The Half-Day Kindergarten-Common Core Mismatch

December 4, 2012 |

Will teachers be able to help their kindergarten pupils reach the common goals when those children are only attending for half a school day? Or might the instruction needed to meet the standards be pushed to before- or after-school programs or prekindergarten programs, as a recent report from the National Association for the Education of Young Children cautioned?

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This fall, millions of 5-year-olds donned backpacks full of school supplies for the first time as they headed off to kindergarten. Depending on where they live, however, these children are having widely divergent experiences, with some attending full-day kindergarten and others offered only half-day classes. And yet the new national English/language arts and math standards they are expected to meet are exactly the same.

Under the Common Core State Standards, kindergartners will be challenged by new and higher expectations. Forty-six states and the District of Columbia have signed up for the common core (one of those states, Minnesota, adopted only the ELA standards). Will teachers be able to help their kindergarten pupils reach the common goals when those children are only attending for half a school day? Or might the instruction needed to meet the standards be pushed to before- or after-school programs or prekindergarten programs, as a recent report   from the National Association for the Education of Young Children cautioned?

Children enrolled in half-day kindergarten receive less instructional time, likely experience a narrowed curriculum, have less time for experimentation and exploration, and enjoy fewer opportunities for play. Many states and school districts already require a 90-minute uninterrupted reading block in elementary schools. It's likely that others may choose to adopt the 90-minute reading policy because of the demands of the common core. Focusing on early reading and language development is important, but in half-day kindergarten—which rarely lasts longer than three hours a day—that reading block would leave only about 90 minutes each day for deep learning in mathematics, science, social studies, and the arts, not to mention time for physical activity and socializing, which are so...

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