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Monday, February 11, 2013

Has Kindergarten Become Too Academic?

From Annie Murphy Paul's The Brilliant Blog

January 31, 2013

Has kindergarten become too academic?

The New York Post has an article about what kindergarten is like in New York City public schools these days:

“The City Department of Education now wants 4- and 5-year-olds to write ‘informative/explanatory reports’ and demonstrate ‘algebraic thinking.’

Children who barely know how to write the alphabet or add 2 and 2 are expected to write topic sentences and use diagrams to illustrate math equations.

‘For the most part, it’s way over their heads,’ a Brooklyn teacher said. ‘It’s too much for them. They’re babies!’

In a kindergarten class in Red Hook, Brooklyn, three children broke down and sobbed on separate days last week, another teacher told The Post. When one girl cried, ‘I can’t do it,’ classmates rubbed her back, telling her, ‘That’s OK.’

‘This is causing a lot of anxiety,’ the teacher said.

‘Kindergarten should be happy and playful. It should be art and dancing and singing and learning how to take turns. Instead, it’s frustrating and disheartening.'

In math, kids tackle concepts like ‘tally chart,’ ‘combination,’ and ‘commutative property,’ DOE records show.

The big test: ‘Miguel has two shelves. Miguel has six books . . . How many different ways can Miguel put books on the two shelves? Show and tell how you know.’

Teachers rate each student’s performance as ‘novice,’ ‘apprentice,’ ‘practitioner’ or ‘expert.’

An ‘expert’ would draw a diagram with a key, show all five combinations, write number sentences for each equation, and explain his or her conclusions using math terms, the DOE says.” (Read more here.)

I don’t know about you, but I’m a little puzzled by the Miguel question—and I’m way past kindergarten!

I’m with the teacher who says, “Kindergarten should be happy and playful.” And so does evidence from psychology and cognitive science. See, for example, the work of Developmental Psychologist Alison Gopnik.

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