Dear Dr. Fournier:
I’ve read many of your articles, and know that you are not a fan of accelerated curriculums because children need to be given a chance to develop. This article caught my eye and I thought you might be interested in commenting on it.
Thank you for sending the article. It is a sobering reminder that the point about hurried curriculums cannot be stressed enough.
In 1987, I was collecting data on curriculum acceleration to get a sense of the depth of the epidemic. I drew on some past experiences with children and, in reference to the hurried curriculum, wrote the following: By accelerating our curriculums, by exposing children to knowledge sooner, [schools and parents feel we] would not waste time. As a result, we now have schools refusing to admit children who cannot read or write sentences with capitals and periods when they enter the first grade – they’re flunking kindergarten!
As I looked back on this thought around ten years later, this statement seemed like the proverbial “good ol’ days.” Several of the children who were brought to me in this period were showing up with brand new entry requirements for kindergarten, some of which made me feel ashamed for even bothering to call the 1987 group of expectations “hurried.” These new expectations for kindergarteners included:
Your child must demonstrate knowledge of: Days of the week, months of the year, alphabet recognition (both uppercase and lowercase) with sound recognition, sight word recognition (pre-primer and primer words from the Dolch List, color recognition, shape recognition, number recognition (1-31), basic vocabulary, copying skills (including short sentences), repetition, and memorization (demonstrated in the recitation of a song or a poem.)
Note that in my quote from 1987, I was lamenting the school’s unwillingness to account for developmental time by holding students back from entering the first grade. The set of requirements I listed above were mandatory for entry into kindergarten. The mother of the child responsible for learning all of these understandably came to ask the question: “If they already have to know all of this, what am I sending [the child] to kindergarten for?”
I suppose the lesson in all of this is that I should cease to be surprised as I continue to see condensed curriculua across the country. Unfortunately, whenever the next generation of pushing down occurs, I am shocked all over again. The clipping that you sent me is the latest in a long line of mistakes committed because of the desire to teach quantity over quantity. The highlight of the article is as follows:
“Kindergarten students will have additional material taught in the areas of language arts and mathematics. For example, students will learn to count to 100 by tens and one, instead of counting to 20.
The language arts components will expand beyond learning the use of commas and periods to include other types of commonly used punctuation.”
I wish I could follow the above quote by reassuring readers that this is just one private school trying to push an “accelerated” curriculum. Unfortunately, it is not. These are the adjusted new requirements for the state of Florida.
WHAT TO DO:
It is up to you, parents to call for change. Thrusting higher-grade level material onto unready children is a recipe for disaster. There is no reason that a child in kindergarten needs to be rushed through fundamentals (or in this case expected to show up with a laundry list of them already taught) to create room for more. In cases like this, these children are being treated like circus animals, and the schools are teaching them to perform tricks. Even the kids who do learn to perform the tricks are not showing mastery of the concept, but that they have the capacity to memorize and regurgitate an answer when faced with a stimulus. Out of context and in real world application, they would be at a loss.
What is it we are trying to create room for? The statistics show that giving the children more (sooner) is not producing better-equipped graduates later on, it is producing the opposite. As long as the basic skills (reading, writing, arithmetic, speaking, and listening) are glossed over in the early grades then we will continue to produce children who are incapable of performing well in their junior high and high school careers due to the lack of a solid foundation. The only solution in this case is to go back and add in all of the things that were missed so teachers could go on to other things. Why do this? Give the children the time they need to develop, and use this time to focus on the basics, not rush through them.
A parent’s role is to parent, and a teacher’s is to teach. If there is this much pressure on a child before he or she even steps into school for the first time, is it any wonder that they lose the love of learning early on?
When we ask parents to assume the mantle of teacher, we are leaving the children without a parent.
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