Orwell Award Announcement SusanOhanian.Org Home

New Books for Kindergarten Students

Ohanian Comment: Here's another example of corporate press release traveling as news report. The TV station actually released it as KIAH Staff Report. There's a video at the url below. And guess who the Pearson spokesman is? Terry Abbott. Remember him? Public-information officer for the Houston school district. Here's Richard Connelly, writing in the Houston Press about Abbott:

Abbott's the guy who somehow managed to spin a non-entity like Rod Paige into the U.S. Secretary of Education. He's the guy who mastered the art of never answering questions unless they were submitted in writing. . . .While earning that $160,000 a year from an educational institution despite not having a college degree. . . Abbott also managed to rake in untold bucks working for the Broad Center, an educational group founded by billionaire Eli Broad. Abbott would visit school districts around the country, offering his anti-media philosophy and getting paid to do it. And yes, if you're wondering, that's the same Broad Center that gave HISD the allegedly lusted-for award as a top urban school district, a win that was touted on ubiquitous banners district-wide forever. . . .

There's lots more on Abbott, who's also called a junkyard dog--and it's meant as a compliment, junkyard dog as in "He will stand in front of people who are shooting bullets at you." But enough: This is a story about the skill pile-up on kindergarten. It's about "teaching kindergartners aggressively." It's about kindergartners having six skills textbooks.

Jon Scieszka, the First National Ambassador for Young People's Literature, brings his lovable Trucktown characters to Reading Street and Calle de la Lectura through a variety of literature. Weekly Get Set, Roll! Readers allow children to practice the weekly phonics skill. Trucktown ABCs and the Big Book of Truckery Rhymes enchant and engage children while developing phonological awareness.

This could bring tears from a turnip. Scieszka's work is at the core of the skills program. He is identified as the Exclusive Pearson Consulting Author. Be strong, my breaking heart.
What s Hecuba to him, or he to Hecuba, That he should weep for her?

The kindergarten skills package includes:

My Skills Buddy (Student Editions include Decodable Readers)

Independent Readers and Teaching Guide; Kindergarten Student Readers

Listen to Me Readers; Trucktown Get Set, Roll! Readers; Phonics Activity

Mats; AlphaBuddy Puppet; Letter Tiles; Picture Cards; Tactile Cards

Alphabet Cards English/Spanish; Talk with Me, Sing with Me Flip Chart

Phonics Songs & Rhymes Flip Chart; Truckery Rhymes Big and Little Books

Trucktown ABCs Big and Little Books; Big Books and Trade Books

Texas End-of-Year Benchmark Assessment and Teacher's Manual

Ah yes, a skills benchmark assessment for kindergarten. But as they say in those TV ads for the 16-function toilet bowl cleaner that whistles "Hail to the Chief," there's more. In a Q&A section, the publisher asks questions and answers them, a convenient device for control freaks.

How does Reading Street help teachers assess students?

Reading Street's assessment plan helps teachers assess their students both formally and informally. Daily Success Predictors help teachers monitor priority skills by assessing predictors of reading success. Weekly Assessment Checkpoints provide a more formal way of identifying students' understanding of key concepts and skills.

Kindergarten Checkpoints. Remember Checkpoint Charlie? The name given by the Western Allies to the most well-known Berlin Wall crossing point between East Germany and West Germany during the Cold War became a powerful symbol representing the separation between democracy and Soviet control.

Think about who's controlling kindergarten. While you're at it, think about teacher professionalism.

This reading program promises the usual Standardisto malarkey:

Reading Street provides explicit, systematic, high-quality instruction focusing on the five critical elements of reading identified by research: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and text comprehension, as well as an emphasis on concept and oral language development.

More in Q&A from the publisher:

Why is there a student book at Kindergarten?

Young children respond to lively, interactive print materials as they are building a sense of themselves as readers and learners. My Skills Buddy, designed to be a companion to the classroom content, serves as a handbook children can visit to apply and practice newly acquired skills.

What? You didn't know that five-year-olds needed a skills handbook? What? You agree with the Alliance for Childhood that five-year-olds should be engaged in independent and imaginative play? Crisis in the Kindergarten: Why Children Need to Play in School.

Play that doesn't come with a pre-packaged formative assessment. Play that isn't based on the dictates of Dr. Grover J. Whitehurst.

Whitehurst is quoted in big red letters in the promotional material:

Children who have been read to dialogically are substantially ahead of children who have been read to traditionally on tests of language development.--Dr. Gover J. Whitehurst, Director of the Institute of Education Sciences, U. S. Department of Education

That should read "former director." But he has plenty of other titles. On the Brookings expert page, he's listed as "expert on reading, teacher quality, student assessment, learning and instruction, education technology, and preschool programs." And don't forget: Leading Professor of Psychology and Pediatrics & Chairman Department of Psychology State University of NY Stonybrook.

Another psychologist beating the reading skills drum.

Also stated in the Pearson promotional materials:

The dialogic reading routine in Reading Street Texas is based on Dr. Whitehurst's research.

You can read Whitehurst's paper, written in 1992, at Reading Rockets. It makes good points about helping young children get involved in a book, but when such interactions become systematized into Step 1, Step 2, and so on, it is formula smothering humanity. When you do it with every book you share with a child, the result is deadly. Skills trump story; worse, skills trump spontaneity, surprise, wonderment, joy, empathy, imagination, and common sense. In Whitehurst's paper we read that the goal of this approach is to "accelerate the language development of preschool children, with the ultimate goal of targeting children at risk for later academic failure."

It's always those children of poverty who are deprived of the joy in reading. Those kids, when viewed through a lens of deficiency, might have homes with lead paint, toothaches, what the corporate-politicos now call food insufficiency. They also might have homes of strong traditions, values, resilience, storytelling. But never mind any of that. These children must move right into to an explicit, skills intensive approach to books. They key word here is explicit. No subtlety or hidden magic for children of poverty.

The next step is likely to be fitting teachers up with sensors attached to microphones. Every time the teacher utters a word not in the specific skill lexicon, she gets zapped with an electric shock. Patent pending. Remember: You read it here first.

I tried to find out how much a kindergarten skills textbook set costs but one is instructed, "Contact your representative." I'm just wondering how many books could be purchased for the school library.

Note how the "reporter" identifies Pearson: Pearson, which supplies education materials in Texas. Pearson sells education materials. On their website they state they "education 100 million people worldwide." Moreover, they declare themselves "the global leader in educational publishing, providing scientifically research-based print and digital programs to help students learn at their own pace, in their own way." Their brands include Prentice Hall, Longman, Scott Foresman, Addison Wesley, Allyn & Bacon, Benjamin Cummings, PASeries, ELLis, Celebration Press, PEMSolutions, SuccessMaker, Waterford, and Family Education Network. Pearson's other primary operations include the Financial Times Group and the Penguin Group. This Texas kindergarten program is a Scott Foresman brand.


Remember when Kindergarten meant naps and a snack break? Well things are getting ready to change. Starting next school year, Kindergartners in Texas will have a new textbook to use in class. It's all part of an effort to reach students earlier.

Pearson, which supplies education materials in Texas, will provide both print and digital material for the new curriculum. The six-volume collection, called Reading Street Texas, allows students to learn and apply new skills, as they get ready to read. All materials are aligned to meet state standards, the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS).

"Educators around Texas have for some time felt like Kindergarten should be the new first grade. Waiting until first grade to really start teaching children aggressively how to learn is the wrong thing to do," said Terry Abbott, Pearson spokesman.

The goal is to make the reading material fun for the students and help them to develop a life-long love of reading.

— Staff
Channel 39 News





This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of education issues vital to a democracy. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information click here. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.