The Shifting Kindergarten Curriculum
Current Influences on the Curriculum
Critics of the trend toward skill-based kindergartens are not advocating a return to outmoded educational practices of the past. However, much new research about children's learning confirms some historical beliefs about effective educational practices. Unfortunately, this well-known and respected body of research information is often ignored in the formulation of curriculum for today's kindergarten (Spodek, 1986).
Most children entering kindergarten today have much wider experience outside the home than children of the past. As a result, many teachers, administrators, and parents believe than more advanced content is necessary. Others are concerned that younger five-year-olds may find it difficult to be successful if the kindergarten curriculum is too advanced. Some parents delay their child's entrance to kindergarten for a year to give the child the advantage of being the oldest in the class.
Many preschools and child care centers try to teach content identified by kindergarten teachers as prerequisite to kindergarten success. It is not uncommon now to find child care and preschool settings in which children spend prolonged periods sitting at tables trying to complete pencil and paper tasks which would be inappropriate even for substantially older children. Parents often shop for the program that promises the most in terms of promoting kindergarten readiness.
These practices have led to the widespread use of screening and readiness tests prior to kindergarten entrance to determine whether children are likely to be successful in school (Egertson, 1987). There is wide agreement, however, that such measures are often poorly constructed, inappropriately used, and likely to screen out those children most likely to benefit (NAECS/SDE, 1987).
A rigid lock-step curriculum is less responsive than others to the new wider age- and ability-ranged groups. Hence, schools have increasingly resorted to retention and extra-year programs for children who have difficulty with the expectations of regular kindergarten. Transition placements usually occur either the year before or the year after kindergarten. However well-intentioned those who organize these classes may be, "transition class" is simply a more palatable term for "retention."
Since teachers tend to direct instruction to older and more able children, more of the younger children tend to be held out or placed in extra-year classes. As a result, curricular expectations tend to be raised. Research provides little evidence that children placed in transition classes achieve any more than their nonretained or nontransitioned counterparts in either cognitive or social-emotional domains (Smith and Shepard, 1987).
Reprinted with the permission of the Education Resources Information Center.
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