Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Comment on Kindergarten ELA standards for Comissioner's Review Panel

My first comment deals with Kindergarten ELA standards, as I am a parent of a Kindergartener and I have Master's in Literacy Education. 

Independent reading is too rigorous for Kindergarten and it is developmentally inappropriate to make this expectation of all Kindergarteners.

In the Introduction of the standards, it is stated that even though the standards are "signposts," students are "expected to meet each year's grade specific standards."  Thus, I have issue with the standard stating: "Read emergent-reader texts with purpose and understanding" found under Kindergarten Foundational Skills. There are other standards that support this final destination of reading by the end of Kindergarten.  Examples include reading/memorizing sight words and "distinguishing between similarly spelled words by identifying the sounds of the letters that differ."  Unlike other standards dealing with comprehension of and thinking about text, these standards do not say with "with prompting and support." (In fact, that is concerning as well that the standards expect students to read independently, but that they need prompting and support to comprehend and think about what they read.  From the beginning of literacy instruction decoding should be linked to meaning.  If a child can't comprehend independently, then the child really isn't reading, just "word calling."  If a child can not comprehend age appropriate texts read aloud without prompting and support, then what indicates that this child should start reading independently?).   
The developmentally appropriate range for learning to read does not end until 7 years old, yet most students exit Kindergarten at age five or six.  Why are we asking students to reach this benchmark so much earlier than the end of the developmental range?

I see this as similar to a baby learning to walk.  Anywhere between 9 and 15 months is considered developmentally normal.  Do we expect babies to walk at 9 months?  Do we assess them on walking at 9 months?  Do we give them interventions if they do not walk at 9 months? Have they failed if they do not walk at 9 months?  Are their "teachers" ineffective or their "schools" failing if they do not walk at 9 months?  No.  Reading should be treated the same.  Children aged five with a mere ten months of schooling should not be expected to read independently when research states that seven is within the developmentally normal range. 
I also believe some of the writing standards for Kindergarten are too rigorous for five year olds.  Specifically, the standard stating "write letter or letters for most consonant and short vowel sounds" and "spell simple words phonetically."  These skills are so similar to those used in reading that I do not see how it can be appropriate to expect all Kindergarteners to reach these goals.  Additionally, these expectations do not align with the standard earlier in the document stating that students "print many lower and uppercase letters." If we can not expect students to write all the letters, then how can we expect them to spell phonetically or write matching letters and sounds?  I would argue the lack of clarity is because one expectation is too high for children of this age. 

Furthermore, overwhelming research suggests that Kindergarten should be play based.  The type of work that would need to be done for all five year olds to be reading and spelling would not allow Kindergarten to be play based. 
A brief sample of reading discussing the importance of play is needed in Kindergarten:
The introduction to the standards points out "Students require a wide-ranging, rigorous academic preparation and, particularly in the early grades, attention to such matters as social, emotional, and physical development and approaches to learning." While this statement seems to support play in the primary grades, the specific standards require skills at too rigorous a level to still allow teachers to meet all of young students' needs. 
Please consider adjusting the standards to no longer expect independent reading and writing at the end of Kindergarten.


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