I am concerned about grade level expectations which are enforced without any true understanding of when children are actually ready to acquire the skills being covered…
When I asked parents of boys to tell me about their learning concerns, Andrea answered. So let’s talk about grade level expectations.
According to the Louisiana Department of Education, “A grade-level expectation (GLE) is a statement that defines what all students should know and be able to do at the end of a given grade level.”
What concerns Andrea (and many others) is the “all” in that sentence. ALL children in Louisiana Public Schools, for instance, are expected to “decode simple one-syllable words” and “read books with predictable, repetitive text and simple illustrations” by the end of kindergarten. But what if child is not biologically ready to read by the end of kindergarten?
Well-established research has shown that different areas of the brain mature at different times in males and females. The part of the brain that handles language typically matures earlier in girls than in boys — so much so, in fact, that the language area of the brain of a five-year-old boy is comparable to that of a three-and-a-half year old girl. Is it fair, then, to place five-year-old boys in classrooms with five-year-old girls and expect both sexes to read by the end of the year?
At age five, boys are also typically more impulsive and active than five-year-old girls — characteristics that don’t exactly bode well for a study of the written word.
And yet, some boys read by the end of kindergarten. Some girls don’t. At what cost? Do we truly know the benefits or harms of pushing a child to achieve skills before he is naturally ready? We do know this: any early advantages gained in kindergarten tend to even out around 4th grade. In other words, it makes no difference whether a child learns to read “early” or “late.”
Thirty years ago, American kindergartens were focused on play, not literacy. We learned to read in 1st grade, not kindergarten. Even that, in hindsight, seems rather arbitrary. Who decided, years ago, that children should know how to read by age 6? Why? (For the record, I’m going to do some digging. Hopefully, I’ll report back soon with answers.)
What do you think of grade level expectations? Do you feel they help or hamper students? If you homeschool, do you worry more about grade level expectations or the readiness of the individual child?