Posts Tagged ‘Kindergarten’

Full Day Kindergarten & Preschool? I Don’t Think So

“Perhaps the sentiments contained in the following pages, are not YET sufficiently fashionable to procure them general favour; a long habit of not thinking a thing WRONG, gives it a superficial appearance of being RIGHT, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defense of custom.” – Thomas Paine, Common Sense (italics mine)

A month ago an article appeared in the Provo Daily Herald entitled, “Alpine district fights to save extended day kindergarten.” ( In this article, ASD argues for continued funding for all-day kindergarten citing what an amazing job it’s doing to help prepare students for 1st grade. Really? Any stats on that? How about the emotional toll on 5 year olds separated from their parents all day? Can we get any stats on the long term effects of that?

Among the credits ASD has amassed are:
1) creation of the state charter school board for refusing to approve charter schools within the district
2) providing the impetus for the legislature to raise the state math standards due to use of Investigations math (for which they still haven’t found a study to support it)
3) contributing to UVU’s 70% math remediation rate
4) getting the Utah state superintendent to ban Investigations and Connected math (then ASD told teachers it’s still OK to use them)
5) and now they are proponents of perhaps the most damaging program yet: all-day kindergarten and preschool where children as young as 3 years old are taken away from the nurturing care of parents in the name of “giving them a head start.”

In one longitudinal study comparing full-day and half-day kindergarteners, the study concluded that where disadvantaged children made gains over their half-day economically advantaged counterparts, by the start of 1st grade these gains were lost, thus proving that length of time in kindergarten isn’t as big a factor as what happens in the home.

Senator Howard Stephenson mentioned a couple of books to me a few months ago which I’ve been reading. The books are “School Can Wait” and “Better Late Than Early” by Raymond and Dorothy Moore. Raymond has been a classroom teacher, a school district superintendent, worked at a university, as well as a federal level policy maker. His experiences led him and his wife into researching the literature to find out what they could about when children are truly ready for structured school. The introductory paragraph of their book “School Can Wait” reads:

“We are losing ground academically and behaviorally in the education of our children. The expenditure of ever larger sums for our schools appears to provide little or no relief. The more time and money we spend, the greater the problem grows. It is possible we do not fully understand the developmental needs of our children and that we place our personal freedoms ahead of theirs. We are captivated or persuaded or pressured by conventional wisdom and practice in a system that places vested interests ahead of helpless youngsters. It is conceivable that we are paying our money for state “services” that endanger our children, then paying it again for state attempts at their remedy-remedy of the very problems that they, with our cooperation, have created.” (emphasis mine)

The education system is broken. Educrats have to come up with new twists and ideas on how to fix the problems we face and they never step back to consider if they may have created the problems in the first place. It’s unfathomable to them that they are the source of the very problems we see in our schools because that would contradict their own belief system. It’s beyond reason to them that they have been duped by prominent national educators who have an Agenda to dumb down our children and make them functional illiterates.

I recently attended a lecture where the idea of “cognitive dissonance” (CD) was raised. This term defines a situation where a person holds two conflicting ideas in their head and believes both of them. A person is able to reduce the dissonance through justification, rationalization, blame, denial, etc… For example:

A person lives in Utah and is a member of the predominant religion. Over and over we hear from General Authorities of the LDS church the role of parents as the primary nurturers and educators of our children. Yet educators declare that experts trained in pedagogy should teach our children at young ages to ensure they get a proper start. We believe both statements (CD) and then rationalize that as a parent we do what we can but there are just some things we can’t teach our children so we need the state schools to do it for us…so we let them.

Now lets say you’re an LDS Educrat (an Educrat might be defined as one who blindly follows the prevailing prophets of mankind’s educational philosophies). You’ve heard the teachings of your church leaders that parents are the primary nurturers and educators of their children and believe them, but you’ve been trained by “Experts” who tell you that children must be taught earlier and earlier by trained professionals. So you fight for more money for early education because you have rationalized that LDS leaders aren’t specifically speaking to you about your type of educational areas. They must only be telling parents that they should teach their children church teachings so let’s remove the children from their emotionally nurturing support structure and force them into schools younger and longer because no child can be left behind.

Quotes abound on this and other sites that express how John Goodlad and other prominent educators have a goal of separating children from parents as early as possible to prevent them from acquiring too much of their parent’s moral structure. Some education “experts” are even suggesting stepping into the homes after birth to begin the process of “expertly” raising that child. Excuse me? At what point do we wake up and say, “succeed or fail, that child belongs to a family who has been given the responsibility to raise that child without the intervention of do-good educrats and bureaucrats.”

The following letter is from an educator in Orem which explains what is really happening in these early education programs.

I am aware of the current push for all-day pre-school and kindergarten. (Deseret News 10/6/10, “Lawmakers Consider All-Day Kindergarten”) I have been a teacher at the Utah School for the Deaf/Orem and have watched the effects of all-day kindergarten and extended-day preschool. I did considerable research on this topic last year as the Utah School for the Deaf had extended its preschool to 1:00 p.m.  and proposed going  to all day for the 2010-2011 school year.  They also announced they would continue the all-day Kindergarten which has been in place for a number of years.  All this over the protests of teachers, parents, and specialists.

As a parent of 9 children (7 with special needs), a neurodevelopmental specialist, and a certified teacher I personally I fought with them over it, petitioned administration, and presented my data and arguments.  It all, ironically speaking, fell on deaf ears.  So, just as the other teachers and I warned, now little barely-3-year-olds are being bundled up on cold, early  mornings at 7:30 a.m. (earlier in some cases) put on vans for their hour long journey (for some of them) to their schools. Including the return ride. That’s 2 hours a day or more riding strapped in a car seat, in mid-winter, leaving home in the dark and returning home at nearly dusk and all in the name of early intervention!

I observed one little boy in a class younger than mine last year.  I did not know his age but since he was a husky, rather tall little fellow, I assumed he was 4-4 1/2.  He cried nearly every morning and frequently through the extended-day preschool day from the beginning of the year throughout the entire year. At the end of the year I was saddened when I became aware that he had just barely turned 3 when the school year began. I wonder if he still cries this year now that he sees his home even less and at only 4 years old?

If the early morning scene with the littlest children at school is the same as I observed last year, after awakening some of the children in their vans and getting them to stop crying whenever possible, the teachers do what they can intensively for a couple of hours then it’s lunch time and the children, developmentally speaking, are certainly ready to go home who were never ready to be there in the first place!  But, no, now we must keep them at school until 3:30 for reasons that do not make sense developmentally, emotionally, or academically as considerable research verifies. Just plain common sense and mothers’ hearts should tell us this!  In actuality, the children eat lunch and then need naps. It is developmentally appropriate and healthy for 3- 5 year olds to nap an hour or longer in the afternoon.  I observed how difficult it was for some of the little Kindergarteners last year to begin a nap but have to be awakened after a short time because certainly teacher time could not be justified watching napping children!  I can only imagine how tough it must be for the 3 year olds now! I would hold a little 5 year old in my arms as he napped, on occasion, because his awakening at school was often frightening to him. It was difficult to motivate the children to accomplish anything in the afternoons when often they awoke too early from naps calling for their mothers and slightly disoriented or were over-stimulated, unable to nap and “hyper”, running on adrenalin but really needing to be home cuddling with their moms, reading a book or napping in their own beds.  “But, children are resilient”, it is often said. “They adapt.”  And they do.  They suppress their natural, healthy emotional and physical needs. They suffer long-lasting adverse effects to the deep bonds with their parents as they are forced to be with “Not My Mom”, however compassionate and professional she may be, at very early ages and for most of their day-time hours and for all of childhood.  It results in what psychologists call “the de-personalization of children”.  Why do we have sick teenagers and angry, alienated youth?  Another discussion for another day.

I was the unofficial neurodevelopmental specialist for the Utah School for the Deaf/Orem. My work took me deep into neuroscience and research on global neurodevelopmental readiness for academic learning.  What is being done at the School for the Deaf (and any other school advocating this type of separation of tiny children from their parents) is so wrong and counter to everything natural, nurturing, and neurologically integrating— everything we learned during neuroscience’s 2000-2010 “decade of the brain.” It is outrageous to me. Time with parents is, according to data from many sources, the most critical factor for healthy cognitive and academic functioning and later adult life success  (New York Longitudinal Study; Carla Hannaford, Smart Moves: Learning is Not All in Your Head). Raymond Moore concludes in his book, Better Late Than Early, after a review of 8,000 studies on global neurodevelopmental readiness for learning and later academic achievement,  “Twenty minutes with mother=3 hours in a classroom.”

I wrote a draft proposal while at the School for the Deaf last year for a home-supported preschool program. Early intervention for deaf children from birth on is creating a miracle! Implanted with cochlear implants very early, deaf children are becoming typical speakers and excellent listeners by age 4!  Deafness need be no more in our day for most children!  So, I would never argue against early intervention for any child with special needs. There are just better ways than removing them from the richest language learning environment there is, the home. Among the data I gathered for the proposal were figures on costs of supported-home preschools versus public school preschools.  Two similar, high quality programs with comparable results created by the University of Wisconsin gave figures of $325 per child per year in the supported-home preschool program and up to $5,000 per year for the public school building venue “for Milwaukee’s deprived children” (I assume the same population we’d call high-risk as referred to in the Deseret News article).  These figures adjusted for inflation would still show great savings in dollars alone thru a supported-home preschool delivery model.  Isn’t now the time?

As I re-read the Deseret News article, “Lawmakers Consider All-Day Kindergarten”, I just shake my head and mourn at not only the foolishness of it but the downright damaging potential it has for Utah’s children—all of them, both typical kids and those with special needs. We have so enshrined public school education in Utah that people can’t see beyond it or any way to re-invent the old forms.  But these economic times will require something different.  So, if enabling mothers to spend more time with their young children is healthier, more educationally sound, and less costly, why are we not considering it?  The immediate response, of course, would be, “Most mothers of young children work outside the home, statistically speaking.  Supported-home preschools and kindergartens are not possible in this day and age.  Most parents need school for day-care, anyway.”  That is cynical to me. I personally know a growing number of courageous young mothers who understand the critical nature of quantity time with mom for all children up to at least age 8.  They and their husbands and extended families sacrifice much to allow the mother to stay in the home with her little ones gathered around her as long as possible.  It has, however, stopped being a value to many young families or something to strive for.  Some of them can’t even conceptualize it. They erroneously believe they are inadequate to be skilled early childhood teachers and nurturers of their children—that the professionals will do it better. Not now that we have the “decade of the brain” research and “theory of mind” data!  It just simply isn’t true and never was.

The information that Assistant Superintendent Brenda Hales presented, mentioned in the Deseret News article, needs to be seen over the long view.  Data I read tells me that whatever initial advantages may have been gained by children in all-day pre-school programs are gone by the end of 1st grade. (U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, January, 2010) The cost and negative impact on family life and future educational progress of the child is definitely not worth it.  Let’s explore children staying home with their parents longer and give them some professional support.  At very least let’s keep the current half-day Kindergarten arrangement! As the founders of our country intended, those who cannot possibly provide this early educational support for their children and who are the “poorest of the poor” should have the help of their countrymen with public school programs.  But, compulsory, universal all-day preschool through high school for America’s children was something they would have entirely opposed!

I admire former BYU education professor, Dr. C.R. Harms’ suggestion in his letter to the editor, Deseret News 2-21-10, “Start School at Age 9”.   He said in part, “A four-year elementary school starting at age 9 followed by a four-year secondary school, as done in days past, would solve many educational and financial problems,”  Outlandish? No, out-of the-box and entirely appropriate–if we care to listen to the neuroscientists and our hearts.

Kathleen Sorensen, M.Ed.
Orem, Utah

What a concept. Shaving 4.5 grades out of our system would save probably a billion dollars a year in Utah but that won’t stop the educators from vetoing it since some of them would lose their jobs (and for progressives who would lose their influence over young children). Some children may legitimately need early interventions, but as Kathleen points out, that could be done at home, even if in-home help was needed, for a lot cheaper than what we’re paying now.

Moving interventions into the home and supporting parents means children keep the nurturing influence of parents who have the God-given right to be the nurturers. If class size is so important to educators, how about a class size of 1? Lets support parents in their true role instead of assuming the state and the so-called “experts” can step in and do a better job.

Part of the service we should provide parents is the DVD “Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story.” This is a phenomenal true story about a failing young man who through the efforts of his uneducated mother, became an incredible brain surgeon who performed miraculous surgeries. I strongly encourage you to watch this inspirational movie. Here’s a link to a trailer:

In the meantime, I think leaving children at home for another year or two to mature and be more ready for school sounds intriguing. Maybe it’s an idea whose time has come.

I close by repeating part of Thomas Paine’s opening line from his famous “Common Sense,” the pamphlet that won the Revolutionary War.

“…a long habit of not thinking a thing WRONG, gives it a superficial appearance of being RIGHT, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defense of custom.”