An annual year-end kindergarten show has been canceled at a New York school because the kids have to keep working so they will be “college and career” ready. Really.
That’s what it says in a letter (see below) sent to parents by Ellen Best-Laimit, the interim principal of Harley Avenue Primary School in Elwood, N.Y., and four kindergarten teachers. The play was to be staged over two days, May 14 and 15, according to the school’s calendar.
One mother who received the letter, Ninette Gonzalez Solis, wrote on Facebook that parents learned recently the play was being canceled and started calling the principal, leading the school officials to send out the new missive. Solis wrote that she was very upset about the cancellation.
All but one of the people who signed the letter were unavailable for comment. One asked me to call back but then didn’t answer the phone. District Superintendent Peter Scordo declined to discuss it. Michael Conte, a spokesman for Scordo, said in an e-mail on Saturday:
Yes, the letter is authentic. As it states, the Harley Avenue Primary School educators believe that this decision is in the best interest of students.
I don’t have anything more to add for your consideration. Thank you for reaching out.
This didn’t come out of the blue. Kindergarten (and even preschool) has increasingly become academic — at the expense of things such as recess and the arts — in this era of standardized test-based school reform. In most states, educators are evaluated in large part on test scores of students (sometimes students they don’t have) and on showing that their students are “college and career ready,” the mantra of the Obama administration’s education initiatives. Earlier this year, Rob Saxton, Oregon’s deputy superintendent of public instruction, and Jada Rupley, the early learning system director in the state’s Education Department, wrote an op-ed in the Oregonian that was published online with this headline: Kindergarten test results a ‘sobering snapshot’. What was it about? Kids hadn’t done well on a standardized reading-readiness test.
Here’s the Harley Avenue Primary School letter, and beneath it is the text.
April 25, 2014
Dear Kindergarten Parents and Guardians,
We hope this letter serves to help you better understand how the demands of the 21st century are changing schools, and, more specifically, to clarify, misperceptions about the Kindergarten show. It is most important to keep in mind is [sic] that this issue is not unique to Elwood. Although the movement toward more rigorous learning standards has been in the national news for more than a decade, the changing face of education is beginning to feel unsettling for some people. What and how we teach is changing to meet the demands of a changing world.
The reason for eliminating the Kindergarten show is simple. We are responsible for preparing children for college and career with valuable lifelong skills and know that we can best do that by having them become strong readers, writers, coworkers and problem solvers. Please do not fault us for making professional decisions that we know will never be able to please everyone. But know that we are making these decisions with the interests of all children in mind.