Is Something Lost When Kindergarten Gets More Academic?
At Our Savior’s Lutheran School, I can safely say the answer is no. I’ll explain below, but let me first explain where the question is coming from. A study was recently published by the American Educational Research Association entitled “Is Kindergarten the New First Grade?” See full study: click here!
The study compared 1998 and 2010 responses from a representative sample of about 2500 kindergarten and first grade teachers. The questions were around topics such as what skills students should have when they enter kindergarten and when they leave kindergarten; and how much time is spent doing science, music, art, small group, and free choice activities. What the study found was that many more teachers believed that students should know the alphabet and know how to hold a pencil, and almost 80% of the teachers polled thought children should read by the end of kindergarten. Additionally the percentage of time students spend on science, music, art, small group, and free choice activities has dropped dramatically in the schools polled.
The study is a little late in coming out, unfortunately, because 2010 was the year Common Core was introduced in the public schools and much has changed in the way instruction is delivered. While it’s a little to soon to judge, the early results show test scores dropping with Common Core: click here!
The premise of Common Core is fine, in my opinion – give students more opportunity for problem solving and critical thinking. The problem is that those kinds of learning activities take time. The bigger the class, the more time it takes. In large classes those activities then begin to push back the skills instruction to later years. For students to be successful, learning can’t be an either/or. It has to be a both/and. That is what we have been doing at OSLS for many years. Our kindergarten and all our grades are very academic. Students learn their letters and sounds, numbers and math algorithms, science and history facts. At the same time, we provide opportunities for students to explore and learn by trial and error, and to come up with their own solutions so the facts they learn make sense and are integrated into real world problems. We also provide instruction in Spanish and in coding, and have robust music, art and physical education programs. We can do all that because our classes and small, our teachers are highly skilled and dedicated, and we lovingly hold our students to our high expectations. The proof that it works is in the successful middle schoolers we produce and in our great test scores. Our test scores remain high and, generally, our test scores continue to rise as a class moves through the grades at OSLS. You can view our scores on this website under About Us/FAQs.