Kindergarten is the new first grade, says an education professor quoted by the Chicago Trib.
Kindergarten is the new second grade, writes Richard Whitmire on Why Boys Fail.
Let’s just say kindergartners are doing more reading, writing and ‘rithmetic than in the past. Some argue children will learn more if they spend more time in free play.
Edward Miller, a senior researcher at the nonprofit Alliance for Childhood, points to a pivotal — and seemingly counterintuitive — German study that found that kids who had attended play-based kindergartens actually did better in reading and math at age 10 than kids who had attended academic kindergartens.
“I think the child’s innate interest in learning things gets suppressed and basically atrophies” in academic kindergarten, Miller said.
“It starts this process of burnout where they don’t learn to love learning and they don’t really enjoy school. School becomes a chore.”
Disadvantaged children need more than playtime, others say.
“If you want children to know how to read, you don’t work on their social skills” in a play-based kindergarten, said Tom Loveless, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, a nonprofit public policy organization based in Washington, D.C.
“That’s not the most effective way,” Loveless said. “The most effective way is to teach them reading-related cognitive tasks like identifying letters, knowing sounds, basic vocabulary. I think even an advantaged child who attends a play-based kindergarten pays some sort of price because that is a portion of the day that could be going for cognitive development but isn’t.”
According to Loveless, much of the research that supports play-based kindergarten is methodologically “weak,” relying on researchers’ potentially biased impressions (“The children appear more engaged.”) as opposed to more specific observations.
He also questions the idea that play and academics are at odds: “That’s a false dichotomy,” he said. Learning can remain playful, he said, even for kids who attend kindergartens with high academic standards.
A public school teacher in a high-poverty area of Chicago, Lake Bailey says some kindergarten students enjoy learning to read, while others aren’t ready.
A “combination of boys being unready to absorb those skills — and schools failing to adjust teaching methods to help them keep up — is creating the gender gaps we see building in college graduation rates,” Whitmire argues.
Is it impossible to enable children to learn at their own pace?