Las Vegas Sun

January 16, 2018

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Kindergarten blues

Nation’s emphasis on achievement has led school officials to cut out play for young students

Kindergartners across the nation are learning a lesson about education: Fun isn’t part of the curriculum.

A new report by the child-advocacy group Alliance for Childhood says the demands of the federal No Child Left Behind Act have forced schools to cut out play time for the nation’s youngest students. Kindergarten requirements are now essentially the same as they were for first graders 20 years ago.

That may be why schools are holding more kindergartners back instead of promoting them to first grade. Several states have seen the number of children held back skyrocket. In Texas, for example, the number of kindergartners held back in 2004 was more than 2 1/2 times what it was a decade prior.

As The Boston Globe reported last Sunday, many experts believe unrealistic expectations are placed on kindergartners.

“We are sending too many children to school to learn that they are dumb,” said David Elkind, a psychologist and early childhood expert. “They are not dumb. They are just not there developmentally.”

Elkind and other experts say that use of worksheets and methods that work for older students are inappropriate for kindergartners. Playing and doing things — rather than sitting at a desk — help kindergartners learn.

But the federal law, which mandates standardized testing in third grade, harshly penalizes schools that fail to meet achievement goals. As a result, kindergartners are being put through testing and doing work more appropriate for older students in the belief that they’ll be better prepared once they reach third grade.

“These are 5- and 6-year-olds,” said Michael Kenney, a Massachusetts kindergarten teacher, “and there is so little time for them to be kids.”

Indeed. Kindergartners should be challenged and educated, but schools should be teaching in age-appropriate ways. Standardized testing is not the answer.

We hope Congress and the Obama administration will put some common sense — and some play — back into kindergarten and let kids be kids.

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