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Home » School days, Stop Wasting America's Time

A SWAT for cramming for kindergarten

Submitted by on Thursday, 17 February 2011 No Comment
You know what they say about kindergarten being the new first grade?

Well, forget it. It turns out that advanced kindergarten is life in the slow lane. The real competitors in the "get your kids ahead and keep them there" race are turning preschool into college.

And if  you want your kid to go to a good school in Chicago, at minimum you need to hire a tutor. You should probably put your little darlin' in a test-prep program, too, because the entrance exams are brutal. There are questions that involve pattern identification and advanced literacy skills. Shapes such as trapezoids. Naming the continents. You know, the things we used to send kids to school to learn.

Of course, Chicago school officials would never, ever, ever encourage an admissions frenzy. "We want children to come to the table with their natural ability, without having been prepared," school official Abigayil Joseph told the Chicago Tribune. "That's how we find the best match. We don't want them to come in and do well because they've been prepped, but then be in an environment that's two grades above their level."

We should be just as concerned about children who wind up placed two levels lower because their "natural talents" at identifying Asia and angles don't shine through because they haven't been prepped. Or because they have been but freeze at test time.

Yes, it happens and probably far more than the defenders of the kiddy SATs want to admit. I've known a number of kindergarteners who have known the material cold but are too reserved or stubborn to regurgitate it at test time. If that kind of anxiety's coming into play for a 5-year-old, imagine what happens when you're expecting children even younger to perform on command like trained seals.

The idea of a gifted kindergarten program is nauseating to begin with. Yes, some kids start school with advanced skills - that might mean  they're gifted, or it might mean they're ahead of the learning curve at the moment. Some kids begin school with lesser abilities - that might mean they're not gifted or that might mean that they're exactly where they're supposed to be according to their own learning curve.

Yet, in Chicago parents are pushing kids barely potty trained into expensive programs because getting in the "right" school to begin with increases the chances that they'll stay there.

That's due to the tremendous gap between Chicago's elite public schools and it's lower-performing neighborhood campuses. If U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan couldn't bridge that gap in one city, how does he think he can do it across the country?

Instead of being bridged, the gap in Chicago is only going to increase, and it's also going to be increasingly an economic one, with families who can afford test prep and preschool and tutors or the luxury of a stay-at-home parent getting the "good" schools while the rest try to thrive on crumbs.

Officials in Chicago, and else where, need to Stop Wasting America's Time by pretending that they're creating schools for children with "natural talent." What they're really doing with gifted programs for kindergarteners is catering to a very select group of the hot-housed elite.

Copyright 2011 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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