Ten Facts about Kindergarten that Parents Need to Know
1. Kindergarten today is more academic today than in the past; in spite of research including our own Gesell Institute’s national research that showed 3-6 year old children are not reaching developmental milestones any sooner than in the past. Overly academic Kindergartens can harm some children.
2. Many children are simply “not ready” for the academic and behavioral expectations required in today’s Kindergarten classroom.
3. At least 25% of children start school with summer or late birthdays. In CT, 50% of Kindergarten children start at age 4; i.e., they have birthdays between Sept 1 and Jan 1 (the cut-off date in CT). Most parents of children with late birthdays cannot afford to send their child to another year of preK. Parents who can afford another year hold their child back, despite being eligible for K.
4. There are too many children in rooms that are too small. A K class should not be over 20 children. 18 is better!
5. Age range in K classrooms can be as much as 18 months. Thus on the first day of school, a child born Jan 1, of that school year could be in a classroom with a child born July 1, of the last school year. One child is 4 the other is 6.
6. Developmental differences also abound in any given classroom. The developmental age range could span from age 3 to age 8.
7. A common expectation today is that all K children will be reading at the end of the school year—despite the authors of the Developmental Reading Program (DTA) and Common Core State Standards both saying that Emergent Reading or DRA Level 2 is the appropriate expectation in K. For the child with the late birthday even this expectation is inappropriate.
8. Most Elementary principals do not know the basics about child development and early childhood education (which is birth to age 8). Therefore they expect K teachers to teach like third grade teachers and evaluate teachers based on a third grade model.
9. Children who lack self-regulation and cannot sit for long periods of time doing seat-work are being medicated at an alarming rate. Children are not ADHD just because they are young. Medication is an unnecessary cost and harmful to the child.
10. Not meeting the child’s developmental needs cost the school district money. Children who cannot meet academic/behavioral expectations often have a label attached to them and then require an IEP, remediation, and possible retention—all of which costs plenty of money.
Children need the best start at formal schooling that they possibly can get! Kindergarten sets the stage for the child’s academic career and needs to be an enjoyable, fun, learning environment. A quality Kindergarten needs to have a wide range of developmentally appropriate activities and experiences so that all children can learn at their own rate and pace. A quality Kindergarten needs to promote learning for the whole child—socially, emotionally, physically, and cognitively. Reading instruction should not be the prime activity in a quality Kindergarten. Early readers have no advantage over later readers by the end of third grade. Some children learn to read before K, some in K, and many not until first grade or second grade—and that is perfectly normal. If Kindergarteners hate school, feel unsuccessful, struggle unnecessarily with inappropriate content, fail to develop self-regulation, develop low self-esteem and low emotional intelligence, and lack social skills, they will indeed start a downward spiral towards school failure.
If your child’s Kindergarten has unrealistic expectations, speak up for quality Kindergarten. Your child is depending on you!