The tall, attractive, brunette nurse I was conversing with has two girls, ages 4 and 9. Her youngest is about to enter kindergarten and she is worried because her district’s kindergarten runs only 2 hours and 45 minutes, a short half-day. She asked me if I thought half-day kindergarten would put her youngest child at a disadvantage. All these other districts seemed to have full-day kindergartens now. Would her daughter’s lack of academic exposure at the age of 5 interfere with her future scholastic excellence?
Sigh. Mom is a Polish immigrant living in an excellent elementary district. Students who stay in that district feed into some of the best high schools in the nation. Her 4-year-old girl has an academically-motivated family and will be attending a school with money to burn and strong community support. The state report card for the school looks like this:
I reassured mom, pointing out that children in Finland start school at 7 years of age and seem to be cleaning many other countries’ scholastic clocks.
We need to relax. You can teach a two-year-old child the alphabet in a month or two. You can teach that same child the alphabet two years later in a week. If parents are having fun singing letters at their toddlers, I see no reason to stop the songs. But we are pushing academics at younger and younger ages, and I find that worrisome. Learning should be fun for little kids.
That half-day kindergarten does not seem to have been doing Greenbriar’s students any harm.
P.S. Readers may note the fall in scores from 2012 to 2013. Across Illinois schools fell during those years, as Illinois changed scoring so that school scores would not take a dramatic plunge over the cliff when students took the new PARCC exams. Greenbriar’s fall is actually quite gentle compared to many others across the state.