As a Five-Year-Old, I Would Not Have Been Ready for Kindergarten in Fulton
This article in the Fulton Sun details all the things the Fulton Public Schools expect entering kindergartners to be able to do:
Social and emotional skills screeners look for include children being able to go to the bathroom by themselves, sharing toys, sitting and listening, showing independence and learning how to tie their own shoes. Fine motor skills include cutting paper with scissors, coloring and the ability to hold a pencil. Academic skills include being able to say the alphabet, count to 20, recognize letters and numbers up to 10, knowing their name and birthday and identifying basic colors.
I don’t think I could do half of these things when I entered kindergarten.
The Fulton Public Schools defend this laundry list with the assertion that kindergarten is more advanced than it used to be, and children are expected to learn to read by the end of the year. I’m all for kindergartners learning to read. My problem with the list is that most of the tasks bear no relation to reading.
Sharing toys and being independent? It takes some kids years to develop those social skills, and they don’t affect reading level. Tying their own shoes? Again, no connection to reading, and lots of kids don’t catch on to this right away. There are Velcro closures for this very reason. Using scissors? Not useful for reading (or almost any other pursuit) and difficult for many little kids. Holding a pencil? Teach that the first week of class.
Now for the “academic” skills: Knowing the arbitrary order of the alphabet and the names of the letters is not a prerequisite for reading, which depends more on the ability to decode sounds and recognize words. Asking kindergartners to know their birthdays is like asking them to know their Social Security numbers: it’s totally irrelevant to their lives 99 percent of the time. And need I add that it’s not necessary for reading?
Of the whole list, being able to use the bathroom, knowing their names, and counting to 20 are the only things that make sense for this age group. Parents could give their kids a huge head start just by reading aloud to them every day — but that isn’t mentioned, perhaps because you can’t easily screen for it.
Screening for worthless indicators of kindergarten readiness is like giving kids bananas on a test day. It’s a distraction from the harder-to-implement practices that would actually improve student achievement.