March 21, 2009

New report shows kindergartners need more play in school

A new study by Edward Miller and Joan Almon, titled Crisis in the Kindergarten: Why Children Need to Play in School, reveals that the way in which kindergarten is taught today includes dramatically less time for unstructured play than two decades ago. Here's a snippet from the executive summary:

Kindergarten has changed radically in the last two decades in ways that few Americans are aware of. Children now spend far more time being taught and tested on literacy and math skills than they do learning through play and exploration, exercising their bodies, and using their imaginations. Many kindergartens use highly prescriptive curricula geared to new state standards and linked to standardized tests. In an increasing number of kindergartens, teachers must follow scripts from which they may not deviate. These practices, which are not well grounded in research, violate long-established principles of child development and good teaching. It is increasingly clear that they are compromising both children’s health and their long-term prospects for success in school.

The traditional kindergarten classroom that most adults remember from childhood—with plenty of space and time for unstructured play and discovery, art and music, practicing social skills, and learning to enjoy learning—has largely disappeared. The latest research indicates that, on a typical day, children in all-day kindergartens spend four to six times as much time in literacy and math instruction and taking or preparing for tests (about two to three hours per day) as in free play or “choice time” (30 minutes or less).

This is shocking! I knew that recent federal laws had put more emphasis on testing for higher grades, but I had no idea they affected kindergartens, too! Have you had any experience with this issue? Share your thoughts in the comments.

the buzz in play, recess, research, schools