In the United States, our education system stinks. But parents in “good school districts” tell themselves they are different.  The problem with this logic is that it’s precisely those economically advantaged kids who don’t need school.

Let’s take a look at Deerfield, IL, which has been having a public discussion about preschool. About 90% of all Illinois public schools have full-day kindergarten. Deerfield has been an outlier. They had a lottery system, but Superintendent Guy Schumacher said, “We always knew we were turning kids away and it bothered me.”

However Greg Trotter at the Chicago Tribune reports that, “students have continued to perform at a high level without full-day kindergarten.” Because of state law, the cost to residents to provide the program would be high, and the only difference the superintendent sees between kids who went to full-day kindergarten and kids who didn’t is how “they really understand the structure of a class day and were really showing up ready for a full day.”

The politicians of Deerfield, IL are going to raise money for full-day kindergarten because if kids go to full-day kindergarten, then kids know what a full day of school is like.

It sounds to me like the school system keeps expanding to give administrators more power.

Everyone in the whole entire universe does not think kindergarteners need to know what a regular, seven-hour day of school is. Because kids do not need to spend time on math and reading as four-year-olds. And, as Karen Whistler, a kindergarten teacher in Deerfield says, “Kindergarten is the new first grade… we spend so much time on reading and math, but we don’t get to focus as much on their social skills.”

This is just one very specific example of how lousy the reasoning is to go to full-day kindergarten. But I see such examples every day. Tomorrow I could write about how the Chicago Tribune reports that in Illinois, “some rural districts have lower property tax bases and depend mostly on state money. In such districts, adding full-day kindergarten is a meaningful way of getting more state funding per pupil.”

Insane. Right? Kids are the pawns of politicians. The motivation for full-day kindergarten is flawed because it’s so hard to justify unnecessary schooling.

We don’t all live in Deerfield, but we all live in school districts where specious reasoning justifies the treatment the kids receive. So the next time you think your school district is different, remember Deerfield (which received a gold rating from US News & World Report) is no different than your school district. It’s full of tricky, self-serving methods for getting kids to suffer more things to get more money for the district.

24 replies
  1. Trilby
    Trilby says:

    My daughter’s kindergarten consisted of half days where they sang songs, listened to stories, practiced their ABCs and numbers and basically spent the day playing. They had different stations set up for the kids to do art, build things, read, play dress up, etc. Did my daughter need to Kindergarten? No. But she loved it.

    Penelope – this is somewhat off-topic, but I read about a new school concept the other day and was curious what your thoughts are on it? http://www.cbc.ca/m/news/canada/saskatchewan/seniors-school-kids-to-co-exist-in-proposed-regina-facility-1.2981742

    • Elizabeth
      Elizabeth says:

      My daughter went to a private all-day Kindergarten and she did some of what you described but they were also learning to read and write, learning basic math, memorizing math flash cards as well as doing simple algebra, spanish, computers, and music. It was a very traditional environment, not progressive whole-child at all and included an hour of homework every night that came home in the folder. Encountering that environment early on let me see that traditional methods would never work for my oldest. If she had been in a class like your daughter I think that would have been much better, but then once first grade came around I would have had to pull her out to homeschool her. She rejects school and I am a stay at home parent so it wasn’t a sacrifice for me, other than losing my imagined alone time that comes with the break of putting kids in school all day.

      • Trilby
        Trilby says:

        We didn’t have homework for Kindergarten. I think an hour of homework at that age would have changed my mind about traditional school.

        Even now, in Grade 1, the teacher only recommends a few minutes of homework a night, either to practice reading or to practice the five weekly spelling words. I don’t worry if we don’t do our daily homework.

        I read some of the stories on this blog and they sound insane. I sometimes find it hard to believe these schools exist because my experiences have been quite different. But it’s good to know there are other options if things change and this no longer works for our family.

        • Elizabeth
          Elizabeth says:

          They do exist! I was paying very high tuition for “academic rigor”. Verbal-sequential learning environments as well as rote memorization don’t work for my visual-spatial learner. The only way to customize learning for her is to unschool her.

          Is your daughter in public school with only five minutes a day of homework? Did you read the article floating around where parents in New York were upset that the school decided to stop giving homework? I’m so confused by that reaction… almost every study done on homework shows it is ineffective until high school.

          • Trilby
            Trilby says:

            It’s a public school and she’s in the French immersion program (we’re Canadian).

            I didn’t see that article, but I can’t ever imagine wanting my kids to have extra homework.

          • Elizabeth
            Elizabeth says:

            I like that you don’t have standardized tests in your Province.

            I wish we could do away with standardized tests altogether. If our public educators cared about kids more than their jobs and salaries then they could end this testing madness. They do walkouts from school and children lose learning days because the teachers demand higher salaries and more benefits. Why can’t they do a walk out to protest standardized testing? hmmm, I think I know.

        • Elizabeth
          Elizabeth says:

          Ah I see! I don’t know much about CAN public schools, are they closely mirrored to US? We have lots of standardized testing, didactic verbal-sequential teaching methods, rote memorization and regurgitation of facts, and very little whole-child, individualized learning. Plus most families have their children in three or more outside school activities on top of the 7-8 hours a day of traditional classroom learning. There is very little downtime or family bonding time at the end of the day when kids are working on daily homework assignments.

          • Trilby
            Trilby says:

            There was a big debate in our province about whether we should adopt standardized testing. That idea was scrapped after the govt got a lot of negative feedback.

            Our system isn’t perfect and experiences can vary greatly by school and by teacher. My daughter’s report cards use a three-tiered assessment – green if they’re able to complete a task or skill, yellow if they are still working on it and red if they’re struggling. At her age, I think this is more than enough.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      You’re right. It’s a terrible title. Sometimes I get so wound up in the details of my argument that I forget the big picture — that this is not about preschool at all.

      Okay. I am just going to change the title. It’s the Internet. I can do that.

      Penelope

  2. Karen
    Karen says:

    This article reminded me of one I read in a Canadian Magazine about how full day kindergarden was failing children: http://www.macleans.ca/general/why-full-day-kindergarten-is-failing-our-children/
    Essentially, after 10 years of full day kindergarten in Ontario, the children had lower results in communication skills, general knowledge and emotional maturity. It has been such a “success” that they now have full day junior kindergarten as well, so children as young as three and three quarters can enjoy the same benefits.
    What makes me sad is that there is so much fear out there about caring for our children. The message that we need “experts” to teach our children (even at four!!) is so pervasive and believed almost universally. As is the “right” to have your children looked after for seven or eight hours a day. In Ontario the failing all day kindergarten experiment is a very popular, as it does keep daycare costs down.
    I am so excited to see the slow normalization of homeschool as more and more of us take the plunge and show that mentoring our kids and being involved in their lives full time is not only possible, but, for us, a joy (most days. Maybe not today!). My littlest in is kindergarden this year, and with 15 minutes of one on one instruction time he has met all our provincial outcomes.
    Although, if homeschooling gets too popular our weekday field trips might get more crowded…maybe we’d best be quiet about it!

    • Vness
      Vness says:

      I totally agree with you. People give me such a hard time about homeschooling – one nursery teacher even ranted at me – nearly crying. I was accused of having an Oedipus complex. My child was only 3 at the time. What’s wrong with people!

      • Elizabeth
        Elizabeth says:

        If you have an Oedipus complex for homeschooling your kid, what complex do people have who send their kids off to be with strangers all day?

          • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
            YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

            LOL, I love turning questions around on people. Like when people ask “what should you consider when deciding to homeschool?” I turn it around and say “What should you consider about sending your kids off to be with strangers all day to learn a one size fits all education?”

    • Kevin
      Kevin says:

      The comments below the article were overwhelmingly in support of the school’s decision which was good to read considering the responses of the parents at the school. I think the reaction of the parents is the fear that without homework some kid somewhere will be getting ahead of their kid. It also seems to reveal the fact that some parents see the school as the one that provides the education all of the time. Without the homework, the kids will not be learning. That’s crazy. Like several people have already said, playing IS learning.

  3. UnschoolingMama
    UnschoolingMama says:

    All-day kindergarten went district wide in my city this year. The parents I know talk about it like it’s the best thing and assume I’m celebrating along with them. The thing is, these are the same parents who have their kids in daycare for 9-10 hours per day as toddlers. What’s a 7 hour kindergarten day for a five year old? If it was a half day program, they’d just be spending more time in daycare before or after.

    Plus, most daycares are structured like mini-kindergarten programs because early childhood educators are told from all sides that getting kids ready for kindergarten is the top priority. It’s why we justify making a three year old sit quietly, raise his hand, and wait his turn: “because he will need to know how to do it in kindergarten.” The preschool accreditation program my school was a part of when I taught pushed us to not only drill the kids on the letters of the alphabet, but also each letter sound, all before five years old.

    If your kids are already enrolled in full time daycare, you’ve probably bought into the idea that kids need these kind of teaching, and all day K does it for free.

  4. mh
    mh says:

    The playground in that photo is suffering from a lack of kids. How fun would it be to play in that much snow? Why aren’t there any snowmen or forts or anything? Don’t tell me those poor school kids don’t get to go out recess.

    Pitiful.

    • Rayne of Terror
      Rayne of Terror says:

      Nope, the children do not get to go out for recess in any kind of weather but the right weather. And now that the weather is beautiful and the playground is muddy they are corralled on the blacktop with nothing to do and not allowed to run lest someone get hurt. Because you see, the floors might get dirty in the building.

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