Monday, March 11, 2013
What a loaded subject. I mean, really. There's SO MUCH. How do you narrow it down? Do you talk politics? Nuclear war with North Korea, that basketball player visiting North Korea, our status with North Korea, I could go on, but I won't. Do you talk about Second Ammendment Rights and Gun/Firearm control in the United States? I could, but I won't. Hmm...let's see. How about Mayor Bloomberg's decision to ban all "sugary drinks" over 16 oz from being served in NYC restaurants? A judge has temporarily halted that. It wouldn't have applied to deli's or bottled drinks. Nope, going to pass on that too. What about.....
THE STATE OF EDUCATION IN THIS COUNTRY
Hoooo doggy. That's as complicated a topic as any other, isn't it? I'm not even going to broach "Higher education". That's not my specialty. Oh, yes. I do have a specialty, and that is Early Childhood Education. For clarification purposes, Early Childhood Education (ECE) is considered birth - 3rd grade. If you didn't know that, now you do. To narrow it down a little bit more, I'm specifically going to comment on what people commonly refer to as Pre-K and Kindergarten.
Pre-K are those grades/ages before Kindergarten, usually 3 year olds and 4 year olds. Pre-K is NOT child care. There is nothing wrong with child care or day care, it just isn't the same thing as Pre-K for 3 and 4 year olds. Kindergarten students usually turn 5 years of age before school starts or shortly thereafter. Here are some facts:
*There is an international organization which specializes in ECE. It is the National Association for the Education of Young Children, or NAEYC.
*The NAEYC has advocated for quality ECE for all children for decades.
*There is a major push now to offer quality Pre-K experiences (school) for 3 and 4 year olds before they enter Kindergarten.
*In the majority of states in this great country of ours, Kindergarten is NOT mandatory. It is NOT a required grade, meaning, if a parent wanted to keep their child home until they turned 6 years of age, they could do so. It happens all the time. In the majority of states, a child must enter public school in the fall they turn 6 years of age unless the parents home school or send them to a private or parochial school.
*Every state, and every school district within that state can set and determine their own cut off date for students entering school. There is NO consistency between states, or even with districts within the same state. Some districts may stipulate that a child must have turned 5 before September 1 of the year entering school; another district may say the child must turn 5 before December 31 of that year. You'll have children ranging in age from 4-6 years of age in one classroom. I know. I've taught them.
*State sponsored and private quality preschools are exactly that: schools. They follow guidelines, core curriculum, and standards.
*Kindergarten is no longer the grade where children get acclimated to school, play in the house corner or sand box, take a nap, and eat milk and cookies.
*In Kindergarten, children are now expected to read and write fluently. They should be able to read independently a book with simple text and write between 2-4 sentences on topic and draw a detailed illustration.
* NCLB may have been push aside, but what is taking it's place is just as bad. Kindergarten students now take standardized tests on a computer 3-4 times a year in addition to other assessment measures to procure data to determine whether or not the student is making benchmark. One quarter is roughly 41 teaching days, and during that time a child could be tested as many as 4-5 times.
If your children are grown or older, or if you don't have children yet, you may be shocked at this. This is one reason why Pre-K education for all children is so important. If we expect certain things of our children in Kindergarten, and they don't go to Pre-K, how can we ever expect them to be successful in school? They will always be at a disadvantage and working to "catch-up".
Pre-K is important because, as important as technology is, it still isn't the way that children learn about their world. They learn by experiencing it. They learn by squishing the play dough into shapes and letters and numbers and then counting what they've made. They learn by building a castle with wood blocks and then designing costumes from the house corner to pretend to be kings and queens. They learn by painting at the easel, painting with water colors, and cutting out bits of paper to make a Cat In The Hat. They learn by singing songs, learning poetry, and listening to good children's books. They learn by running outside and playing with sticks and stones and acorn caps and maple seeds.
Pre-K is important because we used to do those things in Kindergarten, and they aren't being done anymore.
Children need to be children. How can they become amazing adults if they haven't been allowed to be children first?