Common Core, 21st Century Skills & Kindergarten

In the last few years there was a shift in education from state standards to, essentially, federal standards.  These are referred to as Common Core State Standards. As soon as they were adopted by states, there was immediate feedback and criticisms about the standards from both parents and teachers.

Thing is, whether you love them or hate them, there are a couple of KEY flaws to the standards themselves.

The first, and more salient one, is kindergarten.  What most people actually don’t know is that kindergarten is NOT a legally required step in education.  Education begins with FIRST grade.

You might be asking, “So what?”  Well, kindergarten is the new first grade.  However, without all of the skills once taught in kindergarten, we’re setting up our educational system for failure.  In fact, I think if we looked at educational statistics in the last 30 years, we could, at the very least, set up a correlation for why we haven’t seen the expected gains.

During the last 30 years kindergarten has moved from being part of a day to a whole day.  Skills like learning to actually write (SERIOUSLY, hold a pencil), coloring to fine-tune motor control, following directions, and learning to solve problems were shoved aside to teach ACADEMICS!  After all, we need our kids ready!

However, we can’t have academics without first building the foundational skills.  This USED to happen in kindergarten.  Now, however, it’s addition and subtraction fact families, sight words, and writing paragraphs.  All this from a grade that’s not required.

Now, don’t take this to mean let’s make kindergarten legally required so we can start, day one, making 5 year olds sit still for 5 hours filling in worksheet after worksheet.  Instead, let’s return kindergarten to the foundational skills students will need in order to be successful over the life of their academic careers.

In short, how do you teach creativity, collaboration, problem solving, critical thinking, and communication if you don’t start in kindergarten and actually LAY that foundation?

If there is to be an educational revolution, and we seriously want to follow a business model, remember that businesses focus on VERY FEW GOALS.  Part of this process is choosing fewer goals, refining the model, and then delivering an excellent product.  Those businesses that tank often took short-cuts and went off half-cocked.

With that in mind, let’s restore kindergarten to kindergarten and focus on laying the foundation of 21st century skills by teaching students HOW to use tools and then allowing them to demonstrate that ability.  Yes, let’s give those kids scissors. Let’s act like the standards as a suitcase or an outfit.  Look at it and automatically remove 10% of what’s in the suitcase or one piece of jewelry.  Too much is too much.  Finally, let’s push all the of the standards up at least one year.  This means that what we expect from kindergarteners NOW we would expect from 1st graders instead.

You might think your kindergartener will be bored.  That he or she already knows all of this.  However, I think you’d be surprised at how much slowing the pace and allowing confidence will make a difference.  After all, is your kid REALLY bored or are you just in a hurry to prove how smart he/she is?

 

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