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May 02, 2014 11:00 AM College and Career Ready, in Kindergarten?

By Daniel Luzer

Recently the the interim principal of Harley Avenue Primary School in Elwood, N.Y. decided to cancel its annual end-of-year kindergarten show so that the youngsters could concentrate on “college and career readiness.”

As the school said:

Dear Kindergarten Parents and Guardians,
We hope this letter serves to help you better understand how the demands of the 21st century are changing schools, and, more specifically, to clarify, misperceptions about the Kindergarten show. It is most important to keep in mind is [sic] that this issue is not unique to Elwood. Although the movement toward more rigorous learning standards has been in the national news for more than a decade, the changing face of education is beginning to feel unsettling for some people. What and how we teach is changing to meet the demands of a changing world.
The reason for eliminating the Kindergarten show is simple. We are responsible for preparing children for college and career with valuable lifelong skills and know that we can best do that by having them become strong readers, writers, coworkers and problem solvers. Please do not fault us for making professional decisions that we know will never be able to please everyone. But know that we are making these decisions with the interests of all children in mind.

Well, how terribly reassuring.

Unaddressed? Why being “responsible for preparing children for college and career with valuable lifelong skills and… having them become strong readers, writers, coworkers and problem solvers” [which was basically always what kindergarten was about] makes the kindergarten show impossible.

College and career readiness is the new buzz phrase in education policy. Coined by Achieve, Inc., it’s designed to spur schools to be focused on the outcomes of education.

College and career is part of an understandable effort to hold everyone to high standards. The philosophy is that the skills necessary for success in college are also important for success in good working-class jobs.

That’s all well and good but, no, this will not help kindergarteners.

This is the problem with so much in education policy implementation. Sure “college and career ready” is a great idea, though mostly for high schools, but canceling a kindergarten performance to make that happen, for 5-year-olds, what horrid message does that send to children?

Note that there are, at least according to the letter, no specific plans to improve students’ capacity for “college and career performance,” (like, you know, focusing on keeping debt to a minimum or the dangers of binge drinking) absurd as that would be since colleges or careers are still 13 years away; the school is really probably just doing it to focus on the Empire State’s standardized tests, which also won’t improve college or career readiness.

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer

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