This year I have posted a number of pieces  (here, here, here and here, for example) about the travesty that is now kindergarten in many public schools. Today, under this school reform in which standardized-test scores are the chief metric for “accountability” of students, schools, teachers, etc., kindergarten has in many classrooms become an academic workshop rather than a place where kids learn through structured play, which is how experts say young children learn best. Young children are often asked to sit for hours at a time, sometimes with little or no recess, to make sure enough reading, writing and math are covered. In this post, I detailed some kindergarten classroom schedules, and this post about “sweat shop kindergarten” drew reaction from readers reporting their children’s experiences.

Now here’s a reaction from a reader who tells just how much homework her child received this past year in kindergarten. Kindergarten homework is common these days, even though researchers don’t recommend any amount of homework for youngsters of this age. Harris Cooper, a leading homework researcher, recommends that students in grades 1 -3 get no more than 45 minutes of homework a week.

Yet kindergartners today go home with stacks of worksheets and other assignments that can take hours a week. The mother from Arizona who e-mailed me recently described the workload, both in class and at home, that her child — who was in a so-called “gifted and talented” kindergarten class —  received this past year, as well as the toll it took on the youngster. I have removed the name of the child and mother and the school. But this is not singular to this family and school; such homework loads are now common in many schools around the country for kindergartners.

Here’s the e-mail:

 My daughter just completed kindergarten … in the Paradise Valley Unified School District in Phoenix, AZ.

Coincidently, we referred to my daughter’s classroom as a sweat shop all year as the children were work-sheeted to death. The kindergarteners were expected to do well over an hour of homework a night, and in many cases 1.5-2 hours. The weekly homework consisted of:

20 minutes of reading per day tracked in a Reading Log.

Accelerated Reader books or Raz Kids Books that were sent home 4 times per week with a test given the following day at school.

Plus 2 additional Raz Kids books completed at home (online) with a comprehension test.

Homework packet (typically included 1 or 2 reading comprehension sections, a book report and math)

Writing journal (a story with a minimum of 5 sentences that included a beginning, middle and end and an illustration)
Equation assignment

10 minutes nightly of memorization of addition and subtraction tables.

Phonemic awareness worksheet (completed 3 times per week and signed by the parents)

Poetry journal

Plus a special project typically due every 4 or 5 weeks.

The love of learning was extinguished as teaching consisted mostly of worksheets and homework. Rote instruction taught the children that school is not fun.

Children sat at their desks, isolated with a privacy board and filled out worksheets for a large part of the day. Incorrect worksheets were sent home to be redone, adding to the homework burden.

Our school district provides all-day kindergarten. The children typically had about 10 minutes to eat lunch before they were told to dump their trays and head outside. Unlike the other kindergarten classrooms at the school my daughter’s class did not have a second recess. At one point during the year an e-mail was sent home to parents telling us that snack was being cut “to maximize” [the academic block].

Parents complained over the course of the school year. And a number of parents tried to move their children to other classrooms, but the school refused. The only way out was to leave the school.

Like several other students, my daughter ended up with abdominal problems the last month of school, likely due in part to stress from school. I think it was the 11-page final research paper, habitat, and oral presentation that did her in. Thankfully, we did survive and we will not be returning to [the school] next year! This summer we are trying to heal as a family and we hope that the vibrant bubbly little girl that used to love school returns in the fall!

I just wish there had been as many smiles on my daughter’s face this year as there were smiley faces in the mountain of worksheets she completed!

(Clarification: Core Knowledge is not the Common Core. An earlier version left some readers thinking the author was equating them. This version makes it clear that they are not.)