Sandwiched between preschool and first grade, kindergarteners often start school at very different stages of development depending on their exposure to preschool, home environments and biology. For states adopting Common Core, the standards apply to kindergarten, laying out what students should be able to do by the end of the grade.* Kindergartners are expected to know basic phonics and word recognition as well as read beginner texts, skills some childhood development experts argue are developmentally inappropriate.

“There’s a wide age range for learning to read,” said Nancy Carlsson-Paige on KQED’s Forum program. Carlsson-Paige is professor emerita of education at Lesley University and co-author of the study “Reading Instruction in Kindergarten: Little to Gain and Much to Lose,” which criticizes the Common Core standards for kindergarten.

“Most five-year-old children are not really ready to learn to read,” Carlsson-Paige said. “There are many experiences in the classroom that are beneficial for building the foundation for learning to read that will come later.” She favors a play-based classroom that gives students hands-on experiences, helping them to develop the symbolic thinking necessary to later recognize letters and numbers.

“Research shows on a national scale there’s less play and experiential based curriculum happening over all, and much more didactic instruction, even though we have research that shows long term there are greater gains from play-based programs than academically focused ones,” Carlsson-Paige said.

While Common Core aligned assessments don’t kick in until third grade, many teachers feel pressure to make sure kids are meeting the specified standards before they move on to first grade. That pressure can mean more focus on academics, at the sacrifice of play time.

Kindergarten teachers try to interpret the standards and translate them into developmentally appropriate activities. But they struggle when kids still don’t meet Developmental Reading Assessment benchmarks. “Teachers start to question themselves and waver even though they believe in doing what’s developmentally appropriate,” said Colleen Rau, a reading intervention specialist at Aspire Berkley Maynard Academy. “So I think we really need to think about taking the pressure away and looking at student growth.”

Rau says under Common Core she’s seen positive shifts at her school towards more thematic units and more hands-on learning, but she agrees with Carlsson-Paige that pushing young children into skills they aren’t developmentally ready for can have poor results. Students can develop coping mechanisms that don’t serve them well later when they are confronted with more advanced texts.

“The lightbulb goes on for students at different times,” Rau said, “But if we make students feel pressure so that they shut down, then that light bulb is not going to be as likely to come on and they aren’t going to develop the confidence that they need to become successful readers later.”

There are plenty of children who do learn to read in kindergarten or even before, so for many parents the argument that young children aren’t developmentally ready to read rings false. But not all learners are the same, and what’s true for one child won’t necessarily be true for the child sitting next to her. Young children learn differently from older children, adolescents and adults, Carlsson-Paige said. Early childhood educators have documented the progression of increasingly complex symbolic thinking that leads to understanding letters make sounds and sounds make words.

“If you present children with information that’s too disparate from what they know then they give up or feel confused, or cry, or get turned off,” Carlsson-Paige said. “Part of the art of teaching is to understand where a child is in developing concepts and then be able to present information in ways that are new and interesting, but will cause a little bit of struggle on the part of the child to try to understand them.”


Advocates for the kindergarten Common Core standards agree that kindergarteners should not be sitting still all day doing reading drills. But they are clear that the standards in no way require that sort of teaching and were written with help and input from early childhood educators around the country. They are meant to offer challenging opportunities to advanced learners while supporting learners who may be coming into kindergarten with very little literacy exposure.

“What we set out in the Common Core are those skills and concepts that will help students learn to read in first and second grade,” said Susan Pimentel, lead writer of the English Language Arts Common Core standards. She says early childhood educators were adamant that the language “with prompting and support” be used throughout the kindergarten standards in recognition that young learners will be new to school and won’t be left to answer dozens of questions on their own.

“So much of the concern is about the implementation,” Pimentel said. And while she agrees that educators need to be vigilant about pointing out poor implementation and working to fix it, the problem is not new. Education standards have always been implemented in a variety of ways. “What we’re talking about is teachers who have maybe not been trained and some attention on that would be important,” she said.

Other advocates of the Common Core standards see them as an important step towards education equity. “The strongest argument in favor of reading by the end of kindergarten and Common Core’s vision for early literacy is simply to ensure that children—especially the disadvantaged among them—don’t get sucked into the vortex of academic distress associated with early reading failure,” writes Robert Pondiscio, senior fellow at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.

Many children start kindergarten able to identify short words or aware of the difference between lowercase and uppercase letters, two of the kindergarten standards. Pondiscio and others believe it is completely appropriate to begin introducing these ideas in kindergarten, albeit in fun play-based ways.

“If teachers are turning their kindergarten classrooms into joyless grinding mills and claiming they are forced to do so under Common Core (as the report’s authors allege), something has clearly gone wrong,” Pondiscio writes. “Common Core demands no such thing, and research as well as good sense supports exposing children to early reading concepts through games and songs.”

Another literacy researcher says the critique that the standards are developmentally inappropriate may be a misinterpretation of what the standards require. For example, one standard says children should be able to read emergent texts with purpose and understanding.

“The emergent-reader text is first modeled by the teacher for the students, then joyfully read over and over with the students until eventually the easy book is independently read by the students with great joy and confidence,” writes J. Richard Gentry, author of “Raising Confident Readers: How to Teach Your Child to Read and Write — From Baby to Age 7,” and a former professor and elementary school teacher. Gentry says this process emulates “lap reading” which some children get with their parents at home and which helps students gain confidence in their reading.

All of these educators agree that it can be difficult to teach the kindergarten standards in developmentally appropriate ways when teachers are worried about how kids will do on standardized tests. While Carlsson-Paige and others believe the standards are inappropriate and should be thrown out, Pondiscio, Gentry and Pimentel are among those who believe the standards are important to make sure reading gaps don’t start young. They favor the idea that implementation is the real problem and that more energy should be put into helping early childhood educators interpret the standards and integrate them into class in fun, approachable and developmentally appropriate ways.

*An earlier version of this story suggested that Common Core was the first time academic standards were set for kindergarteners. We regret any confusion.

Does Common Core Ask Too Much of Kindergarten Readers? 4 May,2015Katrina Schwartz

  • pacermathteacher

    My daughter did not start to read until she was in the fourth grade, having been in special education because of her lack of ability. In the fifth grade she decided that she really needed to learn how to read. By the time she finished the sixth grade she was reading at the 12+ grade level. Graduated from college with a 3.87 GPA in Biology. Everyone is different.

  • Re: “But they are clear that the standards in no way require that sort of
    teaching and were written with help and input from early childhood
    educators around the country.”

    There they go again. Yes, they got “input” AFTER the standards were developed by a group that DID NOT INCLUDE early childhood development specialists. And just because input was received, that doesn’t mean the feedback led to changes in the standards.

    Re: ““If teachers are turning their kindergarten classrooms into joyless
    grinding mills and claiming they are forced to do so under Common Core
    (as the report’s authors allege), something has clearly gone wrong,”

    Yes, and it’s teachers following rules set for them by administrators and districts in _their_ interpretation of Common Core. If so many are interpreting CC this way, then yes, something is very wrong, and it’s not unreasonable to say CC is part of the problem.

    • Katrina Schwartz

      Hi there – I have heard the concerns you raise here a number of times from other educators, so made a point to ask specifically about the early childhood educators who helped write the kindergarten Common Core standards. Both Susan Pimentel and Marilyn Adams have early education backgrounds. I also tried to give examples of how the standards did change as a result of input from educators. One of those changes was the use of the language “with prompting and support” in recognition that kindergarteners will come into school at all different levels and will need support from their teachers to meet these goals.There is still definitely a vocal group of early childhood educators who continue to strongly disagree with the Common Core kindergarten standards, but I don’t think it is fair to say that the writers rejected all input. Thanks for your comment. – Katrina

      • Jackie Edwards

        What are their early education backgrounds? Do they have a solid foundational knowledge of child psychology and development? What are their degrees in? How much of their input was taken into consideration when writing the standards? Were these standards tested and scientifically proven to be developmentally appropriate before nation wide implementation? If so many teachers and educators and students and parents are pushing back year after year with no end in sight, shouldn’t we be rethinking?

        • Nancy Willard

          I was at a local school board meeting last night where they were discussing the Common Core. Teachers who presented were crying because of the horrid experiences they were having to put their children through. These horrific experiences will mar children’s social emotional well being for a very long time. It is far last time to call a stop to this madness!!!

      • Mister Mike

        Katrina, read her (SP’s) bio for goodness sakes! She NEVER taught English at the K-12 or the college level. She never published any serious work on K-12 curriculum and instruction nor did she have any reputation for scholarship or research. She was a virtually unknown in the field of English language arts yet somehow (and I hope you’re at least curious as to how) she ends up writing the common core ELA standards. Bizarre? I hope you would agree. She does have some political and corporate background experience however. So yeah, do you smell something funny now? Please do more research before giving folks like SP a pass on the not so wonderful common core. Also, I know it’s expected today that we just bash teachers as it’s a popular national activity, but keep in mind that the “turning classrooms into joyless grinding mills” due only to the common core is, if nothing else, silly. That process started a decade ago with No Child Left Behind . Because that asinine law didn’t do enough damage to public schools, we get the common core to help finish the job. Please advocate for giving our schools back to our teachers.

      • Ed Miller

        Hello Katrina et al. I was one of the authors of the Joint Statement of Early Childhood Health and Education Professionals on the Common Core Standards, expressing grave concerns about the K-3 standards and signed by more than 400 leaders in the field. (Read it here: We hand-delivered the statement to each of the people in charge of the Common Core project during the public comment period. The statement was never acknowledged and was not mentioned in the official report published by the Common Core initiative on the public reaction to the proposed standards. The addition of the words “with prompting and support,” in our view, made little or no difference to the overall devastating effect of the kindergarten standards on teaching and classroom life.

        Susan Pimentel did receive a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education in 1974 but went on immediately to law school and never worked as a teacher or school leader. Marilyn Adams does have a background in cognitive and developmental psychology but, as far as I know, never taught young children. She has had a successful career promoting an extreme phonics-based approach to reading along with her own programs for implementing this approach, including the notorious Open Court reading and writing curriculum that was imposed on thousands of schools by the Reading First component of the No Child Left Behind Act. Reading First was later exposed as a fraud that cost billions of dollars and actually produced negative results on children’s reading outcomes.

        I suppose you could say that Pimentel and Adams have early education backgrounds. The fact is that neither they nor any of the other 133 members of the committees that wrote and reviewed the standards had ever been a K-3 classroom teacher.

        Edward Miller
        Wellfleet, Massachusetts

        • SEGrady

          Bravo Sir! Thank you for doing your due diligence in finding out who these “experts” really are, behind Common Core. Several Common Core Warriors…as we call them, have pointed out the same problems in this scandalous system. I am glad to see that you took the time to list the significant problems with the alleged expertise of the authors of the Common core standards. My mother in law also has an early childhood education degree from 1974 to be exact. Her only experience has come from being the CFO of a chain of Child Development Centers. She has NEVER taught a single child at any of those centers but has made sure tuition was paid, processed, and teachers received their pay checks. However, she could easily claim to have over 20 years of early childhood experience even though it would be extremely misleading. Take a look back at some of the things they believed, about child development, in 1974, and you will see why that is problematic. She constantly repeats outdated information to me, because I’m the Daughter-in-law, and mother of her grandson. I just laugh, because no matter how often I point her to more recent research, and evidence based instruction, she can’t let go of her 70’s thinking. Keep up the fight!

  • Kacy Clotz

    Hey Katrina,

    This is such a wonderful article and I really like the way it’s been written.

    A year ago I bought an ebook online and to my surprise, the results were very impressive. My child was able to read within 12 weeks after I had gone through the book and used the simple methods which were mentioned. I hope it will help others as well as it helped me as well.

    Here’s the link to get the book:

    Here’s a tip which I would like to give: You NEED to give something to your baby in order to make them read. Remember how we all used to tame our parrots? Give it some seeds and let it sit on our finger. Similarly, you have to reward your child as soon as they hold a book. It will be difficult at start but your child will develop a habit — that is for sure.

    • Deb

      Funny, this EXACT SAME RESPONSE showed up on the Washington Post’s Answer Sheet blog just yesterday. Spam much?

  • Sandie Barrie Blackley, MA/CCC

    The science of how humans learn to read has exploded in recent decades. There is now a growing consensus among cognitive scientists referred to as The Simple View of Reading that goes a long way to explaining the wide developmental variations we see among young readers. (See: An understanding of the neuro-cognitive basis of developmental variations is central to writing sound curricular standards.

    Unfortunately, university departments of education rarely include this science in their curricula for teacher training. Teachers do hear a lot about reading programs that are “scientifically-based” (a term that is heavily used by educational publishers for marketing purposes). But educators are rarely taught how to think critically about these claims. They are left with only labels and opinions in what is essentially a continuation of the “reading wars”. Most university departments of education still approach teaching and learning decisions (and especially reading instruction) using philosophy rather than science as the main tool. Before educators will be able to make sound decisions about curricular standards the field of education will need to adopt science as opposed to philosophy as the primary tool for understanding.

  • Gil Gall

    The “experts” already weighed in on the common core; that’s why we have so much trouble teaching to the developmentally inappropriate expectations. There are to many standard with too many expectations of any early age child in reading writing and especially mathematics. Unfortunately this was a top down rather than a bottom up initiative. Instead of asking elementary schools to change how they are teaching we really should be telling colleges and high schools to get away from the stand and lecture format of instruction and begin differentiating to meet the needs of their students. Elementary schools did this years ago.

    • Jenny

      Unless they have a leigitmate medical problem, by the time a person is 18 years old, they should have the attention span to sit and take notes through an hour lecture. (And that is beside the fact that many college classes do have group discussions and activities and projects. And then of course, their are lab classes. And tutoring is readily avaiable on most college campuses. Most have free tutoring centers.)

      If we dumb down our colleges any further, American degrees won’t be worth crap and other countries will be sending their kids to the U.K. or Shanghai for a real college education.

      Do you have any idea how many kids are in college now that are not even responsible enough to register for classes on their own? I had a parent call three days before the semester started to fill out his son’s schedule because “he is out with his girlfriend. Registeration had opened up three months prior! We had one student who was a semester to graduating. He decided to register after classes started (and kept laughing thorugh the whole process like it was a joke) and then came to maybe two or three of them before flaking out.

      No. It’s time for parents to stop asking K-18 to be babysitters and the parents to take the repsonsiblity to give their children a grounding in basic ABCs and math before they get to Kindgergarten, and the skills they need to study and be responsible for themselves. Because when they get to college, the college should NOT be required to nurse them through the system more than they already are. College means a student has to be proactive about his or her learning. It is a transition place from adolence to adulthood, not “Highschool Part II.”

      I mean, you are sending them out for a $20,000.00 education and they are going to end up serving fries NOT because of the school, but because they wasted college dicking around because *someone* never taught them that an education was important and taught them to take responsiblity for their lives.

  • lyellepalmer

    The problems of implementation have many aspects/variables that make generalization impossibly frustrating. Here are a few and some answers:

    First, college courses depend entirely on the background of the instructor, so all curriculum and instruction practices of beginning teachers are the result of the initiative and experiences of the individual teacher in the practice teaching conditions, and any additional training, visiting, reading or special education training,

    Secondly, much of what is observed in classrooms is not teaching, but testing. Teachers must recognized that the steps leading up to the attainment of performance mastery require the actual demonstration, modeling , practice of intermediate skills that eventually produce the objective. This approach is progressive in that the student progresses from simple, instructed, corrected initial steps to more advanced skill over time. Too often children are given an initial task/test similar to the end objective–much too difficult for at least half of the class and a waste of time for them. For example, printing should never be introduced with the letter “A” because it is one of the most complex letters. Instead, introduce the letter “l”–lowercase L with a single start and stop stroke that can be introduced as an easily accomplished skill with most 3-year-olds. Using skill progression, most objectives can be accomplished over the course of the school year. Zaner-Bloser and other publishers have progressions online for those teachers who have yet to learn to break down the tasks and teach/model to the current level of the student ability. Teachers assigned to kindergarten when their preparation and/or experience is at the primary level need to explore the implications of “readiness” prior to academics. When it comes to reading, an entire literature on “early reading” exists that is quite different from the “reading literature” (See U of Illinois’ Delores Durken’s literature from decades ago).

    Thirdly, today we have the principles and practices of brain stimulation to ortho-educationally bring immature students up to normal standards. We can evaluate and mature sensorial systems by using near-point binocular vision tests (not eye tests or the far-point Snellen or tumbling E that miss children with near-point academic vision problems), auditory and startle reflex and auditory discrimination evaluations that go beyond the misleading screening tests to identify immature phonemic awareness abilities that interfere with skill development. Physical education evaluations and neurodevelopment activities are being shown to develop maturation for the whole child through specific movement and aerobic exercise activities and primitive reflex maturation necessary for children to have the self-control abilities and inhibition of distraction reactivity. The aerobic playground, it turns out, has possibilities for systematically increasing essential vestibular swinging, vitamin D and ultraviolet sunlight, especially important in the northern states as in the Scandinavian countries (essential for non-white racial minorities accustomed to more sunlight).

    Fourthly, the emotional homeostatic state must be one of joy, happiness, peace and community. Many students come to school having begun the day with intense and continuing sibling rivalry, parental inconsistency, and expectation of intimidation (including bullying). Long-term anxiety, fear and anger have a toxic effect on the brain, and the classroom, school and transportation staff must prevent negative emotional states through providing safe, secure and positive climates that serve brain development. This state of joy is observed during free play, cooperative activities, and group/class mass participation. The school climate is the basic foundation upon which all else is built, so ensure success and celebrate successes (even in select words: Good job! You got it!/ You did it!”). In this positive emotional state the child will sing, hum, move with a heartfelt and happy song of contentment. Our goal as professional educators is to ensure as much as possible this internal homeostatic climate (acetylcholine biochemical state of the parasympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system) for all children and at all grades.
    Lyelle Palmer, Ph.D., co-developer of the Stimulating Maturity through Accelerated Readiness Training (S.M.A.R.T.-Boost-Up) at the Minnesota Learning Resource Center established by the Minnesota Legislature; 6000+ K-3 teachers trained. See reports at

  • Karen

    I have not seen or heard any evidence that there were any problems with any of the California standards in use prior to common core. They were excellent standards (some of the very best nationally) and the implementation, including special ed, was state of the art. The only problem I have heard articulated that was based on fact is that Asian and White students tended to score much higher on these tests than Blacks and Hispanics, and that there appeared to be a distribution of achievement amongst all groups, based upon ability. Why would you destroy standards that are working and replace appropriate curriculum because a percentage of the population scores lower on it? Further, in San Francisco, they are implementing common core and dumbing down the math program based on the idea that Asians and Whites are “unfairly” ahead of other groups. Is this sound educational policy?

  • Deb

    “Pondiscio, Gentry and Pimentel are among those who believe the standards
    are important to make sure reading gaps don’t start young.”

    You want to fix that gap? What do wealthier kids come to school with that poor kids don’t? It’s not only that vocabulary gap, although that is huge (and you don’t fix that by teaching decoding, BTW; Pondiscio is the Fordham Institute’s “Token Person with Classroom Experience,” and it was NOT in Early Childhood!) – it’s all kinds of enrichment, it’s better nutrition, it’s specific child/caregiver interaction (including play and nonverbal communication), it’s physical activity, it’s play alone and with others (adults and children), it’s opportunities to be creative in music and art and movement, it’s role playing and exploratory sensory play – fix THAT deficit young and you are likely to have much less of a reading gap, or in fact an academic gap overall.

    Sorry, it really cheeses me off when people without a clue about ECE spout off ideas and magic bullets and the kids suffer. >:-(

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  • Christi Standish-Dickenson

    Not sure the issue of developmental inappropriateness is so much with the standards but with the curriculum that was created to teach them, especially in NY. Four worksheets and 50 minutes of math is way too much and developmentally inappropriate in Kindergarten…..most districts are now expecting Kindergarten students to read at a level D (guided reading) independently…wonderful if the children are ready and they have the background to support long vowel reading…most don’t.

  • Rachel Pembrook Samson

    As a kindergarten teacher, I see some issues with common core, yes, but I don’t feel common core is as bad as people are making it out to be (from my experience, those are generally people who really don’t understand common core in the first place). For one, common core is simply benchmarks, or goals that teachers should try to reach for their students. To me, when you don’t have high standards set, then people wont strive to meet those standards. This applies to any environment be it a restaurant having high standards for customer service or a company producing high quality goods. When you have high expectations for students, they generally strive to meet those expectations. Kindergarteners are at a prime and perfect age for learning. Their minds are like little sponges at this age. They love to learn and when the learning environment is fun, they don’t even realize they’re learning in the process. Are there students that leave my classroom not reading at the level I would like them to be at? Sure there are. But those are the students who would struggle had they started reading instruction in first grade rather than kindergarten in my opinion. Those are the students that will probably need special accommodations and/or support through at least a portion, if not all of their school career. Teachers do need to make sure they are maintaining a good balance of fun though too, as is true in ANY classroom be it a kindergarten classroom or a college classroom. Children at this age should be exploring their world, getting messy, playing, and having fun.Kindergarten teachers have a tricky job of still allowing kiddos to do all those things while weaving in learning experiences too. This is why I love being a kindergarten teacher though.

    • CassOtt

      You may be incorrect in stating “But those are the students who would have struggled anyway… the students that will probably need special accommodations and/or support…” What about Albert Einstein, who didn’t read until age seven? It is presumptuous to assume that those students will continue to need help…are you assuming they have learning disabilities? This is precisely why the Common Core needs tweaking–I would guess that you are both intelligent and use sound teaching strategies, but because the system is all about high standards, and it is uncomely for the intelligent, sound teacher to question high standards, good teachers, like yourself, can more easily become overly presumptuous about young children’s capabilities or lack thereof. I have seen more referrals to student intervention teams since the Common Core, with good teachers more convinced that students need some sort of label, because they “wont’ make it” by the time they get to 3rd grade testing. Thank heavens for sound school psychologists and teams that question premature labeling.

  • Soozi Weisflock

    I work in BIE tribal schools. I’m very concerned about the developmentally in appropriateness of the kindergarten curriculum materials developed to meet the Common Core that I have observed as a specialist. Looks like developmentally appropriate practices have been thrown out and older kid teaching methods used. I came away wondering why on earth the curriculum now seems to assume 5 year Olds enter KNOWING the abcs, basic words, and numbers. What about those that don’t? They are entering school already “left behind.” What about the research on brain development and readiness and 8 year olds? I’m appalled, and yes, the pressures on teachers to show growth on tests is very real, especially in schools in restructuring, which are in economically disadvantaged places. Having high expectations is good, but gosh, the entry level ones shouldn’t be so lofty.

    • Karen

      I agree completely. They are doing a huge amount of damage to students. If you wanted to stop children from learning and turn them off to school, these would be the curriculum and practices you would employ.

  • pixiedust8

    Absolutely. I worry about the kids who aren’t ready and who feel behind or stupid and are turned off school. That has much longer-term damage. My daughter is in 2nd grade and is already working on spelling words like “dialogue” and “authority.”

    I don’t have an issue with Common Core, per se, but I do think they are pushing some kids too hard, too early.

  • TMDC

    “waiver” instead of “waver”? Check the reading level of the author of this article, please.

    • Katrina Schwartz

      Thanks for catching the typo. Fixed!

  • Deborah Kindel

    When my now 41-year-old daughter entered kindergarten, her teachers were upset that she already knew how to read. When her youngest sister entered kindergarten six years later, they were upset that she didn’t read yet. Same school. My three daughters learned to read at 5, 4, and 6 respectively, and they all read voraciously today. They all hold graduate degrees, and the one who learned at six is a high school English teacher. Every few years there are new educational theories, some of which have merit and some of which are fluffy dreams concocted in ivory towers by people who haven’t been in a real classroom in decades. The trick to teaching well is to know what works for your specific students and not throw out the baby with the bathwater every time a new educational theory rolls around. The problem with the Common Core is that it removes any flexibility.

    • Jenny

      Common core isn’t a teaching method or a curriculum. It is simply testing that students are learning certain basic academic standards of performance before they move on to the next level. How the teacher does that is completely at their discretion.

  • William Morris

    I have a niece in Germany who was in third grade there. She asked me one day to help her with her physics homework which I did. I was dumbfounded. Physics in 3rd grade? She didn’t have much of a problem with it and was able to finish up her assignment once I got her on the right track. I seriously don’t think German kids are smarter than American kids. But their approach to education is extremely different than ours. They have shorter school days and don’t have the extra curricular distractions our schools have. They also go to school on every other Saturday. The sports programs, music, dances etc. are all after school programs done at a community center, not the school.

    • Jenny

      Agreed. I think we should be looking at what the nations churning out the top numbers in reading, math and science are doing rather than dumbing down our educational programs. And yes, all the extra curricular stuff we have in schools today, including sports, is a distraction at best.

      America is falling behind, and it is not because the subject matter is “too difficult” for children. It’s because the parents are not holding up their end of the stick and treating schools, all the way through college, like its babysitting.

      • Karen

        What nations churning our top numbers have is an extremely homogeneous population in terms of race, culture, etc. Just like America had before our educational “problems” developed. They set a very high standard, like we did pre 1970’s and students are graded and scored accordingly. Here, it has become a racial and gender issue, if you give students a lower grade/score based on a rigorous curriculum. The lie being promoted is that everyone is equally intelligent. They are not.

        • Jenny

          Right, because America had no immigrants or black people before 1970.


          I would say your racism proves you ignorant, but your poor grasp of history already did.

          As for “homogenous populations:” I suggest you look at those countries and look at their deomgraphics.

          Heck, some of them have two or three national langauges, let alone different ethnicities.

          • Karen

            Race is absolutely the issue. Common core was, in part, created to reduce the achievement gap between top scoring asian and white students, and low achieving black and hispanic students. How is that not race?

          • Jenny

            No. That was not what spurred it at all. It was spurred by the increasing demands of the American workplace.


            But hey, why let the facts get in the way of a good racist conspiracy theory?

          • Karen

            “The Common Core was rolled out with the promise of raising expectations for American students and closing both the persistent learning gap and the achievement gap, as measured by test scores.” Hechinger Report, March 24, 2015

          • Jenny

            Not seeing anything about “race.”

            And the reasoning is pretty much the same: Turning out more people equally qualified for the American workplace.

          • Karen

            “Closing both the persistent learning gap and the achievement gap, as measured by test scores.”

            Whites and Asians have consistently high test scores, while Hispanic and Black students have consistently low test scores, no matter how much money they throw at it. That is the nature of the problem, as stated above.

          • Jenny

            No it’s not stated above. It’s not stated anywhere except by you. You’re just projecting your racism onto the issue.

      • CassOtt

        There is again some truth to what you say about parents, but it is not always the case. And tougher Kindergarten standards are not the answer. I would caution you at placing the blame entirely on parents and on schools with the implication that schools have only been babysitting children for the years prior to the CCSS.

        • Jenny

          The thing is, I grew up in Maine in the 1970’s, which means they were still using teaching techniques from the 1960’s. And unless they had a medical learning disability, all the kids left Kindergarten able to read ad write “See Spot run.” So this is not something that is too much to ask of children in Kindergarten today because generations have done it before them.

          And yet most college students these days don’t even know english grammar. They don’t even know what parsing/diagraming a sentence is, let alone what things like participles and infinitive verbs are. So when they have to learn a foriegn language for their BA, the instructor has to waste time teaching english grammar in order to teach the new language because the kids don’t know their own language well enough.

          I work in a state university, and I see what comes out our public school system with a diploma. I see how little they know, I see how iresponsible they are. And we are the ones expected to pick up the slack in order to give these kids degrees that actually mean something, to prep them to be productive and able to hold down a job in the working world.

          I also see the parents who call in screaming at us that their child isn’t getting a “A” in a class they only show up for 50% of the time. But of course, that is not their child’s fault. Their child should be given special consideration, their child should be allowed to retake the test, their child should be allowed to turn in homework late, their child should be allowed to get extra credit not offered to any other student.

          We have an instructor who has been a well-beloved instructor for 12 years and she is quitting. She has no job lined up, but she knows she will never teach college students again because she is simply burned out by students and parents treating college as “High School, Part II.”

          I remember watching this start on a small scale in Chicago back in the 1990s’. Local school districts started to realize local businesses were not hiring their high school graduates. When they enquired why, the businesses answered, “because you are graduating kids that are barely literate and can’t balance a check book, let alone count out a cash register drawer.”

          So the Chicago school districts decided that every three years the students would be tested on basic skills they should have by that point. If they failed, they could not move on until they had those skills.

          The parental outrage was astounding. “How DARE you make my child retake 3rd grade because she can’t read yet!” They didn’t care if their child was being thrust out into the working world with no skills, barely literate. They just wanted their kids to sit in school for 12 years and be given a piece of paper at 18. The propram didn’t last because of the community outrage.

          (Heck, we have college athletes that have gotten free rides that can barely read at an 3rd grade level, but thier high school gave them a diploma.)

          The problem is we have become too lax in our educational standards as a combination of pressure from parents saying their child is too “unique” and “special” to be held up to any academic standard while state legislatures have taken a chainsaw to educational budgets. And rather than fight the tide, schools are just pushing kids through the system whether they are learning or not.

          “Everyone is different and develops at different rates.” On the Facebook thread that brought me here, a mother was sending her child to Kindergarten and she said that “if a child can’t read in the 2nd or 3rd grade, that’s FINE!”

          (And she used a balantant false anaology argumentive fallacy in the discussion, so obviously she didn’t care much about her education either.)

          Really? Fine? How about the time the third grade teacher is going to take away from other students catering to a kid who is just learning now what his or her peers learned two years prior? You think that parent cares about those children? Nope. She only cares about her special little snowflake who was moved without the necessary skills on because “everyone is different and develops at different rates and they should all be accomodated.” Meanwhile, state budget cuts are closing schools and putting teachers in classrooms with 35 – 45 kids…and yet her child should be specially accomodated because he or she should not have to live up to any academic standard.

          So what really happens is the kid falls behind and stays behind because the teacher has to get the students who have kept up through and she doesn’t have time to cater every special little snowflake. And since everyone pitches a fit when you make their child retake a grade, the kid is just pushed through.

          And you know what? When that kid gets out into the working world, they are going to have to live up to somone else’s stanards, or they are going to be out of a job so you might as well teach them to live up to others’ standards now.

          And at the University we do see kids that are go-getters. That are proactive about their educations, that are top performers, but they also come from families who have been very supportive of their children excelling rather than letting them come home and flop down in front of a cartoon or a video game and say “Thank god they’re quiet.”

          So are the problems in our education system and they way we teach? Yes. Are there problems in the way American society views education and any attempt to make it more effective? Oh my god yes. From straight-up anti-intelectualism to parents refusing to think their child should be repsonsible for anything because they are just so special and precious.

          And neither of those problems can be solved by being even more lax about our academic standards.

          And right now the U.S. has fallen below the interntional averages in math, reading and science,

          So at some point, we have to say, “These kids have to have these skills by this point or they can’t move on/graduate” or our children will become uncompetative in an increasingly international market.

          So we need to be looking at what those schools at the top are doing, rather than whiing that kids should not be held to any academic stanard.

          I’m sorry, this is a hot button for me because as someone at the other end of the system, every day I watch college faculty struggle with students who did not come out of high school prepared both academicaly and emotionally. I see what is actually coming out of our public schools and the knowledge that our kids are below the international average is sadly not a surprise.

    • Jodee Money

      Do ALL 3rd graders take Physics i Germany? or just those READY for it?

  • Elaine Vigneault

    Arguments against teaching kindergartners to read are really arguments for preschool and early intervention, not arguments against Common Core.

    • Wendy Covich

      My thought exactly!

    • Karen

      It is a main trust of the program, and a very damaging one.

  • Jenny

    “Most five-year-old children are not really ready to learn to read,” B.S.. ALL the kids in my family were reading (“See Spot run,” but still, reading) before they got to Kindergarten. I was 11 when I started playing with ABC magnets with my 3 year old sister. Heck, my nephews were rasied bi-lingual and could read in both English and Japanese before they started kindgarten. Kids’ minds are sponges, ready to sop up whatever is put in front of them. I think too many parents just let their kids plop down in front of cartoons to keep them quiet rather than spending a little time each day teaching them their ABC’s (in fun ways) and socializing them with other children (playdates, community functions, pre-school). School is not babysitting, and parents should be spending more time and effort giving their children the skills they need to socialize and the basis for learning rather than treating school as babysitting and then screaming at the teachers/professors when their child doesn’t do well from kindergarten to college.

    Are there kids with legitimate learning challenges? Yes. But that is not “most” of them. “Most” of them have parents who missed out on the opportunity to give their child skills they need before they got to school.

  • Jenny

    Just to add this to the discussion: The U.S. is below the international averages in math, reading and science.

    And people are arguing that we need to coddle these kids more rather than make them live up to very basic societal expectations?

  • karldisher

    My daughter is in Kindergarten in Challenger and they are learning parts of speech, had a science project, can add large numbers and practice basic logic problems and pattern recognition, and are learning all the strange letter blends that we see in English. I’m shocked sometimes what she has learned.

    Why not copy the Challenger philosophy? I agree that you can stress out kids if they were not developed to the point of the material and you are tossing foreign material at them. That’s why you don’t start out with parts of speech right.

    I don’t understand common core, NCLB and their incessant testing and where it gets us. The only thing obvious to me is that it won’t work.

  • Jenny

    Critizing typos in internet discussions usually indicates someone with a weak position.

    The problem is teachers in the third grade do not have time to take away from other students to cater to kids who have not kept up with their peers. With state budget cuts closing schools and putting 35-45 kids in a classroom, what happens to the kids who is not reading by the 2nd or 3rd grade is that they fall behind and stay behind because the teachers simply don’t have time to teach a child basic reading while trying to teach other students complex sentance structure and grammar. To teach them 6 + 7 =13 while the others are starting on their multiplation tables. So what really happens is the child that falls behind, stays behind unless someone, hopefully the parents, provides some outside help for them to catch up.

    And frankly, the Common Core requirements are simply NOT that onerous.

    And that is all Common Core is, a standard of learning. It does not say by what methods a teacher can teach these skills, it only says a child should know these certain skills by a certain grade level.

    Maybe you should have helped the daughter who was struggling more rather than blame the curriculums standards which generations of students have are achieved before her.

    Because right now, what we are doing is not working:

    P.S., The Albert Eistien thing? Urban Legend. Not true:

  • Kindergarteners need to play. What if, however, they could do both? Play AND learn to read? I have made some incredible discoveries as a kindergarten teacher. Please read this blog post to find out how this kindergarten teacher gets great results!

  • Also, many on this thread are giving their own firsthand accounts of how their children learned to read. This is wonderful that these parents are so engaged and so interested in this process. These parents on this thread and their children are in the minority. There are parents who don’t speak English, who can’t read themselves, who do not know how to help their children. Teachers must teach all these children how to read, these are the children who otherwise would be lost in our schools.

  • Furthermore, the Common Core Foundational Skills were written by two leading experts in the field of pedagogy and reading. Dr. Marilyn Jager Adams and Dr. Louisa Moats. These women are accomplished experts. The Common Core Foundational Skills are appropriate for Kindergarten and require the kids to 1. Know all letter sounds A-Z, 2. Know how to write the letters. 3. Read CVC words and Long vowel words. That’s IT. The school districts are pushing kids way beyond this because either they haven’t read the standards or their tests are NOT aligned to these simple requirements.

  • Denis Ian

    These are children. Brand new people by any measure of time … just as easily measured by months as they can be measured by years. They’re sprouting at different speeds and acquiring all sorts of skills and talents in terribly uneven ways … like all of us did not so long ago. Isn’t that the marvel of life?

    More and more, we’re treating these little learners as though they’re GMO’s … genetically modified organisms. Little programmable people who will grow as told, mature as directed, and perform on schedule. And never disappoint. Not eve.

    And that, I guess, is supposed to make everyone happy. The public will love the tasteless results. Lawmakers will laurel themselves. Superintendents and principals will beat their chests. Classroom teachers will cease to worry about their security. And the robotized, joyless crop of young learners will have met these very important benchmarks and be prepared for …. for what?

    Children don’t ripen on anyone’s schedule. Some rush straight to ripe in no time at all. Others take their time.

    But they all catch up … and stand side by side … and few remember the early sprouters or the tardy bloomers. So why this great worry? Why all the upset? For what?

    Why all this dread for itty-bitty people who have just mastered knotting their shoes … and cured themselves of putting their underpants on backwards.

    Who thinks it’s a good idea to introduce this hyper-anxiety stuff into the learning atmosphere of children? These are sweet children and they’ll ripen well enough … on their own schedule … despite the neurotic insistence to the contrary.


Katrina Schwartz

Katrina Schwartz is a journalist based in San Francisco. She’s worked at KPCC public radio in LA and has reported on air and online for KQED since 2010. She’s a staff writer for KQED’s education blog MindShift.

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