Full Day Kindergarten Mandates & Curricular Changes: Will We Create Thinkers or Test Takers?

There is a bill in the New Jersey Legislature that would mandate full day kindergarten throughout the State of New Jersey.   One reason purported for the necessity of full day kindergarten is that the current core curriculum standards are too rigorous to be accomplished in a half day program.  Standardized testing has permeated our educational system and, too often, has become the curricular focus.  Classroom time is spent preparing for the NJ ASK, GEPA, HSPA and other acronyms.   We are surely creating students who can pass a test but are we creating thinkers?

In this very product based society, we have forgotten how children learn.  The foundation for future critical thinking skills, self-esteem and confident decision making occurs in developmentally appropriate early childhood classrooms.  Early childhood, which encompasses birth to age 8, is a time of great intellectual growth.  Children go from the dependency of infancy to being curious explorers and finally deeper, more abstract thinkers.  Developmentally appropriate classrooms encourage hands-on, interactive self-discovery.  It is from that foundation that children develop a love of learning.  If our kindergarten classrooms, full or half day, are being driven by concern for future test scores, the time is not being spent wisely.

We have a choice when we work with children of any age.  We can grasp their curiosity or we can squash it.  We can take hold of their enthusiasm or we can beat it out of them.  Rote memorization is not deeper learning.  Following adult instructions all day long and successfully completing worksheets does not encourage children to analyze and stretch their thinking.  We seem to have many people watching the test scores and designing curriculum around them.  We need to ensure that there are also watchdogs guarding our children’s development of intellect.  In our quest to achieve, we cannot abolish childhood by taking young children and making them produce on paper more than explore. Kindergarten classrooms need toys, dramatic play areas, hands-on science and creative art.  As we move toward the possibility of mandatory full day programs, we need to demand that our children are offered opportunities to learn the way they learn best – through play, by being in nature, by negotiating social situations and by doing all of it at their own pace.

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Copyright 2013 © Cindy Terebush
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  1. Thanks for the article. I am a firm believer that our educational practices are currently moving towards a generation of test takers not students who actually grasp the concepts long term. They understand enough for them to pass a test. I do not think that this will be good for our kids for the long term. Our students will lack creativity and the ability to apply knowledge and skills to situations.

    Tonya Simmons

    1. I think our concerns need far more PR than they get.

  2. In my district (Ontario Canada) we introduced full day kindergarten We have a play-based program that focuses on inquiry and projects. The goal is to produce kids who can think, question, wonder, and communicate. So I think the success of NJ's full day experiment will hinge on the approach. If we had just taken the half day program and stretched it out over a full day, it wouldn't have worked.

  3. Hmm, good job! This is really something!


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