I’ve never taught elementary school but this NPR report about changes in the learning expectations for young children is damn depressing.
Researchers analyzed the federal Department of Education’s 2010 Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, which surveyed roughly 2500 kindergarten and first grade teachers, and then compared their responses to a similar group from 1998.
Why 1998? “Because the federal No Child Left Behind law hadn’t yet changed the school landscape with its annual tests and emphasis on the achievement gap.”
Some of the changes they found in just twelve years: more standardized tests, less music and art, fewer engaging activities, and don’t bother asking the kids about their interests.
More testing. In 2010, 73 percent of kindergartners took some kind of standardized test. One-third took tests at least once a month. In 1998, they didn’t even ask kindergarten teachers that question. But even the first-grade teachers in 1998 reported giving far fewer tests than the kindergarten teachers did in 2010.
Less music and art. The percentage of teachers who reported offering music every day in kindergarten dropped by half, from 34 percent to 16 percent. Daily art dropped from 27 to 11 percent.
Bye, bye, brontosaurus. “We saw notable drops in teachers saying they covered science topics like dinosaurs and outer space, which kids this age find really engaging,” says Bassok, the study’s lead author.
Less choice. And teachers who offered at least an hour a day of student-driven activities dropped from 54 to 40 percent. At the same time, whole-class, teacher-led instruction rose along with the use of textbooks and worksheets.
As I said, damn depressing.