— A New York kindergarten has cancelled its end of the year show, to devote more time to “preparing children for college and career with valuable lifelong skills.” These include becoming “strong readers, writers, co-workers and problem solvers.” Â Â Here is the letter, which I found transcribed on the blogÂ Ethics Alarms:
We hope this letter serves to help you better understand how the demands of the 21st century are changing schools, and, more specifically, to clarify, misperceptions about the Kindergarten show. It is most important to keep in mind is [sic] that this issue is not unique to Elwood. Although the movement toward more rigorous learning standards has been in the national news for more than a decade, the changing face of education is beginning to feel unsettling for some people. What and how we teach is changing to meet the demands of a changing world.
Â The reason for eliminating the Kindergarten show is simple. We are responsible for preparing children for college and career with valuable lifelong skills and know that we can best do that by having them become strong readers, writers, coworkers and problem solvers. Please do not fault us for making professional decisions that we know will never be able to please everyone. But know that we are making these decisions with the interests of all children in mind.
Maybe someday those kids will be able to solve a problem like “How to get kids to read and work together?” without cancelling an event that would teach them to read and work together, like a kindergarten show. Â – L
I homeschool. In my house, “kindergarten” is a short reading lesson, and a short math lesson – under 30 minutes, total. IMHO, everything else a kid that age needs to learn happens during play time.
Who the heck are these wonk-headed administrators? Where did they getting the idea that putting on a show is not good for problem solving and being good co-workers? Putting on a show is the perfect lesson in figuring out how to make things run smoothly and cooperating (aka problem solving and being good co-workers). Not that I’m on board with school as a factory for conditioning children to be compliant workers (I too homeschool) but so often these attempts to make school more rigorous look instead like school is becoming little more than a factory assembly line, in which kids’ heads are cracked open and the proscribed data is crammed in with power tools. This has never worked and will never work.
In a nutshell – schools and their obsession with ‘content coverage,’ not authentic experience. Get out now.
The new principal here sent a letter home about preparing elementary school students for college and careers, as well as being accountable for the “stakeholders” in the community.
Personally, I’m getting more to the point where I think we need to take prek-2nd graders and put them in separate buildings dedicated to educating younger children. These test score driven policies aren’t helping. We need people who have a background in early childhood development in charge of the youngest students.
Well, I hate those shows myself, LOL. While it’s nice to say that they are all about teaching kids how to work together and bla bla bla, it seems to me it’s more about giving the teachers (and parents) more headaches. Now this year there have been a lot of snow days on top of everything else. They are squeezed for time. Maybe they were thrilled for an excuse to get rid of that “show.” Or maybe I’m just a mean cynical crabass. 😉 Plenty of kids who didn’t do a year-end Kindergarten show went on to become successful adults.
I hope they also get rid of KG “graduations.” That is about the dumbest thing I’ve ever had to watch. Why should anyone have to get a headache over coordinating a bunch of 5-6yos standing up and singing lame songs etc? My kids’ class had to sing a song about “we’re going to the first grade now” even though several of them were going to repeat KG. :/
I do think the wording of the letter is interesting. I can’t really tell whether they are being serious or a little sarcastic. Maybe this is their way of saying, “you asked for this, now deal with it.”
I’m of two minds regarding KG. When I was a kid, we learned how to read and do arithmetic in half-day KG. Then in later generations, they decided that kids were too dumb to do all that. Now the pendulum is swinging back the other way. Maybe too far, maybe not. The average age in KG is going up. Many kids who would have been in 1st grade in my childhood are now in KG. I don’t think it’s wrong for such big kids to be learning the three Rs.
I do think the curriculum developers of late have been on some sort of psychedelic drugs or something. Some of the crap they put out is too weird for even the parents or teachers to understand. But that’s not because kids are too young to learn math and reading. It’s because they are giving the task of curriculum development to incompetent people.
It was expected, when I was a kid, that Kindergarteners would have a nap, something to do that required aprons, and some vigorous physical play during a half day of school, and come bouncing home ready for a snack and more play. Now they go all day long and come home exhausted and mentally fried, like their parents after a day of work. And in my community the age for Kindergarten intake has been dropping. How does this serve children?
Send them a copy of that book you recommended to me: “Free to Learn.”
This letter reads like an SNL skit.
Wow talk about the race to nowhere. I don’t buy into all that crap. I could care less if my kids go to college or get scholarships blah blah. I would rather them learn a trade like car mechanic or plumber and by pass all the student loan debt and time spent in college.
Because right now there are tons of kids graduating and not being able to find jobs and they have a ton of student debt.
We need to lay off the kids and let them be kids! I am part of the no homework movement and I get tired of first graders having an hour of homework every night. They need to play after school and relax and spend time with friends and family. All this homework and constant extracurriculars is doing more damage than good in the long run.
I don’t care if most parents red shirt their kids and don’t start them in K until they are 6 or even almost 7. I started mine at 5 and they should be able to do what a 5 year old can do, not the age of the kids whose parents decided to red shirt. I sent mine at the proper time. My kids have kids almost 8 in first grade with them and they are not even 7 yet. Its outrageous. Then they hold my kids to the same maturity and behavior standards and wonder why they fail. Because they are almost 2 years younger!
The worst part is that the parents will continue to send their children to this school. I feel so sad for the children.
Like SKL, I was never a fan of this sort of thing, but cancelling for all the wrong reasons is worse. I’m not sure there’s a lot of valuable “working together skills” and such to be gained from it, but the mentality that we can’t do ANYTHING with kids this age but hardcore three-R’s and things that will get them higher SAT scores is horrible. There are things to be learned simply from the experience of doing things other than study, study, study. Will Kgers learn to “work together” by being herded through a show like this? Probably not. Will they get something out of it worth having? Most likely, at least for some of them.
SOA, I agree about the redshirting, as it has affected my kids as well. But even without redshirting, cognitively, 5yo kids are capable of academic learning. The problem is the teaching approach. There are age-appropriate ways to present the 3Rs. It’s not like the only choices are delaying academics or bombarding little kids with worksheets.
I wonder what KG would look like if we required the teachers to teach reading / basic numeracy without a single worksheet/workbook. Hmm. We know that it can be done, because it’s the only way kids learned for most of recorded history.
@SKL The part of brain that allows kid to split words to letters can develop anytime between 4-7 years old. If your kids brain is there, he will learn everything easily. If it is not there, he is likely to fail constantly and be behind until brain caught up. Once the brain caught up, you will need to tutor him cause teacher probably will not. The whole thing is unrelated to how smart the kid will be once the kid grow up.
The sooner they teach reading, the more kids are going not to be ready. If the school system is rigid about what should be learned when and pushes reading soon, then I would expect more and more parents redshirting their kids.
If you have fast developing five years old, then you do not see big deal. If your kids brain is not there yet, then you are looking at years of bad time for both you and child.
Because we all know that if you don’t start preparing kids for college in kindergarten they will NEVER get into that ivy league school. If they don’t then the parents will be completely crushed and it will be all the school’s fault for not preparing them.
wow…I could type that with a straight face. I’m impressed with myself.
I’m waiting for five-year-old interns to show up at my workplace.
I have a question for those of you who homeschool. How hard is it to get started and can you give me any advice? My son is in middle school and he’s a straight A student but he hates school and I really don’t think he’s learning much. On top of that, he’s in school for almost 8 hours every day and that doesn’t include homework. We are thinking about homeschooling starting in the fall. I think we can accomplish more in 3 hours at home than the school can accomplish in 8 hours, and it’d be a lot more fun, hands on learning type stuff. Thanks!
As a music teacher who does performances with grade levels I will say that there are some schools who do shows with kindergarten classes that aren’t developmentally appropriate (square dancing five year olds) which means that they have to spend an extraordanary amount of time rehearsing as opposed to doing the same sort of program with first or second grade.
It could be that there was a traditional program done in the school that took a lot of classroom time and they’ve decided to spend that amount of time doing other things (like centers and reading groups).
However, if it was this much of a tradition it probably would have been smarter to just step back with what the kids were doing, have them do songs they already know instead.
Snow, partly its depends on where you live. If you are in the USA, check out hslda.org to see the homeschooling laws for your state. (HSLDA is kind of conservative, and not everyone loves their politics, but they are a very good source for finding out what is legally required.) I also recommend finding and joining a local support group for help and social activities.
In Texas it’s as simple as withdrawing your kid from school (just send a certified letter), buying a curriculum (whatever you like), and getting started. There are tons of curricular options out there, and chances are you’ll have to try several things to figure out what works best for your kid. Buy used whenever possible, and don’t invest a lot of money into anything until you are sure it works for you. It’s OK to use different systems for different subjects (or different years), or even just make it up yourself. I use a combination of computer programs, workbooks, “real” books, my favorite phonics program, and random ideas that I come up with from the internet. That’s for K, 1st, 3rd, 4th, 6th, and 9th.
Also, Circle Time will be replaced with a Resume Workshop to meet the demands of a changing world. Two times a week Drivers Ed and Financial Planning will be conducted during useless recess hours.
*In the Resume Workshop, may I suggest reviewing the importance of signing your signature ABOVE the typed name and not underneath as was demonstrated in this letter?
Snow, please feel free to contact me off-list for some suggestions. I am a long-time teacher turned (well, turning) homeschooling consultant. Joshua@LearningIsLiving.biz
Snow, I was homeschooled and absolutely loved it. When I eventually transitioned to public high school and college I was at the top of my class and thrived. Here are some good places to start: https://www.hslda.org/earlyyears/StartHere.asp and http://simplehomeschool.net/how-to-homeschool/
I would kiss the feet of my principal if he sent this letter home today. With all the end of the year performances in school, dance, piano as well as all the other “festive” crap, one less thing to attend would make me an extremely happy mommy. But since the performance is tomorrow, I don’t think it will happen.
And that is probably the gist of the whole thing. It sounds like this letter was in response to parents complaining about the cancellation of the show, not notice of the cancellation itself. My guess is the school canceled the stupid thing because they think it is as tedious as I do, parents complained that their little cherub wasn’t getting to perform like all the little cherubs before him, so they made up some justifiable education reason as to why it was canceled to get everyone to shut the heck up about it.
As for kindergarten, play half-day kindergarten was never universal. I went to a play half-day kindergarten, then for 1st grade, we moved to another state that had full day kindergarten that taught reading and I was put in a remedial reading class as one of about 15 kids in the whole 1st grade who couldn’t read. This was 1975.
I don’t agree with making ability to read a determining factor in passing or failing kindergarten, but reading should definitely be taught in kindergarten. If schools are going to lump kids together based solely on age, not readiness, with an age-span of a full year and then keep rigid age deadlines so that fall babies are almost 6 when they start school, they absolutely need to engage the older kids at their level, and not at the level of a kid almost a full year younger.
I don’t personally think it matters anything in the long run whether you learn to read at 5 or 6 or 7, but it sets smart/older kids up for failure if they are being held back from learning when they are prepared to do so. They get bored and disruptive. If not challenged, they think that everything should be easy for them and get extremely lazy.
I think the school programs have a lot of value. So many people have the whole stage fright thing and the fear of public speaking. As a lifetime performer and a person who has never had stage fright in my life, I know the solution. You have to put kids on stage at an early age. If they are used to it from an early age, it becomes not a big deal to them.I was on stage a lot for beauty pageants, dance recitals, modeling shows, school performances, etc.
It has benefitted me in so so many ways. I aced my college public speaking course for one thing. I always did a good job with any kind of presentation or speech I had to give in school. Because I could just concentrate on what I was doing instead of worrying about being nervous being on stage.
So they are doing these kids a disservice. When they have to present something in that Ivy league they are not going to do such a good job of it if they have zero stage experience up to that point. Being on stage is a nightmare for my autistic son but we work with him and still try to get him to do it. My other son is a natural at it and the more exposure he gets the better he gets. He got to do a speech by himself from memory in this year’s school program and that is great learning experience.
Yes, kids can be taught reading and writing and math at 5. It is all in the approach and the way you teach it. My son is a year or more younger than most kids in his class and yet he smokes almost all of them academically. So I know it can be done. But he gets in trouble all the time for maturity based things. So the smartest kid in the class is always in trouble. There is a disconnect there and I think it has to do with the way schools are ran now and the redshirting. They are expecting him to act like a 7 year old and he is only 6.
“I would kiss the feet of my principal if he sent this letter home today.”
I KNOW, RIGHT?
Why do we have to schedule performances at night and make this kids practice to put on a show for the parents? And what’s with the parents bringing bouquets of flowers and dressing children in gowns to play Hot Crossed Buns on the recorder?
Everything is overdone and I do feel for these teachers who have to put in so much time for a ridiculous production. But the reasoning to get out of doing it is absurd.
Evening performances are MUCH better than my daughter’s Saturday morning dance recital. I would much rather lose a couple hours of one weekday evening than have to get up and moving early Saturday, and then kill half my day, watching elementary school kids dance.
SOA, yes, familiarity with being on stage is a good thing for kids, but is it really necessary to do it multiple times in KG to an adult audience? (They could easily do simple skits for other kids during the school day.)
Also, it’s not like putting a kid on stage is going to prevent future anxiety. I was up there plenty of times as a kid and I have never gotten comfortable with it. In grad school I shook so much during one presentation that when I put my hand on the table to steady myself, the table started shaking too. Eventually I learned how to talk myself down before and during – mainly by realizing that no matter what happens, it will not destroy me.
So, like you I have 2 same-age daughters who have done everything together. They had their first on-stage performances at age 3, and they have had many since them – with school, church, dance, gymnastics, theatre camp, and so on. One of my kids was a natural from the first moment. The other still dreads the stage and when she gets up there, she can hardly do anything. I keep making her do it because she needs to realize that it will not kill her. But one single kindergarten show would not have made a life-changing difference. She just would have stood there and prayed for it to be over soon.
I’m guessing these kids have had other opportunities to sing in front of people. Don’t most schools do a winter concert etc.? And there will be many more opportunities. Parents who are that concerned about getting their kids on a stage can enroll them in all manner of extracurriculars or just put on a show in their front yard.
Multiple times a year? No. We do one performance a year per grade at our school.
“Also, itâ€™s not like putting a kid on stage is going to prevent future anxiety. ”
Yes, this is definitely a personality thing. There are tons of people who deal with this kind of anxiety throughout their lives despite constantly “performing” (or teaching, lecturing, whatever) and doing well at it. Some of the most successful Hollywood types of all time have had consistent stage fright. There’s no magic cure and if there is, it’s not this kind of early exposure. Dolly was probably just one of those people who doesn’t experience it, as many don’t.
“Yes, kids can be taught reading and writing and math at 5. It is all in the approach and the way you teach it. My son is a year or more younger than most kids in his class and yet he smokes almost all of them academically. ”
It. Depends. On. The. Kid. That’s what people are trying to say. I homeschooled five kids — some whizzed through learning to read by 4 1/2, others struggled until well past the sixth birthday. All are good readers now.
I agree that some exposure to these skills should be taught from an early age (KG should not just be 100% playtime) so that the kids ready to learn can get a start on it, and those less ready are at least exposed to it for the moment in which it “clicks.” But it’s simply not going to be the case that every (typical, cognitively normal) five-year-old is going to be ready for full-blown reading, and achieving it by the end of the year.
I think just as we have all kinds of free range ideas about what KG should look like, we should discuss what “putting on a show” should look like with young kids.
It seems to me that the more “important” the show, the more it’s all about the adults. Parents / teachers make costumes, backdrops, props, write (or buy/borrow) the words, and spend many hours making the kids go over and over them mechanically until the little cogs are prepared to all come together on the “big night.” If you as a parent are into this stuff, this is your moment to shine. Yours, not your kid’s. Why should the school have to accommodate this desire of the parents?
A play by little kids should be simple and kid-directed, low-stakes, and cost nothing. It does not need to be in front of parents in order to be worth something to the kids. It does not need to be rehearsed for hours and hours.
As the kids get older, *they* can add more complexity and take on different roles to make it come together. The “show” should be an expression of the kids’ personalities and talents, nothing more.
Kindergarteners do stuff like “show and tell” in school to start developing the ability to present and speak in front of an audience. Plus they make up their own silly fantasy plays during play time. Most KG rooms are equipped with role-play equipment such as a dress-up box or play kitchen. This is also for practicing trying out different roles in front of others. Why should schools do more at this age? If certain parents want to see their little snowflakes dancing on a stage, that’s on them. I don’t expect the school to develop every latent talent my kid may or may not have.
Not in our kindergarten. There are no dress up stuff in the classrooms. They had some in preschool. Kindergarten here is all day and it is mostly structured learning all day. They do not even do show and tell regularly.
I am not too happy with our schools. They are the school that hands out 30 minutes or more of homework every night for 1st graders and they mostly work all day long.
There’s a difference between saying information should be taught in school, and saying the kids need to know all that information in KG or fail.
Reading is so complex that for many kids, stuff needs to be presented repeatedly and in many different ways. For others, they are chomping at the bit and should not be required to play lame baby games all day when they are ready for more.
Literacy develops for years before many kids actually read. But that doesn’t mean it hurts kids to expose them to the elements of literacy. It can certainly be done in a way that does not judge or punish those who are late-normal readers. From what I can tell, that is in fact happening in schools. Kids are not held back in public KG over being unable to read, but they are given additional support through 2nd or 3rd grade until they do catch up.
Well SOA, if that is the case in your school, then they need more small-scale role-play stuff in KG, not more year-end shows.
Our school doesn’t have dress-up stuff in kindergarten either. There is also only one parent performance a year which is luckily split up with the older kids in the winter and younger kids in the spring. But there is show and tell and the kids get to do things in class so plenty of time to practice presenting things at all that is needed at a kindergarten level.
This is, however, one of those things that runs the gambit of personalities. My kid LOVES a big performance and LOVES the school shows for parents. She totally gets into the costumes and rehearsals and props and big production. She enjoys putting on little skits for her classmates too and showing off in dance class to me at a regular lesson, but she LOVES big productions. Since I hate these programs, we are truly doing it for her and not for me.
I am sure that there are other kids who hate the productions and it is all about the parents. And probably other families where everyone likes or hates them.
Snow, Google “homeschooling your state” and you will come up with lists of organizations that should tell you the laws. You can also try “homeschooling organizations your state”. There are lots of groups out there with various slants, if you are a secular person this group has people from all over the country who can help you out as well. http://www.secularhomeschool.com/content/
I don’t think it is as relaxed about reading in kindergarten as you want to make it. When my daughter was in kindergarten, I went to the school curriculum day early in the school year and the teacher guaranteed all the parents that their children would be reading by the end of the year. Not a big deal to me since my kid was already there, but even I questioned such a definitive statement. We moved to A. Samoa before the end of the school year so I don’t know if that was true and if any kids were held back who did not achieve, but it does seem like there was pressure going to be placed on kids to achieve.
In A. Samoa, my friend’s kid was threatened with being held back if he couldn’t read by the end of the year, forcing him to be tutored after school several days a week in order to pass. (Different school than my child.) Tack on the fact that this boy’s father died suddenly that fall and this seemed like a lot of pressure to put on a boy that was already reeling from a major life event and a mother who was having some difficulty coping with her sudden role as a single parent in a culture she no longer fully belonged in (white mother, Samoan father).
What ever happened to elementary grades k-8 being about exposing students to everything?
In gym they taught us the basics of fitness, and most team sports, just to expose us to them.
Same with art, plays, music and the like. Even the core subjects were the basics and principles to prepare us.
Now this target fixation on college will produce book smart/life stupid students.
As long as the play is age appropriate, I can’t see how it doesn’t help with college and career goals. Many jobs do require some public speaking, or at least dealing with the public. (Even the plumber has to be able to explain what is wrong.) Maybe my job was different than many, but art was also a requirement for various newsletters, signs for programs and more.
As to teaching kids to read and do math earlier and earlier, yes it can be done. But the trade off is that it will take more time than for a student whose brain is more mature and ready to learn the concepts. When I was in school, I didn’t learn multiplication until 4th grade. Mostly, I practiced the facts found in a composition book on the bus. And in a week or two…I had all my facts. My daughter was pushed to do multiplication in 2nd grade, so that she could be “tested” on it for the state test. And so we did flash cards in 2nd, in 3rd and in 4th. By 5th grade both she and I were doing the same types of long division with equal success. The things was, I had lots of time to play, read, and explore interests. With her, because I followed a curriculum that is now the basis for Common Core, she had less time to do those things that were equally if not more, valuable learning opportunities. And what is more, I had a better attitude about math. She feels like because she didn’t get it right away, she must be bad at math overall. (She isn’t she regularly scores above grade level.)
Snow, the best route is if you know anyone local to you who homeschools, ask them about it. That person can direct you to the resources you need specific to your state and area. Failing that, Google homeschooling in your county or urban area. If you live in a more rural area, you might have to start at the state level but you should eventually be able to track down some real live people who can give you information. IMO it’s really best to talk to real people (whether by e-mail, phone, or in person) than just to rely on your own research, though some research is also important. It may be that the first people or groups you hit on might be more secular or more religious than you’d prefer, but out of that you should be able to find someone able to point you in a more preferred direction. Depending on your state, parent-directed online charter schooling might also be an option — free, with the oversight and curriculum provided to you, but with you having a good deal of flexibility as to how things get done and what “extras” you do and don’t want to include.
“Reading by the end of the year” means different things to different people.
I am sure there are exceptions to every rule. But from what I’ve seen, the public schools generally respect the fact that reading clicks after age 5/6 for some kids. Private schools of course have various different philosophies on the subject.
Now if the child has overall difficulties with learning or maturity, or seems to have low intelligence, then that would be a different story. Parents would have a right to demand testing. And I believe in most places, parents still have the right to insist on age-based promotion from K to 1st. They may get a lot of pressure, but legally I believe it is their decision.
I do not believe in “the gift of time” as a philosophy. I’m sure there are some kids whose combination of young age and mild learning problems make late KG entry a great idea for them, but for most kids, if there’s a problem, it needs to be addressed professionally sooner rather than later; and if there isn’t a problem, then holding them back does more harm than good.
And what makes me even crazier is the people who redshirt their perfectly normal children and then whine because KG isn’t meeting their needs. So KG needs to get harder so it can accommodate 1st graders. Makes no sense and IMO it should be illegal.
I disagree on the gift of time. My brother was, and still is, extremely immature for his age. He was also a June birthday so already on the young side for kindergarten (cut off is Sept. 1), and that combined with his immaturity made school torture for him. There were never any learning or other issues to merit an IEP or anything that could be treated by anything other than time (he was actually tested both in school and privately). Putting him in school on time was a HUGE disservice. He would have done much better with a younger set of peers, instead he basically dropped out in middle school.
My parents recognized this very early and wanted to hold him out of kindergarten. Instead they were talked into sending him by friends who were anti-red shirting and a school that dissuades it (still does as my daughter attends the same school and I only know of one red-shirted kid in the entire 2nd grade). It is by far their biggest regret in life.
So, while I do think red shirting can be overused in some populations, there are some legitimate cases for it to happen that have absolutely nothing to do with learning disabilities and is just a lack of maturity.
We put our kids in a theater program specifically so they could become comfortable with standing up in front of people and talking. That is an essential career-readiness skill, and getting up on stage with other kids is a great way to learn it.
Thanks for the homeschooling info, everyone. He’s all set with socialization, none of his friends in the neighborhood go to the school he attends anyway, they are all in charter schools while he goes to the local public school we are zoned for, and the friends he has at school he never sees in person outside of school, anyway – they all Skype when they want to see each other outside of school. Wow, technology. I am looking for a secular type of homeschool group, and I did find one but it’s about an hour from my house, the local ones all seem to be religious. I have no problem with religious people, we’re just not religious. We’re secular native New Yorkers living in the bible belt, which can be interesting at times!
SKL: I agree with you about redshirting 100%
“[my middle-schooler is] in school for almost 8 hours every day and that doesnâ€™t include homework”
Sounds more like a full-time job plus mandatory overtime. I don’t think I ever reached 40 hours a week on school & homework added together on a regular basis…
Donna, just because you have a very immature brother does not validate the “gift of time” as a general philosophy. The “gift of time” philosophy presumes that *most* normal kids will be better off being 6yo instead of 5yo when starting KG.
And also, you don’t know that your brother would have had a great experience if he started school a year later. My brother was one of the older kids in his class, and has a gifted IQ, but was always a terrible student (unless the subject was one of his focus areas). Today he would have probably been considered ASD, but they didn’t have that when we were kids. I can think of many other kids who were older in their class and still had a lousy school experience. Being a year older means the kid is more aware of how ridiculous school, teachers, and fellow students can be at times, and how many other, more interesting things he could be doing instead.
PS, it isn’t “red-shirting” if the reason is that the parents believe the child cannot handle age-appropriate work/expectations. Red-shirting is when parents manipulate the placement of a child who is actually capable of KG work, just to gain an advantage or make sure school isn’t a challenge.
Ye s, Papilo, it does seem like a full time job for sure. I was never in school that long, not even in college! And a lot of what they do is sitting around and busy work.
I just wonder, for all of our lip-service about “evidence-based practice” in education, where the evidence that increasing academic expecations on kids, especially K-3 kids, is helping anything?
I have been teaching college composition courses for about 12 years now. One thing I have noticed is that, increasingly, students need and expect to be hand-held through every aspect of every assignment. Students don’t listen, and then ask you to provide them with information you literally just provided three minutes ago. Students don’t read, and then ask you to answer questions that could have easily been found in the reading. This seems to be an increasing problem, and I know that my own son (who we recently started homeschooling again after a year at a private school and half a year in a charter school) is not immune.
I’ve notice that my son will routinely tune me out when I’m talking to him, figuring that I’ll just repeat the information again if it’s important. He will ask me for an answer even when he is capable of answering it himself, just to see if maybe I’ll give it to him and he won’t have to think. He’ll ask me to give him an answer rather than going back to the text and looking for it. He has told me–although I take this with a grain of salt–that he wishes homeschool was more like his old school in that the teachers would “just give us the answers.” Is that entirely true? Probably not. But I don’t doubt that when we keep increasing academic demands, beyond what many children are developmentally capable of, you end up with teachers having to basically spoon-feed answers to their students, so that even capable students learn that it’s easier to just wait or ask than to think.
I have a friend who teaches middle school who complains about how she is expected to alert students to what they need to do like four different times. She needs to tell them in class. She needs to write it on the board and make sure they write it in their notebooks. She needs to send out an e-mail, and she needs to post it on the class website. Why? All that does is train students to not pay attention because, why bother? Why listen in class when the teacher explains the homework when you can just read an e-mail? Why read the e-mail when you can just get it off the class website? And you end up with students like I often get–and these are junior and senior engineering students, who should presumably have decent study habits–who will, after you’ve informed them of an assignment’s due date 8 different ways, still ask you when it’s due, because they’ve ignored all of them. And don’t even get me start on how few of my students even crack open textbooks. Why waste your time, when the teacher will provide you with everything you need to know for the test on Powerpoint slides? And, why bother looking at the slides or listening to the lectures when you can just e-mail them asking them to fill you in on what you should know? (I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had students skip two or three weeks of class–with any excuse–and then expect me to catch them up in my office hours, as if ditching class should earn you private tutoring sessions.)
We are privileging content knowledge–which in many cases students are not going to retain past the test, if they even retain it that far–over the far more important skills of paying attention and knowing how to learn. We are giving students developmentally-inappropriate assignments that require adult intervention at every level, and leaving them unable to figure things out on their own, and unwilling to do so if even when they are able. I would take students who 1) know how to write a grammatically-correct sentence and 2) know how to read to learn–and know NOTHING ELSE about English–over students who have been writing multi-paragraph essays since first grade, that required the teacher to hold their hand through every step of every assignment because the curriculum demanded too much, any day.
@Donna, it’s my understanding, from friends with kids in public school kindergartens, that it’s not uncommon for kids to be expected to come in knowing, at the very least, their letters and letter sounds (including how to write them). In some places, kids are expected to be reading CVC words BEFORE they start kindy. As a person with some knowledge of early literacy (although that’s not my field), that is absolutely insane.
Are some kids reading at 4? Sure. My oldest was reading at 3, and could read chapter books before he turned 5. But, he was unusual. My second, who is a pretty smart kid, knows her letter sounds at 4 but doesn’t yet get how to put them together into words. And, that’s fine, or at least it should be. That “click” is going to come for different kids at different ages. And it’s normal for some kids to still not be solid on letter sounds at 5 or 6.
I have a friend whose son was basically labelled as slow when he started preschool because, at 4, he didn’t know his letters and letter sounds. That used to be something we taught to kids who were 5 and 6, not something we thought you had to master at 3.
And, again, I just have serious doubts, as an educator, that these changes are leading to our students being better readers, writers, or thinkers. How well a child can read at 5 is going to have very little impact on their future, but an educational system that places little or no value on real student-directed learning or on teaching students HOW to learn, but instead makes education all about having the right answer to test questions.
As I understood your general stance, in the many times it has come up, is that NO kids other than those with learning disabilities should ever be held out of kindergarten if they meet the minimum age to be there. There is a HUGE range of “normal” for children of young ages. The assumption that EVERY normal child born between September 1, 2008 and August 30, 2009 will be equally ready for kindergarten on August 11, 2014 is completely ridiculous. Most will be, but some won’t be. Why shouldn’t those who aren’t ready wait a year? There is no prize for getting to high school graduation first.
Wouldn’t red-shirting ALWAYS be to gain an advantage? I can’t think of a single reason to hold a child out of school a year that would not be to gain an advantage. Maybe if you were sailing around the world and didn’t want to stop to enroll in school for another year, but that would be a very small minority of kids.
Ok, somebody explain this to me. Just recently, it came out that in NYC, 70% of Students are reading below grade level and 50% of GRADUATING high school seniors are reading “substantially below grade level.” For those of you that attended public school 50% means half. “Substantially below grade level” means unable to work their way through Superfudge. K-12 is 13 years of school, at 180 days per year, for say 5 hours of classroom time per day. That is 11,700 hours of school. Let’s back that down to 10,000 hours. 10,000 hours of school and half of NYC’s students can barely take on One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish. I don’t know what they schools are doing, but educating the students is not it. Yet, somehow, giving up 2 hours of kindergarden play, will make of the 10,000 hours of failure that these students are going to be subject to in the next dozen years.
@Donna, it probably is always to gain an advantage to some extent, but sometimes that might have to do with the maturity and emotional well-being of the child.
My mom tried to put me in preschool at 3. I was not ready. I cried every day, I hid under the table, I threw tantrums when I had to go. She pulled me, kept me home the rest of that year, started me again the year after, and at 4, I loved school. I loved going, I loved my teachers, I did great. I needed that extra year to mature.
With more kindergartens being full-day (in my area, you can’t find a half-day kindergarten program in a public school) and academically-intensive, I have no doubt that there are many 5 year olds who could benefit from another year to mature before they are ready to handle it. We actually started my oldest, who was extremely academically advanced (he tested as reading at a 5th grade level when he started kindergarten), in a charter school for kindergarten, only to pull him by October for homeschooling because it was just too much for him. He had previously been either home or in three-mornings-a-week preschool. He wasn’t ready for the jump to full-day school, and he lacked the maturity and self-control that was expected in a classroom where they were doing hours of seatwork every day. I brought him home, we started doing a homeschool curriculum that took us, at most an hour a day, and we still covered all the academic bases we needed to cover. But I doubt he was alone, especially for boys, in being too immature at 5 for both the behavioral expectations (such as being able to sit in a seat for 90 minutes at a time doing work quietly) and some of the academic demands (like having the fine-motor skills to do a good deal of handwriting, which he didn’t develop until he was 7).
I don’t think everybody who delays kindergarten for a year is doing it because they want an academic advantage for their child in the future. I only know a couple of people who have done this, but they did so because they were genuinely concerned that the intensity of kindergarten was too much for their 5 year olds and that their kids needed another year to mature. Their reasons were mostly emotional, behavioral, and social, not academic.
Teachers are making schools like jobs with clocking in and clocking out and giving pretend bills and paychecks! I am autistic and in a special program at the Public High School in Virginia and thats what we do in school and we do vocational tasks like hanging clothes and pretend Data Entry! What happpened to free time?
Teachers are making schools like jobs with clocking in and clocking out and giving pretend bills and paychecks! I am autistic and in a special program at the Public High School in Virginia and thats what we do in school and also do vocational tasks like hanging clothes and pretend Data Entry! What happpened to free time?
Teachers are making schools like jobs with clocking in and clocking out and giving pretend bills and paychecks! I am autistic and in a special program at the Public High School in Virginia and thats what we do in school and also we do vocational tasks like hanging clothes and pretend Data Entry! What happpened to free time?
And what is the advantage to not giving the “gift of time?”
Boredom may be an issue for kids who are ready to read, but there is absolutely no hindrance in reading ability in learning in 1st grade instead of kindergarten. Me and the millions of kids in other countries who don’t learn until later are proof of that. As long as the kindergarten kids are actively engaged (i.e. not bored) in something, what is gained by pushing reading at earlier ages?
anonymous mom – I was just questioning SKL for saying that holding my brother out for a year because he was not mature enough would not have been red-shirting because red-shirting is only for people who hold their kids out to get an advantage (I guess over others).
I’ve never heard the term red-shirting to be limited that way. It has always been used to refer to ANYONE who is eligible for school but held out for a year, regardless of the reason.
@pentamom, yes. It depends on the kid. I’d say it even depends more on the kid than on the teacher or approach, by a large margin. You can have the best teacher with the best curriculum, and there will STILL be kids not ready to read at 5. On the other hand, you can have kids who are reading at 3 without any direct instruction from teachers or parents.
I have a good friend who is a bit of a helicopter mom, especially about school, and we will joke about her oldest and my youngest and their literacy skills. I will fully admit to be a bit lazy with my youngest, in terms of all the enrichment stuff. He doesn’t always get read to 20 minutes a day. I don’t appropriately limit his TV time. My main parenting accomplishment with him was figuring out that the best way to get him to stop eating the cat food was to put a pet bowl with Cheerios on the floor next to it, so that he could eat like an animal without actually ingesting pet food. And this kid, at 18 months, after watching Leap Frog’s Letter Factor 2 or 3 times, could identify every letter of the alphabet and give its letter sound. At 2-1/2, he can write nearly all of his letters (often more neatly than his 9 year old brother) and can sound out some CVC words. It’s like he just camne out with a brain wired for reading and writing, and I did very little to facilitate that. (And I’m guessing that, by 8 or 9, his reading skills will be much closer to that of his same-age peers than they are right now, because that’s what tends to happen with early readers.)
My friend reads to her kids 40 minutes a day, does phonics flashcards, has formal reading lessons, and her oldest, at 4, still didn’t know his letters and at 5 was still struggling with letter sounds. It didn’t click for him until he was 6, and he’s still not ready for reading yet (although he’s getting there). That’s still within the range of developmentally-normal, and is nothing to worry about.
Kids learn to read at different rates, just like they learn to talk at different rates. My oldest was speaking in full sentences before he was a year; my youngest barely said anything until he was 26 or 27 months. Both were within the range of normal. Children vary, a lot, developmentally, and it tends to all even out in a few years.
@Donna, I misunderstood your question. Sorry!
The push for reading instruction in kindergarten is new even in the U.S. When I was in school–and I went to a pretty decent elementary school–kindergarten was for learning letters, and formal reading and phonics instruction began in first grade. Some students were reading by the end of kindergarten, but it was not expected or the norm. (I actually remember, because I was a big nerd even as a kid, being so disappointed that I wouldn’t learn to write until first grade. Writing instruction was not done in kindergarten–the most you’d do was coloring and maybe some tracing of letters–and IMO that makes a lot more sense, in terms of fine-motor development, especially for boys, than starting handwriting instruction in preschool.)
Donna, I don’t consider 5 “early” to introduce beginning reading skills. In my KG the entire class learned how to read (and nobody there was redshirted). All of my siblings and both of my kids were reading between age 3 and 5.
I do happen to be somewhat knowledgeable in literacy, by the way. I went to school to be a teacher for dyslexics, and while I did not end up pursuing this career, I have always been a literacy volunteer and was an officer for a literacy organization for years. It is something I have studied constantly since before I was a teen.
And no, I did not say there was never any reason to hold a kid back. You know I am not that stupid. In many parts of the country, including where I live, middle-class / well-off people whose kids have “summer birthdays” automatically redshirt them. To not redshirt is the exception in many circles I hang in. The teachers encourage it and the parents think they are doing their kids a favor by making sure school is ridiculously easy for them.
I do not believe that taking away the challenge of school is good for kids. It’s just another form of bubble wrapping. It makes for unnatural development. If a plant can’t grow upward, it’s going to grow some way. It’s not going to just sit there patiently waiting until the obstruction is removed. Kids won’t either. There’s truth to the saying that an idle mind is the devil’s workshop. At best, even the most moral kid on the planet will learn how to spend her class time daydreaming instead of learning good work and study skills. Down the line, when it matters, she is going to be in for a rude awakening.
It is not a new idea. And there is research to support my views, though I have no intention of digging it up so I can cite it.
I also see it in my own kids. The one who has to work hard in school has much better study and organizational habits, and she can take her hits, get back up and keep trying. The other one is great at reading and remembering, but she won’t put in much effort; and when things don’t go as expected, she’s at a loss. I already accelerated her so there isn’t much more I can do, besides wait for the school to differentiate the work more. I can’t imagine either of my kids being in a lower grade. They would drive me and their teacher insane.
“The push for reading instruction in kindergarten is new even in the U.S. When I was in schoolâ€“and I went to a pretty decent elementary schoolâ€“kindergarten was for learning letters, and formal reading and phonics instruction began in first grade. Some students were reading by the end of kindergarten, but it was not expected or the norm.”
When I was in school (kindergarten was 39 years ago for me), it was pretty hit-or-miss as to reading in kindergarten. My kindergarten didn’t teach it. The school I went to for first grade (different state) did and I was the odd man out not knowing how in 1st grade. All my friends in a 3rd state (we moved a lot) also said that they learned in kindergarten.
Having experience with both from the exact same time period, I don’t see a single academic advantage for either group really. The kids who learned in kindergarten were not stressed or lacking in interest in reading. The kids who learned in 1st grade were not behind those who learned in kindergarten when they finished school.
I just think there is way too much of a push to grow up as fast as possible in the US. There is no prize for learning something first. I don’t see any reason not to teach kids who are ready to learn in kindergarten, but I don’t see any reason to push it either. And I say this as a parent whose kid learned to read within a month of kindergarten starting. She was clearly very ready, but she would have been an excellent reader even if she had waited a year.
SKL – Under your theory, every person who went to kindergarten in Portland Maine in 1975 should be a bored underachiever because they made no attempt whatsoever to teach us to read in kindergarten so very few learned to do so, but that is obviously not reality. Even kids like me, who were very intelligent and easily could have learned, managed to still pull through in life. I don’t even remember being bored in kindergarten, despite not learning to read.
The fact is that regardless of when they learn to read, extremely bright kids are going to have issues in school with boredom. Schools are simply not equipped to handle advanced learners very well. Learning to read earlier may make kindergarten more challenging (although it shouldn’t if nobody is learning and they are all doing something else), but boredom still sets in eventually because you are always going to be ahead of the curriculum.
My daughter (who is not redshirted, but is a fall birthday so one of the oldest in her class) easily could have gone to kindergarten a year earlier. I see absolutely nothing that we would have gained except her graduating a year earlier. Her intelligence is what it is and will always be what it is regardless of her age of school entry and the date she learned to read. Most things are still going to come easy to her because she is smarter than average. She is still going to be bored much of the time because she picks up concepts very quickly.
This is fascinating to me. Since all of my kids have been homeschooled from the start, I had never heard of red-shirting before. One thing I don’t understand is this. If a kid can learn something, with some struggle, this year — or he could play and grow this year and learn it with no struggle in about a week next year — why would you waste all your time and energy trying to get him to learn right now? What difference does it make?
I learned this with my kids. I struggled and struggled to get my oldest kids to understand various math concepts. With the middle ones, I waited until they were about 8, explained it once, and they understood immediately. I never had to pull out the counting bears and the linking blocks, etc., because the concepts were self-evident by that age.
I guess if your kids are going to be stuck in school all day, I can see wanting them to have interesting challenges to meet so they won’t be bored. And I do get the idea of a challenge in and of itself being worthwhile. I just don’t get the idea of MAKING something harder, on purpose, when it would be simple if you just waited a year. If a kid can master something just by waiting a little while until their brain is ready, it seems to make sense to do that, and save their energy for things that are more complex and CAN’T be mastered just by waiting (playing the violin, for example).
I agree with the chorus of “don’t redshirt for no good reason.” I wasn’t redshirted, and I fell smack dab in the middle of the “correct” age range for kindergarten when I started school (my birthday is June 16th, and the cut-off date was December 31st), but I was academically ahead of the other kids for all of elementary school, because I’d been read to from a young age, and I started learning to read at three, because I wanted to learn–my mom says I started by reading road signs when I was in the car. Apparently, my first words were “Stop” and “Hospital.” Anyway, my parents had the opposite problem–they wanted to skip me ahead, because they thought I was ready for it, and they’d each skipped a grade in school themselves. However, the school system wouldn’t allow it, for “social and emotional reasons,” so instead, I stayed in my chronologically-appropriate grade, and got made fun of for being a “brainiac,” etc., and badgered into letting other kids copy my work on assignments and tests. Elementary school was the longest nine years of my life, but sometimes I wonder if it would have been different if I’d been allowed to skip a grade, and if so, which grade?
P.S., I agree that cancelling the play is stupid. A school play is a great way to teach kids about co-operation and collaboration, memory work, public speaking, self-confidence, and of course, creativity.
@Snow: Keep an eye on the messages that HSLDA sends out if you get on their mailing list. Half of the time you can go to the organization for good info on homeschool requirements and resources in your state, and the other half of the time they’re sending out highly colored press releases alluding to various conspiracies and movements trying to do this and that to The American Family. If you want to know the definition of The American Family being used, consider that the founder of HSLDA also founded Patrick Henry College.
The first place to start, IMO, is searching on homeschooling in your state, and also in your school district. You may just have to sign a declaration of intent and off you go, or you may basically have to run an itty bitty school with a foot of paperwork and laminated IDs and everything–or you may find out that your state has a happy medium allowing you to register your student through the local district and receive all school services and a voucher for books in return for a Peechee folder’s worth of reporting every year. The point is that your planning will largely be determined by what you find out about homeschooling in your state and district.
Then you need to think about how you want to do the teaching. Is unschooling possible and if so do you want to use that style? Or do you want to go for something more preassigned? Each alternative requires different preparation and follow-up. I don’t know about unschooling, but I have been homeschooling for five years now. Finding a method that you want to use (and aligning the reports you make with the requirements of your state) requires a lot of thought. Personally I homeschool partly because I don’t think children need to be provided with little bits of carefully diced and sequenced information, so I use Ambleside Online as my curriculum framework; it’s based on the assumption that children are able to synthesize information that is presented in context. Ambleside is also good for parents who think that children are pushed much too hard in school these days with far too much busywork besides (raises hand) and do much better with brief lessons.
I think you’re right about the time requirements for middle school. Three hours a day, plus possibly an hour or so of self-directed work (reading, research, etc.), should be plenty.
New York, um?
I’d be curious to know what the average household income of that class of kids happens to be.
Not that it should matter -really.
But I’ve stumbled in the past upon outrageously entertaining meltdown stories…Manhattan society matrons conniption-fitting like crazy over planning out Junior’s academic career – when Junior is all of 6 months old.
The fast-track yellow brick road to furthering the family success.
Those kids never do have anything remotely representational of what used to pass for a liberally moderate normal childhood.
(The Victorians used to do this too, by the way.)
One way or another, it all comes out in the wash – when you follow the money.
Applause from the gallery.
What a novel concept, um? Learning by observing – that kids actually happen to grow into readiness for cognitive reasoning.
“Hurry-up” learning is about as good for kids as “Just in time” supply is for the planet.
Good sense should be the mentor of the teacher.
Emily, my guess is that you would have been picked on more. There is nothing positive to be gained socially from moving an already bullied kid into a grade with a bunch of kids who know you don’t “belong” there. If kids in your own grade called you “brainiac,” what do you think the older kids are going to do when you score higher than them? Totally different from redshirting that is from day one.
The people around here who red shirt is almost always upper to middle class folks who either want their sons to be big for their grade to have an advantage in sports or to have an advantage in school with academics and behavior. They say this with their own mouths. They say they are redshirting years before the kids are even 5 to make that decision. They just know they are going to do it. It is considered some kind of look at me I have enough money to pay for staying home and daycare and preschool another year extra.
I am a stay at home parent who could have easily red shirted but I did not want to. I knew they were academically ready and even though mine are a little immature for their age and my son has special needs, I think holding them back is stupid. Every kid is their own person and will develop in their own way. I don’t care about the race to nowhere. I don’t care if my kid is the smartest (one son actually is in his class), the biggest, the most perfect, the best athlete, etc. I don’t care. I rage against this my kid is better than your kid mentality most people around here have.
“One thing I donâ€™t understand is this. If a kid can learn something, with some struggle, this year â€” or he could play and grow this year and learn it with no struggle in about a week next year â€” why would you waste all your time and energy trying to get him to learn right now? What difference does it make?”
First of all, “all your time and energy” is far from the case. A few one-on-one minutes per day is enough for a ready child to start reading. I never spent more than 5 or 10 minutes per day teaching or drilling reading skills, even with my slower kid. My more advanced kid mainly picked it up from being read to.
Secondly, why do we encourage any new skill or risk? What good is it to let our kids walk to school at 10 when they could learn it so much more easily at 14? Why let them cut their own meat at 4 when it is so much easier for them to learn it at 12? Well, because we’ve decided that it’s worth it for them to be able to do things for themselves. For a whole list of reasons. It gives them more choices, it makes them feel proud and important, and it opens doors to still more opportunities to grow. And there’s no good reason not to.
Thirdly, reading is fun. It’s like riding a bike. A little time and effort spent learning buys years of great times. I wish I had video of my kids laughing and sharing as they read their respective books at 5yo/6yo. This wasn’t about proving anything to the world, it was about having a good time and enjoying their childhood. One of my kids has never really liked anything quite as much as reading. How could anyone not let her read?
@Donna–I’m not sure I would have been made fun of if I’d been skipped ahead, because I was also better behaved than a lot of my same-age classmates, and one of the things that annoyed me was the noise, fighting and arguing, and generally immature behaviour that they’d engage in, and of course, if I didn’t participate, I got teased about that. Also, what if I’d skipped kindergarten, and started grade one at age five? That way, just like redshirting, it would have happened from day one, so it could have been kept quiet, and there wouldn’t have been any big fanfare about “Emily skipped a grade, what a brain.” I mean, I’m not bitter about it or anything, and I enjoyed high school and university, but still, considering how many times I had to slog through the same lessons in long division, or French, or how to draw perspective, or whatever, I’ve thought on many occasions that, if I had gotten to do elementary school (K-8 here) at my own pace, I probably could have finished it in four or five years instead of nine.
I’m taking the basic gist of your post to mean that kids are not being taught to know how to learn.
That is such a crucial and basic developmental stage in independent thinking. And I can’t quite imagine a more important thing for an education to provide someone.
Could it be that we have slipped so far as to get caught in “tangible” results-based outcome, that we now know only how to measure scores, and not the person behind the numbers?
This perhaps makes sense in a tangible world, but it is all about intangibles, when it comes to measuring true understanding. More so – when placing an individual and personal stamp upon the true value of an intellect.
It is as if we don’t really require this anymore. As if the value-added “processing” of commodified studenthood has replaced whatever joy real learning and personal understanding used to provide.
So what is it that these educational credentials really produce?
It seems to me that what many students are actually learning is something far different than what comes from a real education.
And whose fault is that? We ramp up the demands and requirements, yet they swim in an ocean of distraction. Whatever it is that they do focus on…it is not an academic focus.
They live in the same world as their elders and betters. The one that requires so many quick and instant returns on investment. When the long haul of self-expression shrinks to 140 characters, life becomes a cartoon. Not so funny when real understanding is sacrificed for painless scholarship.
The teachers in my life taught me how to learn – only long enough until I could do that for myself. A blessing.
How sad…to teach against that wall of white noise that surrounds students now.
I don’t see bullying being any worse than average for smart kids who were accelerated. I was accelerated a year, but I didn’t know it until 7th grade. When the teacher said the youngest student got to play Santa at the Christmas party, that is when it came out that I was a little too young for 7th grade. Because I was quiet, I’m not sure anyone even realized I was smart. There were enough things that I didn’t know / do well. I remember how incredulous everyone was when I didn’t know what “shortstop” meant in 5th grade. 😛 We didn’t ever share grade info and I kept a low profile.
Being very introverted and non-conformist, I did get picked on some, and I was bullied for a while in 8th grade (by a small group of people). But lots of kids of all ages and IQ levels get picked on / bullied.
I graduated high school in 3 years, so I turned 16 in my graduating year. I was surprised to find that I felt more comfortable and accepted in the senior class than the junior class. People were much more interested in what I had to contribute. Group work was much more synergistic. I was never marginalized. I can only wonder whether I would have had a happier school career had I been accelerated 2 years from early on. But that hardly ever happens.
Unfortunately nobody really knows how life would have turned out had a different path been taken.
Thank you, Jenny!
I think people are a bit overly optimistic about how well grade-skipping turns out for accelerated kids, just like we are overly optimistic about how well grade-retention works out for kids who are behind. While common sense would lead us to believe that, if you are behind, repeating a grade is the answer, or that if you are ahead, skipping a grade is the answer, I haven’t seen any research indicating that either is the case. Kids who are held back tend to ultimately have worse school performance and more social problems than kids performing at the same level who are not retained, and I’ve never seen anything indicating that accelerated kids don’t suffer from boredom and social problems at the same rates as kids who aren’t skipped ahead.
The thing is, most accelerated learners just learn faster. They pick up concepts faster than their classmates. It’s not a matter of the material being too easy–that they are bored in fourth grade but the pace of a fifth or sixth grade class would be just right for them–but of the pace being too slow, and that’s going to be the case in the grade they are accelerated into. It’s not like an advanced third grader is intellectually the same as an average fourth or fifth grader, but that they just learn material faster. Unless you are going to be skipping a child so far ahead that they lack the basic skills they need to grasp the material–in which case social factors will no doubt be a huge issue–you are not really solving the problem.
I’m not sure that most public schools are the best place for really academically advanced kids. Some schools have great programs, but most don’t. Part of the reason I homeschool my oldest is because of that issue. I know that moving him into a fifth or sixth grade classroom would not have been the answer. It wasn’t that, for example, he learned nothing new in fourth grade math: he actually was introduced to a number of new concepts. But, the problem was that he picked those concepts up much faster than his peers. He would have them down in half a class period, while many of his peers needed a week to learn the same concepts. Moving him into a fifth grade math classroom would not have solved that, because he’d have missed fourth-grade concepts he needed to know, but once he got caught up on those, he’d be in the same situation: he’d be introduced to new math concepts that he’d be able to pick up in a class period or so, while his peers needed a week. His issue was more the pace, not the content, and acceleration doesn’t solve that.
The benefit of homeschooling, for us, is that instead of just saying, “We are jumping him from fourth grade to sixth grade but spending a year on sixth grade material,” we can tailor everything to where he is. If he can move through fifth grade math in four months, he can. If he gets through fifth grade science in six months, he can.
I don’t think homeschooling is the only option, but I do think that traditional public school settings are not particularly well-suited for students who are working either struggling or advanced, and unfortunately neither retention nor acceleration tends to address the real needs of the student.
Emily – I agree that simply starting school in 1st grade at age 5 would not be a problem. However, that is not what you described. You described a situation in which you were in school already and your parents asked to have you move up grade. In that case everyone is aware that you are skipping a grade. My daughter knows several 3rd graders. They know that she is in 2nd grade right now. If she suddenly shows up in their 4th grade class in August, they would be fully aware that she skipped a grade without her having to say a word.
While SKL is right that you can’t predict what happens on a different path, continuing to do the same thing, only bigger, and expecting a different result is ridiculous. In other words, you were already being bullied for being too smart. While it is possible that the entire older class is completely bully-free and delightful by nature, it seems unlikely. Kids who are bullied tend to be consistently bullied even when they change their environment.
If you have a bully problem, I can definitely see a motivation to get out of school earlier so I don’t think it is a bad thing to skip a grade. I just don’t see it as a resolution to a bully problem. Nor is it a resolution to a boredom problem. It may be slightly more challenging at first as you have to learn things you may have missed in the previous grade, but intelligence is about the ability to grasp concepts quickly, not knowledge. Whether you are in 2nd or 3rd grade, you are still going to grasp what is taught more quickly than the rest of the class and have to slog through months of doing something it took you weeks to learn.
@JP, yes, that’s basically it. I think we are failing to teach students how to learn. I realize that “teaching how to learn” might sound kind of trite, but if students aren’t learning to be attentive and independent readers and listeners–which, as far as I can tell from my experience both as a parent and as a teacher, they aren’t–how much good will all that content knowledge serve them? As far as I can tell, basic skills (being able to read and write and to perform basic math functions) and knowing how to learn are by far the most important things we can teach kids.
I remember very little–if anything!–from high school chemistry or high school geography or college Latin. But, I know how to read and listen to learn, so if I do need to know something about chemistry or geography or Latin, I know how to do it. I think our educational system is so based right now on cramming kids full of knowledge and then testing them on it (and not really caring how much is retained after the test) that we’re not stepping back and seeing the big picture, that in many cases it’s not the content of learning but the process that is so important. If kids don’t learn how to learn independently, they are going to be at a huge disadvantage as adults.
The other issue with bullying and grade acceleration is that, while it’s true that high school seniors are, by and large, more accepting of differences and less likely to tease or bully than high school freshman, it’s also true that middle school students are far more likely to be cruel than fourth graders. So it’s not like you are somehow sparing a child teasing by having them enter middle school at 10. If anything, you are creating a much worse situation by throwing a child into a setting full of hormonal, pubescent preteens and teens.
Once you hit high school, and you are placed by courses rather than grade level in many cases, acceleration makes more sense and is less disruptive (I never skipped a grade, but I was in classes with juniors and seniors when I was a freshman and sophomore, and it was never a big deal, because that was how the classes worked. Although, honestly, I was less bored in AP classes with my same-age peers than I was taking chemistry as a sophomore with seniors, because, again, it’s generally pace not content that’s the issue.) But I don’t see acceleration reducing bullying in later elementary or middle school–and see many ways it would make it worse–which are unfortunately the years when bullying is most problematic.
@Donna–I should have clarified; my parents kind of knew I was ahead before I started school. So, I’m not exactly certain when the “Should Emily skip a grade?” conversation arose, but I’m pretty sure that it happened early on in my academic career; early enough that I wouldn’t have been teased for it. Anyway, maybe it’s true that skipping ahead, but still going at the “average” pace wouldn’t have been a solution–that was a good point. The worst class I remember was French, because we’d read interesting stories as a class–for example, one was about a family of pioneers–BUT, we’d go just one page per day, and we’d have an assignment based on that page (which was always too easy for me), and I kept getting in trouble for reading ahead. We were also taught the same material year after year–so, there were always the same units on greetings and conversation, parts of the body and clothing, rooms in the house, buildings, vehicles, and professions, and so on, and so forth. I’ve always found languages interesting, but public school pretty much ruined French for me. I liked it again in high school, because the classes moved a bit more quickly, and I felt more challenged, but elementary school French was pure hell. In fact, pretty much all of grades 4 through 8 was hell for me, between the boredom and the bullying. By grade eight, my teachers had pretty much given up on me, so I’d finish my work early, and then go across the hall to the computer room to play Duke Nukem. I enjoyed it then, but looking back, I have to wonder, how much could I have learned if I’d actually been engaged and encouraged to learn, rather than just being brushed aside as an inconvenience?
No, acceleration doesn’t solve all problems. I was bored a lot in school despite being the youngest. But it is still better than doing nothing. My young 7yo in 2nd grade does learn a heck of a lot more than she would if she were still in 1st. It also makes her eligible for differentiation sooner, and for the somewhat more challenging summer camps and such. And the level of conversation among classmates is higher as well. She enjoys the same books as some of the oldest girls in class, so they have that in common. So far I have not observed any problems socially from being the youngest. She’s a little weird, so that might catch up to her no matter what grade she is in. But so far, no problems.
Public school (or private school) is not designed to cater to every difference, that’s obvious. That’s why sometimes parents have to take matters into their own hands. Some of us won’t homeschool for various reasons, so we do what we can “within the system.”
I found this years ago, so I don’t remember the exact text, but I think it provides info on research showing that acceleration is the right answer for many above-average kids.
Obviously there is no one right answer. But the option to accelerate should be just as available as the option to hold back.
@SKL, I think there’s a difference between being the youngest in your class by like a year, and being several years younger than your classmates. The problem I see is that many very bright students are going to find that very soon they are just as bored in the new class, and at a certain point, you’d be talking about skipping somebody 2 or 3 or 4 grades ahead, and that’s where you’d run into real problems.
Starting middle school at 11 rather than 12 won’t make a huge difference. But do you want your 10 year old in classes with 13 year olds? Or your 13 year old in class with 17 year olds? I can think of lots of social and developmental reasons why that would probably not be great–not least of which is that very few extremely smart kids, even if they are pretty mature, are quite as advanced in terms of their emotional maturity as they are intellectually. I’m actually a big fan of mixed-age classrooms, but that’s different than having one child in a same-age classroom who is several years younger than everybody else.
I don’t think that being a year younger or older than your peers will have a negative social impact on most kids. It might be the right choice for some families, and that’s fine. But, I don’t think it’s a cure-all for a child who is very academically advanced. There are many situations where it’s not going to work. For example, when my son was in kindergarten reading at a fifth-grade level, what do you do? The school’s suggested “compromise” was moving him into a second-grade class for reading. However, he’d still have been somewhat bored by the content, AND he simply was not mature enough to behave in a second-grade classroom (he could barely behave in a kindergarten classroom). There was also the issue that, while his reading comprehension skills were extremely high, his handwriting ability was limited, and he would not have been able to physically do the kind of writing assignments that were expected of second graders. I think a lot of academically-advanced kids do tend to have areas where they excel and other areas where they are right at grade level (often things like motor skills and behavior), and that makes placement really, really tricky.
anonymous mom, I never said acceleration was a cure-all, I said it was not. But for many advanced kids, it is better than doing nothing.
I also had a kid who at KG age was reading 5th+ grade books for fun. The question “what would you do” is not a hypothetical one for me. I did what I could. At least with slightly older kids she has a few classmates who are also advanced readers, who would understand her higher level thinking, who have intriguing things to talk about themselves. She has access to more books of interest to her. A higher % of math, science, etc. taught is actually new to her. It is sometimes worth volunteering to answer a tough question posed by the teacher. Is it enough to make everything perfect, of course not. Is it better than the grade below, of course it is.
There’s no classroom in any local school that could meet this kid’s needs. You don’t need to tell me that. So I don’t understand what the argument is about. Are you saying my kid should be in 1st grade because 2nd grade is not very challenging for her? Or are you saying that homeschooling is the only option better than leaving her in 1st? Or … ?
I never said kids should or could successfully be accelerated years beyond their age group. Maybe there is a rare kid that should, I don’t know. I did say that 2 years ahead might have been right for me. I don’t think it would have hurt anyone or anything if, when I changed schools between 7th & 8th grade, I’d just gone ahead into 9th. (8th grade was kind of a waste for me because I switched from private to public.) But anyway, with early graduation it all worked out. I am not a genius. If I were, who knows, but most kids are not.
I’m not saying that children are better in 1st than 2nd grade or that homeschooling is the only option. If a child is happy and doing well after being skipped ahead a year, that’s great. I tend to think they probably also would have managed to be happy and well-adjusted if they hadn’t skipped, but it might be a better fit. For well-behaved, well-liked students who are academically advanced, moving up one grade might be a good fit.
But if a child is bored and bullied and miserable, it’s unlikely that the situation would be remedied if they were just moved up a grade or two. They’d likely continue to be bored, bullied, and miserable, and those are the issues that need to be addressed. Similarly, for a child like my son, who is academically advanced but lacks behavioral self-control and isn’t very good at obeying, moving ahead a grade or two would probably just place them into a situation where the behavioral expectations would exceed their capabilities and make things worse.
And, mainly, I don’t think parents are somehow harming their children by waiting until they are 6 to start kindergarten, even if the child is quite smart. With kindergarten being increasingly academic–and now nearly always full-day–there are plenty of reasons for parents to think that waiting until 6 is a good idea. I had never heard of “red-shirting” before this thread, and the only families I know who postponed kindergarten were hippie/crunchy types who didn’t believe in placing children into academic environments too young.
I guess fostering a love of acting is a bad career choice. Not like acting is a real career, right? Nor are any of the assorted careers associated with acting, right? Because all those little kindergarten kids re growing up to accountants, right?
My son could easily skip to second grade from 1st. He is bored now and I think that is why he gets in trouble a lot. I am going to try to get him tested for gifted next year which might help. But I would never skip him a grade because then those freaking kids would be 4 years older than him!
SKL – I honestly just don’t see any challenge or advantage whatsoever in doing the exact same work at the exact same pace and ultimately getting to the exact same place, but just doing it all a year earlier. I seriously considered the idea of skipping my daughter a grade when we moved to A. Samoa. I looked at the research and thought about my childhood and schooling, and ultimately, I just could come up with no real benefit to it. No particular negative either since it was brand new school anyway. Just absolutely nothing whatsoever to make it worth the effort.
My kid’s school does have some differentiation. My daughter has reading (book club) and math with the gifted teacher in an accelerated class. Book club is set for the whole year, but the math group changes with each new topic and every kid in the grade is evaluated every time. So if you rock one topic, you go into the accelerated math class for that topic even if you are otherwise flunking math. And vice versa. My kid has been in the accelerated class, out of the accelerated class and moved into the accelerated class mid-topic at various times throughout the year, depending on what they were studying. This isn’t perfect by any means, but definitely seems more worthwhile than just throwing an advanced kid into another class to work at a too slow pace.
Donna, we’re going to have to agree to disagree. I’ve already been repeating myself too much here.
Oh, yeah, how could I forget about reading groups based on ability? We did that in grade one, but somehow, even though we chose the names of our groups (within a candy theme, so it was Tootsie Rolls, Chocolate Bars, Lollipops, and Gumdrops, in descending order of ability), everyone somehow always knew which group was the “best,” and which one was the “worst.” I was a Tootsie Roll, and there were only two other kids in my group with me. Anyway, as for the rest of elementary school, I participated in the sporadic patchwork of “enrichment” classes and activities that were available, but, like I said, it was sporadic–it depended on teacher availability and willingness, funding, and actually having enough advanced kids to make the program worthwhile. Looking back, it wasn’t a pleasant feeling, knowing that it wasn’t me, but rather, the powers-that-be at the school, who would decide whether or not I’d get to do any work at my level, with other students who were in the same boat of “advanced, gifted, and maybe just a little strange.” I remember in grade two, the first year we had enrichment, it was a mixed class of all ages, so I was in with kids in grades five and six, and maybe even older; I don’t remember. Anyway, that was the only year that I remember that happening; the rest of the time, we were divided into groups by a three-year age span, so it’d be grades 1-3, 4-6, and then 7-8, because elementary school (fortunately) ended there.
In high school, it was easier, because there were different streams of classes (Special Ed, Basic, General, Advanced, and then Enriched or Extended in rare cases), and for music, I simply joined the senior band at the end of grade nine (the year I started playing), because the teacher decided that I was ready for it. It wasn’t easy then, but I worked hard at music because I loved it, and I was able to keep up. Anyway, I know that my high school had more resources than either one of my elementary schools (I went to one from grades K-4, and another from grades 5-8), but I still think that elementary school could have done more to encourage “different” kids during their early, formative years. There was a whole program in place for Special Ed students, but there wasn’t much available for students on the other end of the spectrum, because challenging us simply wasn’t as much of a priority as getting the Special Ed students through the system.
Snow, socialization for homeschoolers is exactly the opposite of what non-homeschoolers think it is. Homeschoolers end up doing plays, volunteering, playing sports, doing scouts, taking art, karate, gymnastics, and swim classes. And we parents are run ragged because we are taking our kids everywhere and wondering when we will fit some school in!
Best wishes to you and your son as you embark on this journey!
I remember being really happy when I hit Junior year and was finally able to get in AP social studies and English classes. I was not smart enough in math or science to get in those advanced classes but I was okay with that. I was glad to get into the AP classes for those subjects though. Also in advanced Spanish 3 and 4. It was SO nice to feel like it was not being dumbed down and that I was actually being challenged and learning something.
It was also good to be surrounded by only other advanced students who took school seriously. I was so tired of being in class with losers who acted out or made lame jokes or fell asleep or who slacked off (especially when I got stuck with them in group projects). It was nice being on an even level with everyone else.
It was also nice because a lot of the teasing and bullying was gone. No more losers yelling out “NERD!” when I got a problem right. We all got the problems right and wanted to in AP classes!
I know they say they cannot do this but I kinda think it might make sense to group entire classes by ability. Then if a kid advances or falls behind they can switch classes or groups. That way there is no kids pretending to be dumb to fit in and not get teased. No kids feeling bad because everyone else in the class reads better than them. It would all be just with your peers on the same level as you.
Schools vary on ability and willingness to cater to advanced learners. My elementary school was heavily tracked so I was in class with the 25 smartest kids in the grade every year and everything was accelerated. And the gifted program was FABULOUS. I remember writing, directing and preforming our own play and going on several killer field trips, including one to Washington DC where we had a lengthy question and answer session with John Glenn.
Sadly, tracking fell out of favor many years ago and most public schools don’t have the funding to take the field trips we did anymore. My daughter’s school does a fairly decent job at providing advanced learning opportunities, at least in reading and math. Outside of some bureaucratic issues, I’m pretty happy with it and she is extremely happy with it. In fact, they were apparently telling some weird gun joke that I didn’t get at all that involved making guns with fingers and saying the word gun and talking about shooting the President today and nobody was suspended. I only know about it because my daughter told me the joke (and I use that term extremely loosely) and mentioned that her classmate told it to the teacher.
I don’t think it is a problem if kids know some of their classmates are ahead/behind.
My kids are far different from each other in ability, despite being very close in age. Because they care for each other’s feelings, the advanced one would never flaunt or put her sister down. The average one is matter-of-fact about it and neither resentful nor insecure. Seeing it prove a non-issue for my own kids, I don’t see why kids in general can’t take it. Though I used to worry about it when the younger one started to surge ahead academically. I’d point out that the elder did many other things first/better, e.g., riding a bike. I’m not sure whether this was actually necessary or not.
â€œThere are two ways of dealing with nonsense in this world. One way is to put nonsense in the right place; as when people put nonsense into nursery rhymes. The other is to put nonsense in the wrong place; as when they put it into educational addresses, psychological criticisms, and complaints against nursery rhymes.â€ GK Chesterton
While it is nice that your children care about one another and don’t flaunt their abilities, it is also very true that a school is not full of siblings who care about one another. Our class totally had a group of girls that taunted those at the bottom of the class, athletes who taunted those who were less athletic, etc.
That said, the answer is not to somehow hide individual reading levels from everyone else – it is impossible anyway. I truly don’t think there is an answer. This stuff is learned at home and you have to change the parents, not the kids. I don’t see it at my kid’s extremely hippie/crunchy school, but I don’t think the complete lack of interest in any competition and the near silence surrounding any achievement lest anyone else feel bad is positive either. I think friendly competition is good. I did some of my best work in high school while in friendly competition with one of my best friends.
@Snow, I kept meaning to jump in here and say, I agree that it sounds like you are all set, socially. I am not a member of any homeschooling groups. They all meet in the suburbs, and I don’t feel like driving thirty or forty minutes to hang out with people I may not like anyway. 😉 We are fortunate to live in a neighborhood with a number of families, and my son has lots of neighborhood friends. None of them went to the school he’d been attending. Honestly, he gets more real social time now than he did in school, simply because, without homework (most of his friends are either homeschooled or attend a school that gets out at 2:30 with no homework), he is ready to go out and play by 3, instead of getting home from school at 4, having homework to do, and having almost no time to play before dinner.
I’ll be honest and say we are not those “out of the house all the time” homeschoolers. During the day, we are mostly at home (or in our yard, or at the branch library a few blocks from our house). But, I don’t think my kids are lacking for social experiences at all. Normally, we make some sort of trip out around 11 or so, where they play with each other or we visit the library or we take a walk until lunch (and once a week we visit a neighborhood cafe and usually run into people we know), and then the kids go out again at 3, and nearly every day I have to shoo three or four of their friends away around 5:00 when they come in to get ready for dinner.
I know a lot of homeschoolers who love activities and field trips and groups, and that’s great, but that is just not me and wouldn’t work for our family right now. I think that if your son has neighborhood friends, he should be just fine even if you don’t plan any social events for him.
@Donna, now I’m getting super off-topic, but I find it really frustrating that tracking has fallen so far out of favor. First, it still happens; it doesn’t matter whether they tell kids or not that the small group they do reading in is the “low” or “high” group–the kids know. Even in the teeny, tiny, hippie, non-competitive private school my son was in, where the classes had about 12 kids each, everybody knew which groups had the strong readers and which had the struggling ones. It takes kids little or no time to figure that out. I don’t think that means we need to go around announcing the different group levels, but it just seems to me that if we didn’t make struggling academically to be something horrible and shameful–which it just isn’t, because school is simply going to be harder for some people–it wouldn’t be such a huge deal.
I will say, from my son’s year and a half in school, and my experiences with my college students, I do think the whole culture of “smart kids” being mocked has largely changed, at least among the middle class. (I know this is still something that is a problem in many poor communities.) With all of the pressure on students to get good grades and get into a good college, and with nearly every student wanting to go to college in these schools, it seems to be the students who struggle who are teased for it, not the smart kids for doing well. Sometimes I’ll have a student produce a really great paper that I want to share with the class, and I always ask them first, because I don’t want to embarrass anybody. (Personally, I would have been mortified if my work was pointed out as being really great, even though I was never bullied for being smart and it wasn’t a big issue in my school.) I have never had a student tell me no, or even ask to remain anonymous. They want the rest of the class to know that they did a great job. It’s the students who do poorly who feel really uncomfortable and want to hide their grades.
I know that the few times my son was teased, it was not for performing well in school–something I thought might be an issue–but for misbehaving. And this was in an inner-city charter school. The students who did well academically tended to be the leaders and the popular students. It’s a different world.
Anyway, now I got really off-track. Anyway, I think if we didn’t assign so much value to people based on perceived intelligence, we’d be able to have a tracked system–which is just so much better for everybody in practice–without so much stigma.
Thanks again. I got a ton more info today and I’m really looking forward to homeschooling now. My son will have to take a standardized test every year, but other than that it looks like we’ll be pretty free. I also found some art classes that we can do together and that makes me very happy. 🙂 Next year is going to be the best school year ever.
I work for a large urban school district. I can tell you right now that the same parents who willingly went along with this decision are the same darn parents that show up to School Board meetings demanding to know why there are fewer and fewer art and music opportunities for their kids.
Um, maybe because you kowtow to the idea that FIVE YEAR OLDS need to focus on their career and college paths. Sheesh!