Search results for: "kindergarten"

A reader with the anonymous sobriquet “Kindergarten Interlude” writes:

For my kindergartners distance-learning was never fun. And Lord knows for me it is not just a challenge but truly sad. How do you connect with five and six-year-olds through a computer screen? And the parents are losing it. I give them a lot of credit!

Of course I am trying to make the best of this for my students, but gone is the essence of teaching and learning in kindergarten: The human touch, the facial expressions, the spontaneous moments, the joy – reading and singing and dancing and yoga and Simon Says and Thumbs Up at the end of the day. And Discovery Centers (my code word for play centers)- teamwork and problem-solving and using one’s imagination and learning basic social skills like taking turns and sharing. There is great satisfaction (and joy!) in learning and practicing these skills and working together as a team. It is how friendships are planted and take root over the weeks and months of working and playing and learning together. Deep feelings of security and acceptance come from belonging to a community. A REAL community, not a screen.

So no, this was never fun and it is an untenable way to teach kindergarten and I imagine pretty much every grade.

Because at the end of the day, it is all about that beautiful community that is established. That’s the essence of successful teaching and learning in kindergarten.

When Arne Duncan was Secretary of Education, he touted the idea that every student should be college ready. There has been considerable debate about which was Arne’s most memorable utterance. Some say it was his claim that Hurricane Katrina “was the best thing that ever happened to the schools of New Orleans,” despite the deaths of over 1,000 people. Others think it was his crack that the reason suburban moms hated Common Core was because it showed that their child was “not as brilliant” as they thought. The Common Core, he believed, was the key to “College and Career” readiness, and it was never to soon to start.

My favorite line is his statement when he visited a New York City public elementary school and said, “I want to be able to look into the eyes of a second-grader and know that he was on track to go to college.” It seemed to me that the typical second grader would have more immediate concerns and dreams (a cowboy? A fireman? An astronaut? A doctor?  A prince or princess?).

Our blog poet, SomeDAM Poet, wrote here:

College Ready in Kindergarten

College Ready in Kindergarten
Bachelor’s in First
PhD in Second grade
A life that’s well rehearsed

From the Onion.



Denisha Jones speaks out here about the outrageous misuse of tests for children in kindergarten in Florida.

Incoming kindergarten students are tested online and their scores are published! This is child abuse.

Jones is an early childhood specialist, lawyer, and a recent addition to the board of the Network for Public Education.

She went to Miami and interviewed leaders of the “I Am Ready” Resistance Group, who described the harm that Florida’s tests do to children.

Julia Musella told Jones:

”’I am ready’ was born in direct response to the inappropriate testing of incoming Kindergarten children by computer and then publishing the scores in 2018. This disgraceful labeling of more than 50% of Florida’s Early Learning centers as failing to prepare children for kindergarten created an outcry from early educators across the state.  We had enough years of being voiceless so we created an online petition through to then-Governor Rick Scott demanding the scores be taken down and comply with the statute on assessments. At the same time, we launched a public Facebook page, registered “I am Ready” as a nonprofit corporation to serve as an advocacy group, and encouraged local groups of providers to launch private Facebook pages to dialogue with each other.

“Our hope went beyond the short-term goal of having the scores eliminated and the assessment changed to meet the statute, although that was something we used to engage the community statewide. Our long term goal was to organize, galvanize and start a movement that would be the voice of Early Learning and small business owners who are in the business of education throughout the state. We were in it for a long term permanent organization that would use voter registration, voter mobilization (locally and statewide) and education of legislators to give a voice to young children, who are voiceless.”



Defending the Early Years

Response to Le, Schaack et al. study, “Advanced Content Coverage at Kindergarten: Are There Trade-Offs Between Academic Achievement and Social-Emotional Skills?”


Advanced academics in kindergarten?

Questionable science and a misleading news story


“New research says the kids are all right” in kindergartens that emphasize advanced academics, according to a January 24 headline in Chalkbeat.We strongly disagree.


The study in question, published online by the American Educational Research Journalon Jan. 4, 2019, has severe limitations, and it is based on so many questionable assumptions that no meaningful conclusion can be drawn from it. At the same time, reports of its supposed findings, like the Chalkbeatstory, muddy the waters of a vital conversation about how young children learn. Even worse, this problematic study and the uncritical reporting of it are likely to be used to defend pernicious policies and practices that almost all early childhood educators agree are hurting children.


The authors of the study themselves acknowledge three serious limitations in their work. First, it is a correlational study that says nothing about causation. In other words, the positive outcomes that they claim to see may be the result of factors other than the ones they tried to measure. Second, the measure they used to calculate the amount of time devoted to teaching advanced skills in the classroom was subject to a high level of uncertainty. And third, the very definition of “advanced” has widely varying meanings, and the researchers had no way of knowing how such “advanced” content was actually being taught.


In fact, this study is flawed in even more troubling ways:


  1. The tests that were used to measure changes in children’s achievement and social-emotional skills were given in the same year: “At kindergarten,” the authors write, “there were two waves of data collection, with the first wave taking place during the fall and the second wave taking place during spring.” That is, there was no follow-up beyond the kindergarten year. The authors fail to acknowledge that long-term studies have shown that gains from early academics disappear and in some cases reverse themselves by third grade.


That drilling children on content can boost test scores in the same year (which happened here only to a moderate extent) is thus unsurprising and means little. The authors avoid mentioning that, while their study was just correlational, other experimental research contradicts their conclusion. The most rigorous of these was the High/Scope Comparative Curriculum Study, which followed students to age 23 and found powerful evidence of the negative effects of early academics—evidence that did not clearly emerge until years later.


  1. The authors based their conclusions on kindergartners’ test scores in math and English language arts. They note that, in the standards-and-testing-based “reform” movement of the 1980s and 1990s, “standardized testing was not mandated until the third grade.” But they don’t say why. The reason is that testing experts universally agree that standardized test scores have virtually no meaning before third grade. According to the findings of the National Research Council’s definitive “High Stakes” study, basing educational policymaking on kindergarten test scores is essentially a form of educational malpractice.


  1. In their review of the research on early academics, the authors make no mention of the fact that no study has ever shown that learning to read at an early age is correlated with long-term academic success. Indeed, children who learn to read at age six or seven are just as likely to become devoted lifelong readers as those who learn at four or five. Shouldn’t lifelong learning, not short-term test results, be our goal as teachers?


  1. The study found a correlation between academic training and social-emotional development—but only with math, not language arts, and these social-emotional gains were seen almost entirely in the children who started kindergarten with the lowest math achievement scores. The authors offer no convincing explanation for this odd, counterintuitive finding. It suggests to us the presence of a confounding variable unrelated to the hypothesis that advanced academic training of little children would improve their social-emotional well-being.


  1. A close look at how this study measured social-emotional outcomes reveals what may be its most serious flaw. All the social skills and behavioral effects were rated by the same teachers who taught the academic content, not by independent evaluators (let alone by independent evaluators blind to the type of instruction).


“Of 12 social or behavioral measures, there was a statistically significant (and quite small) effect on only three,” writes education policy analyst Alfie Kohn. “And with respect to kids’ aggression, anger, sadness, anxiety, etc., there was no short-term effect, positive or negative, as a result of teaching academic skills for an unspecified length of time using unspecified methods—according to the teachers themselves.”


Behaviors that would get you a low social-emotional skills score in this study—like not putting your toys away promptly or acting out—are more likely to occur in play. Those that would get you a high score—like completing tasks and following rules—are more likely to occur in a  highly structured academic classroom. With this rating system, therefore, children in kindergartens with a lot of free play might, for that very reason, look like they have lower social-emotional skills than children in kindergartens where behavior is more rigidly structured and controlled by the teacher.


The authors fail to acknowledge what every wise teacher understands: kids learn to be better adjusted through play. “Those kids in lessons, with less play,” writes Boston College Research Professor Peter Gray, “don’t have the opportunity to exhibit the kinds of behaviors that (a) would lead to low social-emotional scores and (b) would provide the experiences needed to gain social-emotional competence. If we rigidly control children they may look more competent than if we allow them free play, but we also prevent them from learning to control themselves through experience.”


The authors’ conclusion, “that advanced academic content can be taught without compromising children’s social-emotional skills,” is not just unsupported by their own evidence. It is irresponsible in light of convincing contradictory findings that they have completely ignored.


This study will undoubtedly be welcomed by the corporations producing new academically oriented curricula and tests for young children. It is likely to further the proliferation of high-pressure academics and the loss of free play and child-initiated learning in kindergarten—trends that have already led some of our most experienced and talented early childhood teachers to quit the profession in frustration and despair.




This statement was prepared by Defending the Early Years in consultation with early childhood researchers, practitioners, and advocates. We are especially grateful for the assistance of Alfie Kohn, Joan Almon, and Professor Peter Gray. For more information, contact Geralyn Bywater McLaughlin ( or Blakely Bundy (


The New Republic, usually a liberal publication, recently published an article recommending vouchers instead of universal pre-K in public institutions.

Defending the Early Years, an organization that fights for developmentally appropriate education for young children, issued the following response:


​The experts at Defending the Early Years find fault with the premise of the article which pits family support and high-quality preschool education against one another.

Haspel is correct, we need greater family support, starting with maternal and paternal paid leave for the first year of life; but we also need publicly funded rich, progressive, play-based early care and education for young children until they start formal school. As we learned after Hurricane Katrina, giving people money does not ensure that their life will improve.

The U.S. has never had the political will to spend the billions of dollars it would take to provide universal coverage.  Recognizing the estimated $70 billion a year “preschool market,” investors are happily filling in the gaps in an ECE mixed-market system that has long been broken.

Haspel fails to realize that by ensuring every child has access to high-quality, fully-funded, play-based early care and education, we are doing more for parents than simply giving them a voucher. Voucher experiments in DC and other cities prove that rarely do they cover the full cost of tuition. Parents will be expected to find care that matches the amount of the voucher or supplement the additional costs out of their pocket. This does not help families but instead leaves them trapped between choosing affordable care that could be lower quality or paying out of pocket for high-quality care.  Instead of expecting states to abandon their role in ensuring every child begins with a solid foundation of high-quality early care and education experiences, we should encourage direct support to families and demand each state provide access to early care and education. The only thing wrong with a demand for universal pre-k is that play-based programs are often excluded by states that prefer academic instruction. If giving parents a choice is truly the end goal then we would support parents who chose play-based programs over academic instruction. And we would support parents who chose universal pre-k over vouchers.

In this short video, veteran kindergarten teacher Jim St. Clair explains why play-based learning is important for young children and illustrates with examples from exemplary practice.

The video was produced by DEY (Defending the Early Years), a consortium of early childhood education practitioners and academics.


Veteran educators Shaheer Faltas and Kate Nicholson explain why little children should not be taught coding and computer science. 

Although they write about kindergarten children, the basic principles are the same for very young children of 6 and 7. They may enjoy playing on the computer but take care not to start direct instruction and career preparation for little children. I am not sure when children should start preparing for the computer age, but what they write sounds reasonable to me. What do you think?

They write:

“President Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos intend to prioritize science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education by making available $200 million in grants and recommend that coding and computer science skills be taught in K-12 schools across the nation. Though the intention to improve K-12 education is admirable, doubling down on technology in America’s kindergarten classrooms is not the answer.

“As a lifelong educator now running a school in Mill Valley within the orbit of Silicon Valley, and a parent who writes regularly about education, we have daily insight into what tomorrow’s leaders need in order to walk confidently into the future — and it’s not the development of skills like coding.

“All across the country, experienced educators will tell you that putting more digital devices into the hands of young, impressionable children won’t take them where we want them to go. Rather, it will leave students adrift in a sea of obsolescence.

“A quick glimpse at a report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which lists the fastest declining occupations for 2014 to 2024, demonstrates why pushing a narrow skill set — like computer coding — into our youngest grades is unwise. Over the past two decades, entire industries have been gutted by technological advances that were impossible to predict.

”Instead of prioritizing technology first, we need to teach students how to think and adapt, how to communicate and ask questions. Childhood is a cherished, sacred time — one for sparking imagination.

“Indeed, the purpose of K-12 education has expanded beyond offering just content and now entails equipping students with life skills. Elementary school is where the basic foundations of character are built, where self-control takes shape, and where students begin to perceive of themselves as part of a larger community.”

A womderful article!

Let children be children. Defend childhood.

A comment by a teacher:

“Young students in kindergarten are now labeled as having specific learning disabilities if they do not receive a certain score on district universal screeners(STAR, iReady, MAP), which are taken on computers. I watch this happen in my district. I’ve watched it happen in other districts in which I’ve worked. First graders are given Reading Improvement Plans if they do not receive a certain score on district universal screeners the first time they take the test in August, in the state of Ohio. Once on a Reading Improvement Plan (RIMP), they are expected to receive instruction from a prepackaged, “research based,” scripted program…with fidelity. Without real books. Kindergarten teachers talk more about close reading strategies, than they do about Eric Carle, Leo Lionni, Dr. Seuss, or Stone Soup. Even the interactive read aloud has become a thing of the past. What did you think would happen to unstructured play? Literacy is being systematically killed. The blood is on our hands.”

My view: This is Child Abuse. State and district education officials who mandate this spiritual and emotional abuse of little children should be reported to child protective services and referred for counseling about the developmental needs of children.

Wendy Lecker, civil rights attorney, writes here about the New York Times editorial endorsing academic rigor for kindergarten children, because a study said it would produce higher test scores someday. I guess the Times’ editorial board doesn’t read this blog. Too bad for them. They would have learned more by reading Froebel than by reading the latest study of how to raise test scores.

Last week, The New York Times unwittingly provided an example of how bad education policy is made. A front-page article trumpeted “Free play or flashcards? A new study nods to more rigorous preschools.”

The study the article featured purportedly proved that frequent, direct instruction of “academic” content in preschool yielded more “cognitive gains” than play-based preschool. The study even contended that preschools that do not engage in enough direct academic instruction “may be doing their young charges a disservice.” The study’s author, Bruce Fuller, denigrated play, declaring that “(s)imply dressing up like a firefighter or building an exquisite Lego edifice may not be enough…”

Does this obvious observation prove that “academic” preschool helps children learn better? No — as the authors themselves admit. They state that they did not follow children in this study past kindergarten, even though they acknowledge that previous preschool studies find that many effects fade by fifth grade.

To the contrary, decades of research demonstrate that an emphasis on play in the early years provides long-lasting academic and social benefits.

Young children’s brains are not ready for the abstract thinking that direct instruction of “academic” content requires. Children use play to establish the foundation for abstract learning. For example, socio-dramatic play enables children to understand sequencing essential to math and reading. Building with blocks enables children to understand that objects can represent other objects, so later they can comprehend that lines represent letters and words represent ideas. Contrary to the claims in The New York Times article, play is learning for young children.