Information Age Education Blog

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4 minutes reading time (750 words)

Are Our Kindergarten Students Ready for School, or Vice Versa?

The title of a recent article by Cassie Walker Burke caught my eye: Three Out of Four Illinois Kids Aren’t Ready for Kindergarten. Why That’s a Problem  (Burke, 8/13/2018).

Here is a key quote from the article:

Three out of four Illinois children starting kindergarten aren’t prepared. That’s according to data released Monday by the Illinois State Board of Education … (Illinois Board of Education, 2018).

Only 16 percent of low-income students, measured by those who qualify for free and reduced-price lunch, demonstrated readiness in the three core benchmarks: social-emotional learning, literacy, and math. But perhaps more surprising, wealthier districts reported low readiness scores, too, challenging common assumptions that tend to link richer communities with higher test scores.

Statewide, by race, 32 percent of Asian children and 29 percent of white children demonstrated readiness. The percentages of black and Latino children demonstrating readiness were lower, at 19 percent and 13 percent, respectively. [Bold added for emphasis.)

My First Reaction

My first reaction was one of astonishment and sadness. How could an entire state in the United States be doing so poorly in the upbringing of their infant children? It wasn’t just children from low-income families. I read further, perhaps expecting that this was data from a poorly designed and inappropriately administered test. But, quoting again from the article:

More than 100,000 Illinois kindergarteners, or 81 percent of those enrolled in public [school] programs, were observed for the survey, which was developed by San Francisco-based WestEd. There was no pen-and-paper or electronic test; rather, children were asked to perform such tasks as sharing art materials, sorting objects like buttons by shape and size, recognizing multiple letters, and acting out stories. Dual language learners were encouraged to participate in their home language or in English.

I am impressed by the nature and extent of this study.

My Next Reaction

Further thought led me to writing this IAE Blog. Notice the vice versa part of the title. Perhaps the problem is not that children are ill prepared for the kindergarten program. Rather, perhaps the problem is that the kindergarten program is ill prepared for the children. Instead of blaming parents and children, perhaps we should blame our educational system!

Consider the three areas being tested: social-emotional learning, literacy, and math. These certainly seem appropriate to me. I wondered what roles computer technology is playing in these areas (Moursund, August, 2018). For older children, social  networking and game playing on computers is definitely having a negative impact on certain types of social and communication skills. But for children ages zero to five, it is not obvious that computers are having a major impact on their social networking, literacy, and math development. I do see many very young children playing computer games on handheld devices. Many parents are using these handheld devices instead of or as major supplements to television. I am not up-to-date with the research comparing the relative effects of these two uses of electronic technology on young children. Both the handheld games and television are quite passive in terms of physical activity and interacting both with other people and the world.

My Conclusion and Recommendation

My conclusion is that we need to attack this problem from both the school’s and the parent’s points of view. We need to help the schools to make the changes that will best help them to meet the children where they are. We also need to work with parents to help their children to have a better upbringing.  

I hope that this study will be replicated in some other states. I would not be surprised to see similar dismal results. While such results are certainly discouraging, they are helpful in designing interventions. These interventions need to be developed in collaboration both with parents and with the teachers and other staff of our kindergarten and pre-kindergarten schools.

References and Resources

Burke, C.W. (8/13/2018). Three out of four Illinois kids aren’t ready for kindergarten. Why that’s a problem. Chalkbeat. Retrieved 8/15/2018 from https://www.chalkbeat.org/posts/chicago/2018/08/13/three-out-of-four-illinois-kids-arent-ready-for-kindergarten/.

Illinois Board of Education (2018). KIDS: Every Illinois child ready for kindergarten. Retrieved 8/15/2018 from https://www.isbe.net/kids.

Moursund, D. (August, 2018). The Fourth R (Second Edition). Retrieved 8/12/2018 from http://iae-pedia.org/The_Fourth_R_(Second_Edition). Download the Microsoft Word file from http://i-a-e.org/downloads/free-ebooks-by-dave-moursund/307-the-fourth-r-second-edition.html. Download the PDF file from http://i-a-e.org/downloads/free-ebooks-by-dave-moursund/308-the-fourth-r-second-edition-1.html.

Moursund, D. (1/19/2018).What the future is bringing us. IAE Blog. Retrieved 8/12/2018 from http://i-a-e.org/iae-blog/entry/what-the-future-is-bringing-us-2007-to-2018.html.

Moursund, D., & Sylwester, R, eds. (4/10/2015). Education for students’ futures. Eugene, OR: Information Age Education. Download the Microsoft Word file from http://i-a-e.org/downloads/free-ebooks-by-dave-moursund/268-education-for-students-futures.html. Download the PDF file from http://i-a-e.org/downloads/free-ebooks-by-dave-moursund/269-education-for-students-futures-1.html.

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