution. If the chicken evolved from some prior creature, then there must have been some animal which was the first true chicken. It’s mother was therefore not a true chicken, but was still a bird, and therefore laid eggs, one of which mutated to form the first true chicken. The first true chicken, therefore must have been hatched from one of these eggs. The egg, therefore, came first.

  4. Stacy in NJ says:

    Kindergarten used to be the place kids learned all the “pre” skills. Learned their letters and number, learned to sit and listen, learned to cooperate in class, and also spent a great deal of the time playing. For most kids it’s easier to teach the alphabet at 5 then it is at 3. If our early education standards for k-4 were of good quality, and all kids had a quality school environment, then academically they’d be where they needed to be by 4th grade (or so).

    All this to say, the push for earlier and earlier “academics” is asinine. I get that affluent kids or kids of more academic parents are going to come into kindergarten with alot of those skills in place already, and kids from less academically focused families aren’t, but isn’t the point of public education to set a common standard within a spectrum, then teach it?

  5. SuperSub says:

    “Parenting?” What’s that? Didn’t the Oxford English Dictionary retire that word to make room for “google” or another contemporary word?

    I’m all against pre-kindergarten standards… but I’m all for pre-conception standards. I’ve long said that we could deal with the issue quickly if we could find a way to put permanent birth control into marijuana…

  6. My knee-jerk reaction is to leave this sort of thing to the parents. I and all of my siblings knew our ABC’s and could count and read at the “cat” level before first grade. It hardly takes a professional to teach a kid his letters and numbers and it wastes their time when they have to. My parents understood that they had a responsibility in our pre-school years.

    That said, my parents came from a society that valued learning and self-reliance; they soaked up those values without even knowing it. Today’s parents live in a society that values victimhood and government support. It’s hardly the kid’s fault that their parents are living in an increasingly screwed-up society.

    I can’t quite bring myself to mandate some sort of government schooling for the very young, but it’s laughable to leave the problem up to many (most?) of today’s parents. Sadly, I think this problem has no solution that any majority could stomach.

    There’s a revolution of some sort coming, I think, and not just in education. I don’t know which way things are going to go, but the status quo is not sustainable.

  7. What about the kid who can read and do addition but can’t cut with scissors or even write the first letter of his name? My not-quite-5 y.o. is like that. Is he deemed “kindergarten ready” or not?

    Fortunately, we homeschool so I can work with him where he is rather than what some educrat thinks all kindergartners should be. That means using pre-k materials for certain things like penmanship while 1st grade materials for reading.

  8. And children do develop at different rates in different areas. It has nothing to do with parenting. I have a nonverbal child who is almost four but has had more help from the First Steps program, the local preschool and here at home than most children receive.

    Funny, he is still autistic. Who would have thought? But SuperSub would want a eugenics-based “final solution” to the kindergarten readiness problem beyond offensive. And I’m surprised NO ONE here said a peep about it.

    I’d also add that I do have an eight-year-old who STILL cannot write legibly or cut a straight line, but he can read at a fifth-sixth grade level and is beginning seventh grade maths. In school, he would have been “behind” just as Crimson Wife’s child, I suppose.

  9. I don’t know how we can get back there from here, but I do think that we should return to the social norm that said it was wrong to have kids out of wedlock and/or kids you are unable to support; emotionally, socially and financially. It’s fair neither to the kids nor to the taxpayers. The social and economic costs of illegitimacy are huge, especially at the lower SES levels.

  10. i find it ironic that joanne’s last statement is “Children develop at different rates. Is it possible to create common standards for 5 year olds?”

    isn’t creating common standards something she’s been pushing a lot lately? if we have them for all the other school age kids, why not 5 year olds?

    of course children develop at different rates, and they won’t all every perform at the same level but that hasn’t stopped anyone from demanding that all students read at certain levels by certain ages before. why bother now just b/c it’s 5 year olds?

  11. When I lived in central Florida in the mid 70s, the local district would evaluate kids with regard to kindergarten readiness and make a recommendation; regular entry according to birthdate, accelerated entry or delayed entry. It’s always made sense to me; any cutoff is, by definition, arbitrary.

  12. Stacy in NJ says:

    Alot of the comments here point to a kind of psychosis we have in our country; we want a standard, a measurable and understandable standard. How else can we understand teacher and school effectiveness and use our resources efficiently? We also want individualization; children should be understood to be unique individuals and respected as such. This is a contidiction, I think.

    We need educational choice. Be it charters, vouchers, homeshooling, online schooling, or other options, we need to be able to individualize while setting clear standards. Our institutionalized, one-size-fits-all public education system with all of its inequalities is a ruinous waste of humanity and resources.

  13. I agree with the bit about educational choice, competition is good for almost any system. But I personally don’t want a “a measurable and understandable standard” at all. I don’t think such a standard is possible. What company measures employee performance against some abstract, outside standard?

    “Wilson, your performance in filing TPS reports is 12% below national standards. Get the lead out!”

    No, I don’t think so. Instead, most workers have a “boss”. This person assigns jobs to the worker and monitors their performance amid the chaos of the workplace. Some times they are interrupted by other priorities or even outside events, such as a snowstorm, and get little done. Other times are more orderly and they make greater progress. The “boss” is responsible for taking all things into account when judging their performance. Sure, there are office politics and sometimes you get stuck with a lousy boss. Those of us who aren’t teachers just have to deal with this.

    Why this can’t be done with teachers has never been explained to me. Why is teaching so ineffable that another person can’t tell when you’re doing it wrong? Most teachers seem to have a distinct opinion regarding the performance of their fellow teachers. How is it that a “boss” wouldn’t be able to tell that a teacher was ineffective?

    I have a suspicion that this aversion to the idea of a “boss” has a lot to do with unions, but no real data…

  14. Stacy in NJ says:

    Rob, We do have measurable standards in the workplace. An employee is either capable of doing the job or isn’t. We either have the prerequisite skills necessary, or we don’t. That’s the standard. People who can’t pass biology don’t perform brain surgery.

    An average 4th grader can either read an early chapter book, write a semi-coherent paragraph, and use basic arithmetic, or not. A teacher’s responsibility is to teach those skills. Did they or didn’t they rise to the task? That’s the the rationale for the standard. Of course, the adjective “average” is deceptively simple. But we need to standardize to create any standard. And there in lies the problem when we have a culture that demands individualization.

  15. Stacy in NJ says:

    Further, I just want to add, if I made a list of what I believe an average 8th grader should be able to do and should know, I bet many of you here would agree with several of my items, but would also want to add to, subtract from, or place a different emphasis on my list.

    Different people think different things are important. Can we ever agree on what a national standard for an “average” kid should be? Doubtful. We have no concensus on this. Standards are only possible at the most basic level. The more complicated they become, the more peal way we’ll experience. When we have several delivery systems (public, private, charter) we can create differing standards. Standards that respect the individual.

  16. Cranberry says:

    I have no idea why anyone would think early childhood needs to be standardized. Perhaps families have grown too small, so many adults think it’s possible to manufacture approved 5-year olds?

    These sentences are worthy of The Onion:

    “Further differences lie in the content domains covered, with more similarity in preschool and prekindergarten standards than in the infant-and-toddler range, where, for example, content areas such as science, social studies, and fine arts are notably absent in some states. The level of difficulty reflected in the standards also varies widely. And this can be true even in neighboring states such as Washington and Oregon. Washington state’s expectations are that children will be able to count up to 20 by age 5, for example, while children in Oregon are only expected to count to 10. We simply cannot accept that children in Oregon are only half as capable as those in Washington state.”

    The current rage for standardized tests will pass. A toddler should be allowed to be a toddler. I do not think that a lack of fine arts standards for infants and toddlers should trouble anyone. I’m more worried about states which have the hubris to develop such standards.


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