Guess What? Common Core Kindergarten Is Not the Savior of the Poor

Erika Sanzi recently published a critique of Sarah Blaine’s article about the Common Core standards for early education, particularly kindergarten, being “developmentally inappropriate. Sanzi starts off her article stating that she felt torn and wished that she could side with Blaine since, “Like Ms. Blaine, I look at all of this from a place of privilege.”  Yet Sanzi goes on to support the developmental appropriateness of Common Core for the early grades.

Sanzi claims, “There is much wisdom to be found in the voices of educators on this question of developmental appropriateness.” Then she cites one English arts specialist, Pat D’Alfonso, as evidence. It makes me wonder if Sanzi ever read the Joint Statement of Early Childhood Health and Education Professionals on the Common Core Standards Initiative Issued by the Alliance for Childhood that was issued March 2, 2010. This joint statement was not signed by one  “English arts specialist” but rather over 300 educators and health professionals, many highly renowned in their fields, see their statement, names and credentials here.

Simply stated, Sanzi just like many legislators, education businesses like Pearson, school boards, and administrators have ignored the wisdom of those who understand early learning best. These standards were not designed with any regard to our youngest and most impressionable learners and only time will tell the true damaging effects of these irresponsible reforms.

But what makes me angry is the claims that these Common Core standards, despite being deemed inappropriate by over 300 highly knowledgeable people, who have experience studying and working with young children, have been touted as the savior of the poor in America. It is utterly ridiculous to suggest that somehow these standards are the antidote to the vast achievement gap between rich and poor, between people of color and those of European descent (or however you want to word it), and even between regular education and special education.

Poor children in America are in crisis and kindergarten is where major triage begins in order to compensate for what most agree is a 30 million word gap during their early years. Reading early and often is the antidote that can fill the gap and put students from widely different backgrounds on much more equal footing.

In addition, by requiring students from the beginning to use evidence from the text when writing and speaking, Common Core allows for students to depend far less on their prior knowledge and, in turn, quickly begins to mitigate the impact of having had less conversation or vocabulary rich experiences in early childhood.

In addition, by requiring students from the beginning to use evidence from the text when writing and speaking, Common Core allows for students to depend far less on their prior knowledge and, in turn, quickly begins to mitigate the impact of having had less conversation or vocabulary rich experiences in early childhood. (Sanzi)

Reading early and often does help. But sadly there is less and less time for reading in classrooms where rapid skill acquisition reigns.  What the kids are doing in most kindergartens is a far cry from children making up for lost time being read to and engaging in conversations. It is dominated by worksheets and assessments  If the PARCC test does extend to kindergarten next year, then you better believe kindergarten will also include typing practice.

Most schools with low-income students don’t have many books.  Especially since so much money is being spent on technology upgrades and training in order for the kids to be tested by the new PARCC test. Chicago public schools are refusing district wide, because it simply costs more money than they have to lay out. Sanzi is naive to think that this new set of standards and the inevitable (profitable) tests that will be tied to them will have the power to magically lift children out of poverty. In fact, it runs the risk of turning children off to reading, learning and school at an early age. The best motivating factor for reading success is the desire and love of reading. Children need positive associations not close reading and critical analysis when they are 5, before reading becomes work it must be loved. Why squander the opportunity?

But simply waiting until our children reach a testing year, and refusing the test will not solve the problem either. There has been a fundamental shift in how education is viewed and sadly that view is inextricably entwined with money. The real savior of the poor in this country will not come from the Common Core or lack there of. It will not come from taking the PARCC or refusing it. Starting from day one of kindergarten developing the skill of citing the text, will not make up for less conversation, but teaching parents how important it is to speak and read to young children will.

If we want all children to have a quality education, it will only come from the parents and teachers working together with their communities to demand better. Better schools and better education only comes with sustained hard work. Each community has its own strengths ans weaknesses that the people who live there know all about. The key is to start small and gradually grow more community education associations, parent groups, committees, and have those groups work together to create positive change one step at a time.

It isn’t a magic bullet but rather a long battle that will take blood sweat and tears. But then, with every small victory the community, school, and children grow stronger…together.

Common Core lays out the goals, but certainly doesn’t dictate how to get there. It’s hard to believe that beginning to read early ever hurt anyone but it’s near impossible to deny that failing to do so can quite literally ruin a child’s life. (Sanzi)

The goal needs to be less about when or how a child learns to read and more about how we can inspire and motivate children to want to read and to want to go to school everyday. No one would argue that not learning to read can ruin a child’s life. But I would argue that it is almost as bad to not show children how to love to read.

It is a crime not to inspire them to do more than perform well on the arbitrary, poorly designed tests that we allow for-profit companies to create for them. No child should feel like a failure at age 5, 6 , or 7. They shouldn’t cry when it’s time to do their homework. They deserve more and it is up to the adults to give that to them.

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My older son’s story about reading to his baby sister.

5 thoughts on “Guess What? Common Core Kindergarten Is Not the Savior of the Poor

  1. India Mariconda says:

    I couldn’t agree more!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Michelle W. says:

    Well said! Thank you!

    Like

  3. mboucher75 says:

    Hi Paige! I do not know how I stumbled across your blog, but I am glad I did! You so eloquently capture the thoughts and opinions of more educators than you realize……thank you! I am from NH and believe it or not Kindergarten isn’t a mandated grade. Each district must offer it, but the children do not have to go further more it’s not a full day program, scattered across our state-district to district- you will see 2.5 hour sessions. I have been in the classroom since 1988 teaching an array of grades like yourself. The stress and pressure my scrumptious little kinders are under is unsuitable and most certainly not a positive way to start their educational journey. A book I love to read on the first day of school is called Leo the Late Bloomer by Robert Krauss.

    This should be mandatory reading for all politicians and those who have never been at the helm of a classroom of young children- yet are making decisions that impact them greatly. The inappropriate academic demands of CCSS- in the early years – are damaging for many. Like yourself, I do not teach with a ceiling. If my students are ready for more challenging skills and concepts- I differentiate! That said, all children grow at their own rate….sadly CCSS is assuming all children bring to the classroom the same experiences hence they will be on target to meet grade level standards in 9 months. That’s like saying I could run a marathon when I have only trained for a 5k. Sure I might finish but along the way I will need lots of intervention inferring that I may not be a good runner. When all I really needed was more time ….
    Sorry for being so long winded! Thanks for your supportive comment on the blog Advancing New Hampshire Public Education- you’re an inspiration…I will continue to find my inner warrior (voice) and speak louder for our kids!!

    Like

    • Hi, I am so happy that you found my blog as well. It is so difficult to find time to write, since I have 4 kids age 7 and under. My mother taught kindergarten for over 30 years, so I know Leo the Late Bloomer and love it! My blog is what helps me to cope with my frustration about all of this reform. But we decided a few days ago to homeschool elementary school next year and wait out the reform storm. I will still write and fight, but I won’t subject my children to suffer through this while the adults in power take their time realizing the damage being done. I hope that you keep tapping into your voice and that people start to listen!

      Liked by 1 person

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