The idea behind Common Core State Standards is a good one: creating one set of challenging academic expectations for all students to improve achievement and college readiness. A major problem with the draft K-12 common standards is that they went from the top down—from college and career readiness and worked backward, not thinking about how and what the youngest children need to learn, and building from there.
Expectations for Kindergarten: “Compose and decompose numbers from 11 to 19 into ten ones and some further ones, e.g., by using objects or drawings, and record each composition or decomposition by a drawing or equation (such as 18 = 10 + 8); understand that these numbers are composed of ten ones and one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, or nine ones.”
How does this help very young students grasp mathematics? I can say that it frustrates the parents.
When the standards were first brought to light in March 2010, many early childhood educators and researchers were astounded. “The people who wrote these standards do not appear to have any background in child development or early childhood education,” wrote Stephanie Feeney of the University of Hawaii, chair of the Advocacy Committee of the National Association of Early Childhood Teacher Educators.
Teacher-led instruction in kindergartens has almost entirely replaced the active, play-based learn by doing that we know children need. Research from many years in cognitive and developmental psychology and neuroscience show this to be true. The Kindergarten teachers I have worked with no longer keep play areas such as kitchen sets in the classrooms anymore because there is no time left to do imaginary play – effectively contributing to the stunting their social skills development.
The Common Core State Standards call for kindergartners to learn how to read, but early childhood experts says that forcing some kids to read before they are ready may be harmful. There is no evidence to support the widespread belief that children must be early readers in order to become strong readers and achieve academic success.
There are children, excited to begin school, who find their feeling of joy replaced by stomachaches induced by stress and are not willing to go to school. Kindergarten should not cause anxiety other than the common anxiety due to separation from family, but it does with increasing frequency.
There is no evidence that “throwing stuff at kids when they’re young” at a time when their brains are not sufficiently wired to do the work is an intelligent thought. This is not sink or swim. Let the children begin academics later in school—at age six or seven like the students in the better performing countries.