"The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves." -- John Adams

"No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution." -- Indiana Constitution Article 1, Section 6.

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilisation, it expects what never was and never will be...nor can they be safe with them without information. Where the press is free and every man able to read, all is safe." – Thomas Jefferson

Monday, June 4, 2007

The Redshirts are Coming

Fans of college athletics know what a Red Shirt is:
Red Shirt = a term used in American college athletics. Typically, a student-athlete has four years of eligibility in a given sport, to coincide with the standard four-year calendar for obtaining a degree. For various reasons, some student-athletes may opt to attend only classes and practices with the team; this process is known as redshirting. The student-athlete does not use one of his or her four years of eligibility in that season. Using this mechanism, a student-athlete has up to five academic years to use the four years of eligibility, thus creating the phenomenon of "Fifth Year Seniors". -- Wikipedia

Star Trek Fans know what a Red Shirt is, too:
Red Shirt = A redshirt is a stock character, used frequently in Sci-Fi, whose sole purpose is to die, often violently, soon after being introduced. Redshirts are a plot device used to indicate the dangerous circumstances faced by the main characters at the start of a narrative without having to kill any of the vital main characters. The term comes from the popular American Sci-Fi TV series Star Trek, in which security officers wore red shirts, and were often killed on missions under the aforementioned circumstances. -- Wikipedia

But there is a new Red Shirt on the scene...new...and not new:
Red Shirt = in elementary education, where it refers to the practice of delaying a child's entrance into kindergarten by a year to give the child opportunity for further mental, physical, or socioemotional growth. -- Wikipedia

Parents have been holding their kids out of kindergarten for a variety of reasons...and for a long time. But things have changed.

The kindergarten curriculum under the "standards movement" and No Child Left Behind has become what the first grade curriculum was 20...no 10 years ago. The concept of a developmentally appropriate curriculum has been lost, so teachers have been forced to teach kindergartners, many of whom are not academically ready, how to do things that first graders used to learn.

Recent studies have shown that when kids are held out of kindergarten if their birthday are in April or later - now officially called "Red shirting" - the students do better. They are more confident, achieve higher, have a higher chance of going to college, and are just better off all around. If you are teaching what is actually first grade, no matter what you call it, it just makes sense to teach kids who are of first grade age.

So what have we achieved by all this? Preschools have become the new kindergarten - the place where the skills of cooperation and learning through play are taught and experienced. Kindergartens are now the first grades...first grades are now second..and so on. To give their children the most advantage, parents who are aware of this are keeping their kids in preschool for an additional year. They think it is because it will help them when they get to school...and they are right, but not for the reason they think. It will help their children because the curriculum they will get in school is not appropriate to them until they are a year older.

If this was universal, then there would be no problem. Kids would be in preschool and get the traditional developmental curriculum that they used to get in kindergarten and, since they start the new kindergarten - which is the old first grade - at a later age all is well...and everyone will be happy. The truth is however, that this is another example of the class divisions in this country. Wealthy kids, kids of the educated, will be red-shirted, while kids of the poor will be sent to kindergarten at the age of 5...and in some states 4. No only do poorer children not have the benefit of a "print rich environment" at home, they do not have the same opportunities to go to preschools - especially since the Head Start program has lost much of its funding under the Bush administration. They will come into the new kindergarten younger than their kindergarten peers around the country and with academically poorer backgrounds than their kindergarten peers around the country.

The current administration says that No Child Left Behind is working, but that is not really true (see Reading First and the Evidence: A Response to Sol Stern by Steven Krashen). The current administration whose Secretary of Education is not even an educator and whose only qualification on her government bio is that she is "a mom" and has a "personal interest" in seeing that we have quality schools...This administration is killing the public schools of America. Not only is Bush giving the rich tax advantages, but his Department of Education is now giving the rich educational advantaged too - using the public schools, the taxpayers money, and the corrupt practices of Reading First and the infamous Bush style of paying off friends with contracts. Those who have the wherewithal to send their kids to private preschools and who learn about the practice of "redshirting" will gain the advantage for their children, while the children of the poor will be more "disadvantaged" than ever when they start kindergarten.
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1 comment:

sbloom24 said...

Some parents also send their kids WAY late, or don't send their kids to Kindergarten at all. I remember one year at School 99 there was a kid who showed up in February of his 1st grade year... and he had NEVER been in a classroom setting before. What a mess!