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[Susan notes: Look at the didacticism expressed by the Teach for America person. Holding students and parents accountable, indeed.]

Published in New York Times Magazine

To the editor

Kindergarten Cram

Published: May 15, 2009

Thank you, Peggy Orenstein, for writing about the importance of play for children (May 3). Rather than worrying about whether children will be reading in kindergarten, the emphasis, particularly in preschools, should be on how children react to the day-to-day experiences in their world. Can she cooperate when being asked to share? Is he able to negotiate with his peers using the appropriate words? Can she comfortably ask for help when needed, wait for her turn and, of course, know when and how to say please, thank you and excuse me? While your daughter was busy concocting a pretend math sheet because âall the other kids have homework,â there was plenty of creative thinking and learning taking place. Thereâs something to be said for the adage âplay is childrenâs work.â

The Way We Live Now: Kindergarten Cram (May 3, 2009)


Roslyn Heights, N.Y.

As a kindergarten teacher in a Title I school with 99 percent of students receiving free or reduced-price lunch, most of my 5-year-old students enter without being able to recognize the letters of their name or count to 10. They are certainly not suffering from overly high expectations but rather the opposite. Testing has shone a spotlight on the fact that for too many low-income children, the expectations have been so low in kindergarten that they leave without the foundational reading skills they need. Peggy Orenstein is correct: assessment in itself is useless. What is useful is its power to define expectations and hold students, parents and teachers accountable. My greatest wish is that one day my students will have the luxury of complaining about their âsouped-up childhood learning.â


Teach for America â07

Downtown Miami Charter School


There is no dichotomy between academia and play in a quality kindergarten program. Indeed, it is that kind of black-and-white thinking that brings us tiresome black-and-white legislation like No Child Left Behind. Blending social-emotional development, language development, problem-solving skills and the traditional academic subject areas is neither terribly difficult nor rare. If Peggy Orenstein found herself unable to observe such a program in all of her town, she is quite welcome to come and see my classroom.


San Francisco

Peggy Orenstein suggests teachers allow kids in kindergarten to toss out their pencils and simply play, but Orenstein should have added the word âoutside.â Sixty percent of kids ages 2 to 5 do not have daily access to outdoor play. Whatâs equally damaging is that those kids who do play outside are now so restricted by all sorts of rules, such as permits required for even a pickup baseball game, that they really canât go far or do much. In 1970 the average 10-year-old wandered 10 times as far on his or her own as a 10-year-old today, which, of course, encourages self-reliance, independent thinking, engagement with nature, unsupervised socialization and more. The National Wildlife Federation has started a program called Green Hour, which presses for free play outside one hour each day while children are at school. So toss out the pencils and send the kids outside.


West Hartford, Conn.

multiple authors

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