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Kids Haven't Changed; Kindergarten Has

Susan Notes:

Gesell researchers ask some important questions: Have kids gotten smarter? Can they learn things sooner? What effect has modern culture had on child development?

Here's my question: Will the standards makers and the test producers and the corporate-politicos who decree school policy pay attention to this 'new' data supporting a return to "balance" in kindergarten?

By Laura Pappano

In the ongoing battle over kindergartenâ€"has exploratory play been shunted aside for first-grade-style pencil-and-paper work?â€"one of the nation’s oldest voices in child development is weighing in with historic data.

The Gesell Institute for Human Development, named for pioneering founder of the Yale Child Study Center, Arnold Gesell, and known worldwide for its popular parenting series Your One-Year-Old through Your Ten- to Fourteen-Year-Old, will share the results of an 18-month study at a conference in New Haven, Conn. on October 15.

The national study, undertaken to determine how child development in 2010 relates to Gesell's historic observations, used key assessment items identical to those Gesell created as the basis for his developmental "schedules" which were published in 1925, 1940, and after his death by colleagues Louise Bates Ames and Frances Ilg in 1964 and 1979.

Given the current generation of children that--to many adults at least--appear eerily wise, worldly, and technologically savvy, these new data allowed Gesell researchers to ask some provocative questions: Have kids gotten smarter? Can they learn things sooner? What effect has modern culture had on child development?

The surprising answersâ€"no, no, and none. Marcy Guddemi, executive director of the Gesell Institute, says despite ramped-up expectations, including overtly academic work in kindergarten, study results reveal remarkable stability around ages at which most children reach cognitive milestones such as being able to count four pennies or draw a circle. For the study, 92 examiners conducted 40-minute one-on-one assessments with 1,287 children ages 3â€"6 at 56 public and private schools in 23 states. . . .

For the rest of this article, go to the url below.

— Laura Pappano
Harvard Education Letter


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