Extra Credit:

(By Julie Zhu/)
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By Jay Mathews
Sunday, March 22, 2009

Dear Extra Credit:

We have two sets of twins who are in fourth grade and kindergarten at a well-regarded public school in Bowie. The difference I see in the four years since my older children were in kindergarten is astounding.

I do not remember the older children having tests in kindergarten. Now they have tests at least monthly in math, reading, social studies and science. The tests are multiple choice so that they can practice filling in little bubbles to be ready for the Maryland State Assessment in three years. For this week's math worksheet, they were required to cut and paste the days of the week in order (acceptable to me) and then explain how they knew their answer was correct (what are they supposed to write for that?).

This year's kindergartners were starting to write sentences by the second month. They started with a simple "I see" and quickly moved up to things such as, "I go to school." They are expected to learn a new sentence each week and write it with a capital letter at the beginning, correct letter formation and spelling, spacing between the words, and a period at the end. Is this really essential for kindergarten?

Four years ago, kindergartners took a rest time for the first half of the year. Now, even the pre-K at our school isn't allowed a rest time. One of my daughters copes well with the long day. The other, who was in Head Start last year (where they had a full hour of rest each afternoon), is tired, cranky and overstimulated.

Both of my daughters' teachers are wonderful and try to work in some fun within the tight constraints of the curriculum. One of the teachers has told me that the kindergarten curriculum is what used to be the first-grade curriculum. What evidence do we have that this pushing is beneficial to the children? While some of the children can handle the pressure well, others cannot. One of my daughters has mastered her kindergarten reading and moved on to first-grade words. The other one struggles to keep up and hates school.

You asked [Jan. 29 column] whether there has been a change in kindergarten, and whether it is hurting our kids. I would answer yes on both counts.

Molly Holloway


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