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Last week, the Washington Post featured a story that should cause every educator and parent some concern. Deputy superintendent of public instruction, Rob Saxton, and the early learning system director within the state Department of Education, Jada Rupley, co-wrote an op-ed in The Oregonian highlighting a concern that I have that educators are being asked to push our students faster and sooner than they are developmentally ready.
Do not get me wrong, I absolutely believe we can (and should) challenge students in ways that stretch them academically. However, I do not believe that words like “high quality” or “rigor” should force educators to “push down our academic expectations to younger and younger children.” Thank you Alfie Kohn! Fostering a safe environment where children can grow academically and emotionally is more important over the long run. This happens when we allow students to hit those developmental milestones as they learn. Remember, learning is a process and this process should never be rushed.
Like Saxton and Rupley, I, too, believe “kindergarten readiness tests are nothing new.” However, what troubles me is the idea that we are using this data to create early childhood programs that do not take into account the needs of early learners. My hope is that we can find a happy medium where students can be individually assessed and appropriately challenge. I also hope we can continue to think about the social-emotional health of our students particularly during the elementary school years. Ultimately, I trust we can create programs that meet the academic needs of early learners without creating a “kindergarten program that is essentially a first grade program when it comes to academics.” tlb