Photo courtesy of Harley Avenue School.
Aprill 28, 2013 :: A New York public school has decided to nix an annual year-end kindergarten show in favor of more college-prep time for its youngest students, sounding alarm bells for those concerned about the toughening standards of early education.
“These are 5-year-old children! This is outrageous!” notes parent Ninette Solis, whose Change.org petition to reinstate the student performance has gotten more than 2,000 signatures in just two days. “The kindergarten show is a positive experience and beneficial to the children’s development. … This helps them build confidence in themselves. The show also helps develop public speaking skills while allowing the children to celebrate a big accomplishment.”
The Harley Avenue Primary School on Long Island, which offers a half-day kindergarten program within the Elwood Union Free School District, sent out a letter of explanation to parents on April 25. It was posted on Facebook and linked to by the Washington Post, and signed by interim principal Ellen Best-Laimit as well as four kindergarten teachers. “The reason for eliminating the Kindergarten show is simple,” it reads. “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.” The letter also acknowledges that while “the movement toward more rigorous learning standards has been in the national news for more than a decade,” the reality of it is just now “beginning to feel unsettling for some people.”
Those people include not only parents — who have called the decision “disastrous,” “tantamount to child abuse” and “just plain sad” in Solis’s petition — but education experts as well.
“It’s just so awful that it’s sort of like you’re in the twilight zone,” Dr. Lisa Fiore, early education professor and dean of faculty at Lesley University’s Graduate School of Education in Cambridge, Mass., tells Yahoo Shine. “It’s just so sad, and increasingly common now, that academics are eclipsing what we know to be best for kids.” While Fiore expresses concern over whether the teachers signed the letter of their own volition, she notes that this and other similar situations are fallouts of Common Core and the race-to-succeed culture. “At its most fundamental level, what it symbolizes is fear and competition — the fear is that our country is not doing well enough to compete on a global scale, whatever that means,” Fiore says.
That focus, she explains, creates the sense of being in a race, which fuels anxiety for both parents and children. It also can wind up eliminating truly valuable parts of the education experience, Fiore says. “You get one shot at kindergarten, and what are you going to remember?” she asks. “The show, that’s collaborative and special for so many reasons?” Or “more seat work and worksheets?"
On Monday, the school announced on its website a special board of education meeting on April 29 to host a public discussion. It also released a statement to Yahoo Shine recognizing concerns over its replacement of the performance with “Game Day” (which is not explained).
“We support the decision of our educators and believe it is important to recognize the rationale at work in this decision,” the statement reads. “Elwood Union Free School District only offers a half-day program for our kindergarten students due to financial constraints. But that does not mean we do not have significant goals for our youngest learners. In fact, one of the key goals established this year is to ensure that every student is reading at least at grade level by third grade, which will prepare them for the newest rigors of learning and assessment they will experience. Our educators believe that the traditional kindergarten performance requires multiple days away from classroom work for preparation and execution, and together with the lost instructional time this year due to poor weather, is not the best use of the limited time we have with our youngest learners.”
And there you have it.
- SEE ALSO: Elwood School District cancels annual Harley Avenue School kindergarten show; parent starts petition (News 12 Long Island) http://bit.ly/1jauiu7