Increased academic focus? Check. More testing? Check. Heightened expectations? Check. It’s official: kindergarten is the new first grade – and maybe more.
A greater focus on academic skills can lead to something else getting pushed out or sidelined. In between 1998 and 2010, music and art declined significantly. The percentage of teachers who reported offering music every day in kindergarten dropped by half, from 34 percent to 16 percent. and daily instruction in art plunged from 27 to 11 percent. Furthermore, 87 percent of teachers in 1998 said they had an area in the classroom specifically designated for play. Only 58 percent said the same in 2010. Similar declines were reported for art and science spaces.
The survey also reveals striking contrasts between 1998 and 2010 regarding the issue of assessments and accountability. In 2010, teachers were much more likely to indicate that evaluating students in relation to local or state standards was very important. In 1998, only 47 percent of teachers said evaluating a child’s achievement relative to the rest of the class was important. That number rose to 67 percent twelve years later. In 1998, kindergarten teachers weren’t even asked about the use of standardized tests to assess students. In 2010, 44 percent reported using them 1 or 2 times a year, 23 percent said one or twice a month.