Kindergarten as it was known five years ago is not the same as kindergarten today. Kindergarten twenty years from now will be vastly different than it is today. Kindergarten is in a transitional stage from a program that focuses primarily on social and emotional development to one that emphasizes academics, especially early literacy, math and science, and activities that prepare children to think and problem solve. These changes represent a transformation of great magnitude and will have a lasting impact on kindergarten curriculum and teaching into the future.
Regardless of the grade or age group they teach, all early childhood teachers have to make decisions regarding what curriculum and activities they will provide for their children.
The Changing Kindergarten
Kindergarten education is literally changing before our eyes! These are some of the ways it is changing and the reasons why.
- Longer school days and transition from half-day to full-day programs. Reasons for longer school days and full-day programs include:
- Changes in society,
- An increase in the number of working parents,
- Recognition that earlier is the best option, and
- Research which shows that a longer school day helps children academically.9
- Emphasis on academics including math, literacy and science. Reasons for the emphasis on academics include:
- Standards that specify what children should know and be able to do,
- State standards that now include the kindergarten years, and
- Political and public support for early education and skill learning because they reduce grade failure and school dropout.10
- More testing. Reasons for the increased testing include:
- The accountability movement and
- Recognition that district testing that begins in third grade and earlier puts more emphasis on what kindergarten children should learn.11
- Enriched curriculum with emphasis on literacy designed to have children read by entry into first grade. Reasons for literacy in the kindergarten include:
- Recognition that literacy and reading are pathways to success in school and life, and
- Recognition that learning to read is a basic right for all children.12
9. S. Martinez and T. Akey, Full-Day Kindergarten 1997-98 Evaluation Report, unpublished evaluation from Park Hill Public Schools, Kansas City, MO, March 1998 with follow-up study summary, May 1999.
10. International Reading Association & National Association for the Education of Young Children, "Learning to Read and Write: Developmentally Appropriate Practices for Young Children," Young Children, 53(4), July 1998, 39; accessed March 2, 2007, at http://www.naeyc.org/about/positions/pdf/psread98.pdf
11. This digest was adapted from a position paper of the Association for Childhood Education International by Vito Perrone, "On Standardized Testing," which appeared in Childhood Education, Spring 1991, 132-142.
12. International Reading Association & National Association for the Education of Young Children, "Learning to Read and Write," 9.
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