Friday, January 18, 2008

My Education Policy Rant

No child left untested, as I fondly call it is the subject of today's rant. Someone very close to me sent me a message about an issue with her daughter. Her daughter is 5 and is currently in kindergarten in a public school. The school is telling her that her child should go back to Pre-K because she is not reading yet. For those of you who know me, you know, this make me FURIOUS. Anyone with any background in education knows that this is ludicrous! First of all, developmentally, five year olds should not be pushed to read...most kids pick it up around 6ish and the average kid reads smoothly at 7! That is a year and a half from the little girl mentioned above.
The problem, as I see it, is that NCLB (NO Child Left Behind- the current education policy) is requiring so much testing that even kindergartners are being tested. As I have mentioned before, in looking for schools for D, I visited the local elementary school. They told me that they test their kindergartners three times a year for reading! This is ridiculous. The first grade curriculum has been moved into kindergarten. So much is being pushed at our children that the preparatory nature of kindergarten is being lost. Another friend, who is a teacher in a local public elementary school bemoans the way the new testing has changed the curriculum. She has been teaching for many years and says that kindergartner's creativity is being dismissed. School is all about reading (and for those in half day kindergarten, there is time for nothing else). She talks about how she has to close her door so they can practice plays and have free play...the things that kindergartners *should* be doing. Kindergarten was meant to help children adjust to the structure and discipline of a classroom, sitting in a desk, lining up, etc.
Now, someone has the nerve to say this little girls is "immature and not ready for kindergarten" because she is not reading? I know this child pretty well and have seen her interact, she does her "homework" without problems and clearly knows the basic academic things. This push to push our children, beyond their developmentally appropriate capabilities is going to land us with another generation of children who hate school and feel like failures.
For all these reasons, D is likely to go to private school. We had our meeting with the private school on Tuesday and it went really well. After telling them our life story (ugh)it seems that they are very likely to give us some kind of financial aid which will make it easier for us. So, as I eat my big bucket of crow that my child will go to public school, I really resent the current policy. I resent that I have to make this choice. Still, at the end of the day when it comes to my child- I will always make the choice that is best for him, regardless of how much I want to support and believe in public schools. Instead, I will continue to work and fight to make our public schools a better place for all children, mine and yours included.

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