Common Core

Report Rips Common Core for Imposing Standard Reading Requirements on Kindergarten Tots

Children learn different things, at different rates-if you are allowed to teach your kids at the pace and in the style that suits them.

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matsber / Foter / CC BY

When my wife and I told my son's homeroom teacher (really, a coordinator with his online school) that our son, Anthony, had been flying through fractions but seemed completely stumped when he hit the unit on yards, meters, inches, and centimeters, she told us not to sweat it. Maybe he's not ready for it, she said. So, skip the measurement unit for now and come back to it later on.

Huh. Sensible enough. Different kids are ready to learn different things at different times. Apparently, they're not identical products stamped from machines.

But while my son's school is flexible enough to recognize that kids aren't standard issue, public education in the United States is moving increasingly toward a one-size-fits-all model. The new Common Core standards adopted by most states, for example, push kindergarten away from play-based learning toward academic approaches. Specifically, all kindergarten students are expected to "read emergent-reader texts with purpose and understanding" by the end of the year.

The problem, notes a new report from advocacy groups Defending Early Years and the Alliance for Childhood, is that "Many children are not developmentally ready to read in kindergarten." The report's authors go on to warn that pushing kids into lessons for which they're not ready can freak them out and turn them off learning.

Released today, Reading in Kindergarten: Little to Gain and Much to Lose says there's no good reason to insist that all children be eager readers before first grade.

While other Common Core kindergarten literacy requirements begin with the words "With prompting and support…," this one does not. There is a strong expectation that by the end of kindergarten children should be reading basic books on their own with purpose and understanding. We could find no research cited by the developers of the CCSS to support this reading standard for kindergarten.

The authors cite evidee suggesting that kids who learn to read in kindergarten and those who learn to read in first grade read at the same level by fourth grade and beyond. Some children learn to read very well, very early, but there doesn't seem to be an inherent advantage to doing so, since most of their peers will arrive at the same point in their own time.

Meanwhile, letting kindergartners learn by playing—like kids instead of like miniature college students—does seem to have long-term advantages. They learn to get along better with other people, and even have lower rates of arrests for felony offenses in their 20s then those introduced early to academic instruction.

And then there's that whole freaking out thing.

When children have educational experiences that are not geared to their developmental level or in tune with their learning needs and cultures, it can cause them great harm, including feelings of inadequacy, anxiety and confusion.

Of course, some kids are ready for early reading and instruction. I'll add that this is why you might want to allow for a variety of approaches to education. Children learn different things, at different rates, and the environment in which one child thrives might not be so great for another. One size does not fit all.

So, no harm, no foul—if you can teach your kids at the pace and in the style that suits them. 

Interestingly, an unrelated column in Education Week, also published today, warns that Common Core boosters are attempting to cut off just that sort of option.

The Common Core State Standards have come to the fore precisely at a time when civically active individuals care much more than they usually do about exit, voice, and loyalty. But the common core has denied voice and tried to block exit.

The common core's designers have taken the existing bureaucracy and increased its centralization and uniformity…

The common core's promoters and their federal facilitators wanted a cartel that would override competitive federalism and shut down the curriculum alternatives that federalism would allow.

The author, Williamson M. Evers, a former assistant U.S. secretary of education under George W. Bush, cautions that Common Core supporters are even making efforts to squeeze private schools and homeschoolers into the same mold.

Which is a problem if the authors of Reading in Kindergarten: Little to Gain and Much to Lose are right and not all kids are ready to learn the same material, the same way, at the same time.

Below, Reason TV on how cookie-cutter education policies always seem to create the conditions for more cookie-cutter education policies.

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  1. There is a strong expectation that by the end of kindergarten children should be reading basic books on their own with purpose and understanding. We could find no research cited by the developers of the CCSS to support this reading standard for kindergarten.

    Top men. They always claim to be “experts” but when you look behind the curtain everything they say is just whatever they have pulled out of their ass and think will justify giving them more power.

    1. “Studies have shown….basically, everything and nothing. So we do what we want.”

    2. When I was contemplating private education for my kids in California (in an attempt to avoid the prisons that passed for public schools in my neighborhood) the private teachers were very straightforward: They expect a huge range of reading comprehension at Kindergarten and first grade. By the time they finish 2nd grade, she expected almost all kids to be reading at the same level, but not to worry if the kids were behind on entering Kindergarten.

      Probably the saddest thing about this is that schools with kids who tend not to be prepared (i.e. their parents aren’t sending them to an academic pre-k and/or sitting down with them each night to read) are going to look terrible compared to those in rich neighborhoods. And that is going to go further to drive a wedge between good schools and bad schools.

  2. Common Core

    Common Compliance

    Common Corruption

  3. May God have mercy on all you poor people with kids of school age. I cannot begin to express adequately how glad I am our kids are all out of public schools (Kid #3 is a sophomore in a private college).

    Common Derp – another disaster being loosed on the Publick?. As Eight Ball said in Full Metal Jacket, “…poor, dumb bastards…”

    1. I’m increasingly thankful that we’re homeschooling our youngest. . .who could read at kindergarten age, just like her old man. I was reading before I even went to school, which is apparently a no-no now.

      1. I was reading before I even went to school, which is apparently a no-no now.

        You are kidding, right?

        1. I learned from my parents. If you mean about the “no-no,” I’m told that they think we shouldn’t pressure kids to read at that age, which is noted in the post.

          Education has as many fads as dieting does. And is as generally effective.

          1. Yes, talking about the “no-no” part. Giving a child the ability to read is about the best thing a parent can do for their child.

            1. Couldn’t agree more. What an amazing tool it is to be able to read!

              1. Also, at least in my household my parents could generally shut us up by giving us a book and telling us to go away.

      2. Nonsense. How could a kid learn to read if they haven’t been taught in a school how to do it?

        1. It must’ve been divine intervention, because it’s physically impossible for bright, college-educated parents to teach their kids anything other than how to use the potty. And maybe not even that.

  4. Common Core pretends everyone is bright and everyone can learn at exactly the same pace and with the same comprehension as the nice bright white people who devised the Common Core.

    Thankfully, there’s some push back against it from the teachers. I do worry, though, that support for Common Core is starting to be a social signaling thing, where the enlightened, progressive people support Common Core just because (some) non-enlightened, non-progressive people DON’T support it. That would be a shame because it looked like the teachers themselves might torpedo this because of how impossible it is to apply in real classrooms, but teachers are progs, so they might support the impractical thing for a stupid reason.

    1. You know, if public schools were worth a shit, they’d drop grading and testing and simply focus on actually teaching kids fundamental skills. Tough shit if colleges and employers don’t have a common guide for knowing if a diploma equals ability.

      1. Fundamental skills, like life skills? There’s a meme going around about how “high school never taught me to do my taxes but I can solve a quadratic equation,” or something like that.

        1. Screw that. If kids really learned math, reading, science, and similar methods of thinking and expression, they could figure shit like that out on their own. Jesus, we’re fucking weak now.

          1. This, totally.

            I keep going through this with my own kids (still).

            My Wife: “You need to show them how to [pick anything – change a light bulb, rebuild a carburetor, change a tire, put up drywall, do their own taxes, etc. etc. etc.]

            Me: “My dad died when I was 12. You know who showed ME how to do [whatever]? NO ONE! I figured it out myself!”

            Cause I could a) read and was b) good at math.

            So – what ProL said…

            1. Oh, PS – have curiosity and a desire to LEARN HOW TO DO STUFF MYSELF SO I DON’T HAVE TO RELY ON SOMEONE ELSE, OR JUST CAUSE I FIND IT INTERESTING…

              1. I have noticed a curious dependency my kids and their friends seem to have on parents. I’m not sure why that is. We certainly aren’t consciously teaching that.

                1. You should just disappear for a few days. Leave for work on Tuesday, and return Saturday. That would teach them something.

      2. “focus on actually teaching kids fundamental skills.”

        Then they might be able to provide for themselves and their families after graduation. What would the politicians do then? Huh?! Won’t someone think of the politicians??

  5. The Common Core State Standards have come to the fore precisely at a time when civically active individuals care much more than they usually do about exit, voice, and loyalty. But the common core has denied voice and tried to block exit.

    The appropriate response to declining voter participation rates is to make voting mandatory.

    1. +1 Aussie

  6. While I’m against a bunch of bureaucrats setting universal education curriculum and requirements, there seems to be some whining related to actually having standards. Some of the libertarian critiques of Common Core seem to come pretty close to each child is a special little snowflake whose needs to need to be met. Don’t pressure them learn something they aren’t ready for? How do you know whether they’re ready and not just slow or don’t need prodding?

    Maybe they need a paddling.

    1. And maybe they don’t but part of the question here is who gets to decide that?

      1. The Corporal Punishment Czar.

    2. The gripe is against centrally planned standards, not the existence of any standards.

      1. I dunno, how about industry standards, voluntarily adopted by private organizations and individuals? You know, without any government? What the fuck does government know about education?

        1. That UL Listing?! YOU DIDN’T BUILD THAT!

          Oh, wait…

          1. Exactly. UL is the classic case. With something really important, too, that can actually result in death in destruction.

            1. I would point to what I said below. The point here isn’t we should have central standards from Washington. But if a local school system sets the same standard, are libertarians going to complain about it? Or, is the expectation that every parent is going to be able to afford private education or move so their child doesn’t have to deal with it?

              Unless you get rid of the public option, local is preferable to federal because it gives people at least some element of a choice. Not always a realistic one. But in practice, they don’t function that differently.

              This article focuses on arguing a particular standard is wrong because its apparently too high. It avoids the major issue with bureaucrats setting standards, though, in doing that. If you argue a particular rule, plenty of people are just going to see that and say let’s change that particular rule.

      2. THIS. I try to explain to people that education is full of non-government standards already. In high school, there’s AP and IB. In college, many schools carry an ABET accreditation. All of those things are willingly adopted by schools because the students and parents want them.

    3. there seems to be some whining related to actually having standards.

      I don’t think it’s that at all.

      The libertarian perspective should be that it is ok to have metrics, but that parents should be responsible for setting standards. When you choose a car, do you think there should be a pre-defined STANDARD for mileage that all purchasers should expect, or should it be one of the metrics you select from according to your personal preferences?

      As noted, the variance in reading, math and other abilities when a kid is 5 years old is huge. A school year of learning is 20% of that kid’s life, and probably half to a third of their structured education experience. Parents are going to have different needs and desires for their kids based on their current situation and should be empowered to develop those kids as needed to their preferences. If there are going to be requirements placed on those kids in order for them to go to a set of colleges, or to get a job, or participate in any other life experience, the parents should be in control of the time tables and tools required to get them there, not some pointy head in DC who thinks they have the answer for all 300 million of us.

      1. Parents should set them? I mean, that’s not how education works even if you get rid of central planning element that we are stuck with to a degree.

        You as a parent should have the right to send your kid to whatever school you want, but the school sets the metrics. If you as a parent disagree, you’d ideally be able to pick a new school.

        But with the public option being the prevalent one in education, you do essentially have standards thrust on children.

        But if these same standards were set at the local level, what would the libertarian response be? Beyond hating public education. It’s still a one-size fits all just on a very smaller scale. But that doesn’t do much for the individual children in them.

        1. I mean, that’s not how education works even if you get rid of central planning element that we are stuck with to a degree.

          What makes you say that?

          I know a shit ton of parents who set the standard as A’s only for their kids. Others wouldn’t bat an eye if the kid got straight C’s. The grade (or whatever rating you want) that the kid attains is a metric only. Colleges get to set standards as to who they admit, but again, it is up to the parents and the child to determine which schools they want to go to upon graduation, and then they can work to attain those ratings.

          You as a parent should have the right to send your kid to whatever school you want, but the school sets the metrics. If you as a parent disagree, you’d ideally be able to pick a new school.

          Exactly. Except, What is being done today is not standardization of metrics- they are not saying “All A’s must demonstrate this capability” but rather saying that “All school children must get A’s”. And of course it is not long until we see that it becomes “All schools must have kids getting A’s and all Colleges must only accept kids who get As”.

          The problem is that we have wrapped up so much responsibility in schools that people confuse setting metrics with setting standards. People aren’t satisfied with saying an A is an A around the country. They expect that if their tax dollars are going somewhere, everyone should get As period.

          1. On this, I want to be clear that I don’t disagree with what the end result of the centralization here would be. Because when they set dumb unrealistic standards, its going to lead to inflation so they can meet the metrics. You’ll lower the bars or just fudge numbers.

            But purely from a ideological consistency standpoint, the goal of the bureaucrats is to increase the standards necessary (unintended consequences not considered or be damned) for children to advance. I think you are conflating those two issues. In practice it will work that way, but it’s not the intent or the goal of those who supported this.

            By attacking a particular standard set, I see it as cutting corners on the argument. You’ll get some people to agree, some people who think that it just needs tweaking, but the basic premise that the government should set educational standards and credentialism should be encouraged continues.

            1. I’m sorry but if you look at the Common Core standards, it says things like “By the end of 4th grade, children should demonstrate X, Y and Z”. And then they test and rate the school on that, which of course determines that school’s funding.

              I don’t have a problem necessarily with saying “Kids at A level should demonstrate X”. But that isn’t what is being forced down our throats.

              Add onto that the fact that we don’t get to choose which rating scheme matters most to us, because we have one for the entire nation now. A better system would allow schools to choose the scheme they want to follow based on phillosophy and then parents could choose those best suited to their preferences.

  7. “There is a strong expectation that by the end of kindergarten children should be reading basic books on their own with purpose and understanding”

    last i checked, reading ability develops at wildly different rates between the ages of 2-7

    I could read in nursery-school & kindergarten (~3 or so); i recall that it was *not expected* for most of my peers to be in the swing of it until around 5-6 (1st/2nd grade?);

    my niece was a shitty reader at 6 and everyone gave her a hard time about it (me especially, and i rubbed it in despite my brother telling me to stop) – then, suddenly, between 7-9 she exploded and reads about a book a week now, and my brother has to tell her to stop reading at the dinner table, reading after bedtime, etc.

    Someone mentioned Lawrence Kohlberg in a thread below= Jean Piaget (his mentor) showed that childhood cognitive development is *highly irregular*, but tends to follow distinct stages, all of which occur in indeterminate speeds for individuals, but tend to be grouped in clear age-ranges. Most of the stuff that is needed for “reading” tends to fall in the middle of the 4-7 age group. – after ‘kindergarten’

  8. The report’s authors go on to warn that pushing kids into lessons for which they’re not ready can freak them out and turn them off learning.

    Turning kids off of learning is all part of the plan. After all, once the kid decides they hate learning, they get out of high school, and cannot get a good paying job, thus they become a ward of the state, and an almost guaranteed Democratic voter. Which is the goal, more Democratic voters.

  9. I might have been reading in kindergarten, but I remember it really clicking in 1st grade. 2nd grade was mostly Encyclopedia Brown. I remember a kid detective mystery series based around Alfred Hitchcock. The Redwall books might have bridged 3rd and 4th grade. By 5th grade, I was reading 300+ page Star Wars novels I stole out of my older sister’s room.

    In kindergarten I as too busy making catapults out of Lincoln Logs and wondering why these idiot children I was trapped in a room with were chewing on their giant pencils.

    1. The Three Investigators. Loved that shit. I want a private junkyard hideout and the use of a gold-plated Rolls Royce.

      1. Yesh. That was it. And Hitchcock made some kind of cameo in each story like he did in his movies.

        The kids were big into gadgets and knew how to re-wire stuff because they grew up in a junkyard.

        1. Working from memory–the smart fact kid was named Jupiter, right?

          1. Had to google, but yep. Jupiter’s the one with the excellent memory.

            1. I might have to see if I still have any of those books, though my daughter doesn’t know who Hitchcock is just yet. I do still have a few Hardy Boys books somewhere.

              1. My dad had found a huge set of the Hardy Boys books at a yard sale before I was born. So I read through all of those.

                I had to rely on the public library for the Investigators series and Encyclopedia Brown.

                I remember reading most of The Box Car Children series, too. They were a lot like Scooby Doo.

                I really recommend the Redwall series. I still pick one up whenever I’m in the bookstore and read through it. Almost all of them have some kind of mystery to solve mixed in with drama.

    2. I deliberately shave both sideburns to the same length just to spite Smartass Brown. (Anyone who’s read the series should know the incident I’m referring to).

  10. Different kids are ready to learn different things at different times.

    I failed algebra in 8th grade, HARD. I aced it in 9th grade, and put in much less effort than I did in 8th grade. Maybe it was the teacher, but I think that it was that my brain was not ready for it.

    1. Or maybe it’s because chicks aren’t good at math.

      *ducks and runs*

      Seriously though, I’ve never understood the difficulty of algebra. I mean, you do the same thing to both sides of the equals sign. What’s so hard about that?

      1. It’s difficult for some people to the point where many of them (perhaps most) never get it.

        1. It’s difficult for some people to the point where many of them (perhaps most) never get it.

          And plenty difficult for them to do so formally.

          My oldest son could do algebra in 1st grade. Certainly not ‘Solve for x’ algebra, but he could answer ‘What am I missing?’ math questions and do symbolic substitution mathematics.

          It’s become a curse in the current system because he routinely quits on busywork, doesn’t show his work, and/or won’t check the work he’s done.

          His younger brother can read and use all manner of tools and has been able to do so since about 3. He recently taught himself how to start our car.

          He has yet to consistently/convincingly master left and right hands.

          It’s weird how ‘Top Men’ even with data in hand, don’t recognize that not everyone extrapolates the same way.

          1. This is the only area where I’ve seen an improvement in Common Core classrooms over the ones I was in as a kid. When I was in third grade, we memorized our times tables first and then moved on to division. However, my daughter is learning them at the same time. She receives a sheet with a couple numbers like 2s,3s,4s, and 5,s. And then those are arranged into a bunch of equations like:

            2×3 = ?
            ?x3 = 6
            6/3 = ?
            6/? = 2

            It was amazing how much faster the idea that multiplication and division were related clicked with her.

            The point is if people just worked to improve the process, instead of making a bunch of mandates, things would progress so much smoother.

            1. That’s the first example of Common Core math that seems like it could be a good idea.

      2. It’s a big leap to make if all you’ve done before is addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.

        I remember touring a school for a day in 6th trying to see what school I wanted to go to. I sat in on the 7th grade math class the teacher was exposing the students to exponents and roots. He was asking the class what would be the square root of a negative number and letting the class try to figure it out.

        It was fascinating.

      3. Some people just aren’t good at some things. I was reading at a college level in 3rd grade (back in the late 70’s when that actually meant something) but anything above basic algebra is beyond me.

        1. I enjoyed all the higher math I took in college with the exception of calculus. I get the concepts, but actually applying it never clicked.

          1. That was me too, and it is why I didn’t pursue an engineering degree. I was reading at a high level as a kid, could do algebra and the like just fine… but calculus just killed me.

            1. I was able to push through it enough to get my CS degree, but I didn’t take any more physics applied calculus. Even though I really wanted to.

        2. My sister is the same way. She was reading incredibly early and at a high level, was an excellent writer, basically way more advanced than she should have been in liberal arts. But she struggled really hard with calculus and had to drop it in college.

          I keep offering to teach it to her because I think I could, but we’re both too busy.

  11. Right now my AP Chemistry students are finishing their final. Two-hour block and they’re using every minute of it. In the meantime there are teachers at my school who are averse to giving a for-real, college-prep final and my department is debating getting rid of Honors Biology because it’s “racist” (too many Asian kids self-enrolling).

    I’m willing to give just enough attention to Common Core to pacify the bosses, but other than that I’m just gonna keep teaching the shit out of chemistry.

    1. And cooking meth, right? I mean, that’s not just TV chemistry teachers.

      1. This is one of the first tangential questions I get from kids after the first couple weeks of shyness. So far none of the plucky stoner kids has gotten up the nerve to suggest we go into business. I don’t think it could ever take though as combining my party affiliations with a big order of pseudoephedrine would trigger warning klaxons all over the NSA.

        1. Couldn’t you just do it in class? As an educational exemption?

          1. When I was a student teacher the guy I worked with did a distillation lab where he had students purify alcohol from Early Times whisky. He put a bunch of shit in it, like copper chloride, to dissuade students sneaking sips. I came out of the back room to see a kid with the container over his head pouring the mixture from the valve at the bottom right in his mouth and then promptly spitting it in the sink. He looked at me with a guilty puppy expression and I just laughed at him.

  12. Many children are not developmentally ready to read in kindergarten.

    “Not ready? Yay! Mandatory PreK then. We’ll develop them.”

  13. My daughter’s in Kindergarten and is reading (according to her last test) on a reading level from 2.1-3.1, which basically means the level of a kid one month into 2nd grade to a kid one month into third grade. But that’s her. She’s got her own weaknesses, and only about 1/4th of her class can read at this point. All kids move at their own pace.

    Her school uses use common core for math, but luckily they’ve avoided it for other stuff.

  14. I was really surprised to know what children are supposed to know when they have to star their education at school. I had a question in my head “what are they going to do during the first year?” Probably, they should apply to essays writing service for graduates in two years. But seriously, it is nonsense, because children can just lose their motivation to study if they are overloaded. Their interest and self-confidence are killed before they even go to school. We shouldn’t still their childhood and give them time.

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