[Susan notes: These letters are in response to Kindergarten as Boot Camp, an article showing how the California standards-and-testing approach has infected kindergarten classes. These individual letters take different approaches and present quite a case.
Published in Sacramento Bee
Re "Kindergarten as Boot Camp," Forum, Dec. 15: Susanna Cooper's article did an excellent job of covering the pros and cons of early high standards. Unfortunately, I believe legislators and educators alike are failing to consider the building blocks of a learning mind: its emotional foundation. And that failure will result in eventual resentment, rebellion, an increase in truancy and dropout rates and, very likely, more school shootings.
Our children are growing up in a diverse and ever-changing democracy, not in the conforming, static society of the Chinese. Our schools need to
develop creative minds that find learning to be an exciting lifelong adventure.
When we separate the young child's intellect from his or her naturally involved little body and feelings, we do permanent damage to a human life.
- Elaine King, Sacramento
Teachers who have studied the physical and psychological development of children are appalled by the regimentation forced on 4 and 5-year-olds. A child is more than a statistic.
Teachers who have taught for years (I began in 1943) have seen more than one great new technique come and go. There was time, though, to try to meet children's needs and to really teach.
May you continue to examine kindergarten practices and thus give the teachers hope and the children a more positive school experience.
- Marjory Beamish, Sacramento
Many teachers could give similar examples of how academic content standards and concern about state tests have pushed out traditional kindergarten activities.
Politicians who trumpet "scientifically based" should study the results of a longitudinal research project that has followed a cohort of mostly poor, African American children in Washington, D.C.
Their preschools were described as "child-initiated," "academically directed" or "middle-of-the-road." By the end of the students' sixth year
in school, those who had been in academic programs "earned significantly lower grades compared to children who had attended child-initiated preschool classes." Researcher Rebecca Marcon concluded, "Their progress may have been slowed by overly academic preschool experiences that introduced formalized learning experiences too early."
Real reform of K-12 education would restore developmentally appropriate activities in the primary grades, end the abuse of standardized rank schools and students and base graduation on actual accomplishments rather than on a single test score.
- George Sheridan, Garden Valley
As a grandmother, I was excited with the enthusiasm my 5-year-old grandson had about starting kindergarten. Imagine my surprise when I noted he had a backpack like his big brother. When I asked him what he had in it, he said,
"It's my homework." What a shock; my grown children had fun in kindergarten, and so did I.
There are those who will make it through "boot camp," but I already know in my heart that my happy, fun-loving grandson probably won't. I think it's sad.
- Joyce Bullock, Fair Oaks
Imagine the opportunities ...
Knowing how concerned The Bee and its readers are in having the best in education for the children, I thought it incumbent on me to offer the
latest in testing.
The Wexler-Binet Testing Corp. is about to unveil its latest product: the Leland Stanford Stitch Test for the young, the LSS. The LSS is a head start test for Head Start. Items include color matching, stair climbing, vocabulary, recognizing peoples and animals by mug shots and crying
decibels exhibited during testing.
Clusters of questions factored for 18 test areas are given. Company correlation for Head Start and test results is at .90. Better yet, early
training, starting at 6 months, increases test scores by 30 percent, adjusted for age. No more than four hours training, five days a week is
required for such monumental improvement.
It is anticipated that within five years 20 million toddlers will be tested and trained in the LSS. At an expenditure of $5,050.50 per child for testing and training materials, a total revenue of $101,010,000,000 gross is expected. Stock may be purchased. Administrators in education and political office holders will receive an automatic 40 percent discount.
- Leo Farr, Sacramento