Monday, November 26, 2007

Redshirting: Article I

This is one of my favorite articles. Probably because the title is so in line with what our position is with regard to the kids' school. Here's the full text from the front cover of the report:

STILL Unacceptable Trends in Kindergarten Entry and Placement [Auntie's note: capitalization is original to the article.]

A position statement developed by the National Associate of Early Childhood Specialists in State Departments of Education

2000 Revision and Update

Endorsed by the National Association for the Education of Young Children
March 2001

Quite a mouthful, but what it boils down to is that the report represents the findings from two major childhood development associations.

From the inside of the report:

In 1987 the first edition of this position statement was published; it has been widely cited and continues to influence thinking. Unfortunately, the practices, which caused the members of the Association to become alarmed in the 1980's continue--this in spite of a preponderance of evidence of their lack of benefit and even of harm to children.

[...] A number of highly questionable practices have resulted from the trend to demand more of kindergarten children. These practices include:
  1. inappropriate uses of screening and readiness tests;
  2. discouragement or outright denial of entrance for eligible children;
  3. the development of segregated transitional classes for children deemed unready for the next traditional level of school; and
  4. an increase use of retention [Auntie's note: meaning repetition of a grade.]

[...] Delaying children's entry into school and/or segregating them into extra-year classes actually labels children as failures at the outset of their school experience. These practices are simply subtle forms of retention. Not only is there a preponderance of evidence that there is no academic benefit from retention in its many forms, but there also appear to be threats to the social-emotional development of the child subjected to such practices. The educational community can no longer afford to ignore the consequences of policies and practices which: 1) assign the burden of responsibility to the child, rather than the program; 2) place the child at risk of failure, apathy toward school, and demoralization; and 3) fail to contribute to quality early childhood education.

I particularly like that last line. My nephew has been in the same pre-school program for 2.33 years now, and while we have taught him to count to 100 and to read at home, I realized this weekend that he could not even say the alphabet correctly (a, b, c, d, e, f, g, h, r...) We never thought that something as simple as the alphabet was something we had to do at home. We figured that the school should at least be able to do that much.


Here is a summary of the "Summary of Priciples for Kindergarten Entry and Placement":

2) Children are enrolled in kindergarten based on their legal right to enter... [Auntie's note: bolds and ellipses are original to text]...families are not counseled or pressured to delay entrance of their children for a year by keeping them at home or enrolling them in other programs. Rather, families are strongly encouraged to enroll age-eligible children.

4) Retention is rejected as a viable option for young is not perpetuated on the basis of false assumption as to its educational benefit.

6) All children are welcomed--as they are--into heterogeneous kindergarten settings......they are not segregated into extra-year programs prior to or following regular kindergarten.

Pretty powerful stuff. Especially when the school is claiming exactly the opposite!

From the discussion in the report of point 2 above comes the exact point which we have been trying to make--in vain--to the school: that holding our kid back is to deny him exactly the peer-group and challenge that he needs most:

The dilemma is that the very children being counseled out of school are the ones who, if provided a flexible appropriate kindergarten curriculum, could benefit the most. The "gift of time" that many parents have been persuaded to give children by delaying school entry can result instead in denying them opportunities for cognitive growth through social interaction with their age-mates. ... By the end of the primary level, children whose kindergarten entry is delayed do not perform better than peers who enter on time.

The article hits the points we've been trying to make to the school. If our voice has fallen on deaf ears, perhaps a report from these association may have an impact.


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