re Standards, the in-depth answers required on the tests given at the higher grades, and students opting out of those tests.
I hadn't read the kindergarten standards until just the other day. I was horrified. Here are 2 of the worst:
- Fluency: READ emergent-reader texts with purpose and understanding
- Phonics: Associate the long and short sounds with common spellings for the five major vowels.
ALL kindergartners will read simple books and memorize phonetic rules by the end of kindergarten.
Why? Why when all the research supports learning through play at this level? Play with the sounds, play with rhyming and making up words, clap out the sounds in a word. Learn the letters and sounds through games, not learning the rules for English spelling.
When I was teaching I had a successful program that I used with first-graders at risk of having difficulties with reading. I'm a big believer in phonics for most children who don't l
earn to read easily. But I'm an even bigger believer in phonemic awareness -
the ability to hear, identify, and manipulate individual sounds-phonemes--in spoken words. Before children learn to read print, they need to become aware of how the sounds in words work. Phonemic awareness is one thing that should be taught in preschool and kindergarten. Will there be time with the new emphasis on formal reading?
This published program taught phonemic awareness as it taught reading to the first graders. It wasn't that interesting, but they loved it. They could do it! They knew the answers! Success breeds more success and they were happy readers when they finished the program.
I also worked with kindergartners towards the end of the school year. Most of our students could read as they exited kindergarten, but not all. With those children I tried to determine if they had a specific challenge. I found that one little boy, who also had speech difficulties, did not hear the individual sounds in the words. After he mastered that missing phonemic awareness skill, reading came easily for him.
Again, why this pressure? There is no purpose. Some children walk at 9 months, others at 14 months. You can't tell the difference at 2 years old, unless there is a medical issue. The same with reading; some precocious readers are fluent at 3 years old, others don't read until 6 or 7. Unless dyslexia or another special need is involved, they are all reading by third grade if they have proper instruction.
Not only is there no need to be reading so early, it is harmful to many young children. My first graders loved getting the right answer. Most of what was done in the classroom was too hard for them. What can they learn from that? Perhaps "I'm not smart." Perhaps "reading is really hard and I hate it." Not lessons we want them to learn.
What can you do? Talking to your principal is a good place to start. The Common Core standards have been adopted by most states. We need grass roots support so that the kindergarten standards can be withdrawn and rewritten to follow the research.
If you're not familiar with Common Core but you want to learn more,
The Common Core FAQ
from nprEd provides an easy-to-read overview of how the standards came about, how the application of educational standards in the US compares to other countries, and what the future might hold.