Are We Putting Too Much Academic Pressure on Young Children?

My granddaughter’s kindergarten class has an honor roll.

Academic pressure increases for all grades

Pressure to perform academically starts in kindergartent

If you make honor roll, you’re parents are invited to a small ceremony honoring the children’s achievement.  If you’re a kid that doesn’t make the honor roll, the child gets to go the ceremony and sit with the other non-honored kids.

My granddaughter didn’t make honor roll.  She was in tears the day her best friend Sofia’s Mom got to come to school and her mother didn’t.  Even worse, when she asked her mother about it, her mom didn’t even know about this.

Here are my problems with this:

Why start to identify kids based on academic achievement so soon?  Kids are at different developmental stages when they’re five.  The children who are not reading at five will most probably be reading at six or seven.

I bet the school sees this as a way to motivate students. But I’m afraid it may backfire.

Do the children who don’t make honor roll feel stigmatized? Do they start to self-identify as not being smart?  Is this setting them up for a poor self-image? I don’t know.  My granddaughter seems to have weathered this crisis and still loves school.

I always thought kindergarten was a time for children to learn social skills and get ready for the rigors of first grade. Since so many children are going to preschool now, maybe preschool is the new kindergarten.

What Does the Research Say?

A recent survey of kindergarten across the country found today’s public school kindergarten programs have become increasingly more academic and less play-oriented. Teachers provide direct instruction to teach children how to read and to write prior to first grade

A 2006 research study found that children who learn to read in kindergarten have higher academic achievement in later grades.  My reaction:  these children were probably developmentally ready to read. Perhaps they excelled later in school because they were identified as superior performers early in their school career.  Or maybe they’re just smart kids.

Bottom line: I don’t see the need to start the academic rat race so young. I don’t see the need for making academic super stars out of some children and letting others sit on the sidelines wondering how they fell short.

Agree? Disagree?  Let me know your thoughts.

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2 Responses to Are We Putting Too Much Academic Pressure on Young Children?

  1. Barbara Weckstein Kaplowitz says:

    I don’t think this is a time when creating a skills hierarchy is good. When my children were in private pre-school and public kindergarten, they didn’t receive grades at all. You received checks or minuses on attendance and ability to follow instructions and behave, but not academics. There were no public or private comparisons to other kids. When I think back to my own childhood, the only ability demarcations we had were in the SRA color-based reading levels, and those changed weekly, if not daily. While teaching reading (and foreign languages) at an earlier age might be advantageous in the long run, teaching self-esteem is equally important, especially to those who may not be at the same developmental stage.

  2. Janet Wikler says:

    This is ridiculous. I can’t think of a more effective way to discourage children, right at the beginning of school. I had the privilege of working for several years with Lauren Resnick, one of the leading researchers and scholars in the learning field. Resnick makes a very compelling argument to support the idea that intelligence is not an inborn trait, but a developed skill, and that attitudes, expectations, and effort have more to do with a child’s level of achievement than inborn “aptitude.” A 5-year-old child who has “failed” to make the “honor role” can easily feel that she is less intelligent than her peers; this, in turn, can lead to low expectations — on the part of the child, her teachers, and her parents — and ultimately to a cycle of lowered self-esteem, less effort (“why even try?”) and ultimately lower achievement. To label kids at the age of 5 as smarter or better than their peers in any way is terribly destructive, especially as this is the age during which children form life-long attitudes toward learning, school, and their own potential for achievement and success.

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