Common Core and the Death of Kindergarten

criticism of common core

Something ugly is happening in America’s kindergarten classrooms.  Playtime and finger painting are a thing of the past.  Kindergarten, due to the stranglehold of Common Core standards, is now the new first grade.  The stress and demands placed upon our nation’s 5 and 6 year olds, in my educational opinion, is ludicrous.

criticism of common core

As a former first and second grade teacher, I am utterly shocked at what is expected of a 5 year old underneath Common Core. Here’s a sample of a few Common Core standards our country’s kindergarteners are expected to master by school year’s end:

Distinguish shades of meaning among verbs describing the same general action (e.g.,walk, march, strut, prance) by acting out the meanings

Use the most frequently occurring inflections and affixes (e.g., -ed, -s, re-, un-, pre-, -ful, -less) as a clue to the meaning of an unknown word.

As a former second grade teacher, these are skills covered then, not a age 5!  Even when I taught ELA in middle school, I had students who could struggled with “shades of meaning”.

For fun, have a closer look at all the standards here.  Really read them.

I visited many schools before deciding to homeschool this fall.  I visited and was wowed by the pricey Montessori.   I was disappointed by our Catholic school system.  I toured our local public school. The public school was the most disturbing.  The kindergarten day consisted of a literacy block and a math block.  There’s wasn’t a dramatic play center.  An art center.  Play has been replaced by the golden tested subjects of reading and math.

Immediately my heart sank.  Children learn through play, plain and simple.  Even in my son’s preschool program here in Chicago, he kept a journal! Completed a handwriting program! Had homework backpacks! It’s preschool, not college prep.

Gone are the days of fun thematic units like pumpkins and apples.  Kids in kindergarten here in Chicago are now subjected to the same computer-based standardized tests as the older kids.  Test prep!  Writing dissertations! Understanding nuances of language and connotations.  What’s next AP kindergarten?

All my 5 year old cares about is his dinosaur collection and what’s for lunch.

Next thing you know, we’ll be pasting sight words above our children’s cribs.  Maybe hire a tutor at the hospital! Start em’ early!  Wait, there’s already an informercial for that, right?

My youngest son is academically above average.  At 4 years of age, he was already reading.  How did I do it?  I didn’t. He did it.  He was ready, and he magically started reading.  I was the same way as a kid.  I just started reading. Period.  Through old-fashioned snuggle time with books, not test prep and  flashcards.  Not through mandated standards and drills.

But, I couldn’t subject my son to a 7 hour day without play.  That’s like investment banker hours for kids: too much and too soon.  Plus, nap time in kindergarten has gone the way of play here in Chicago.  It’s not in the time table to rest! We must test!

Childhood is a precious time, but with standards like these, it’s a pressure cooker for all involved.  I feel for the teachers.  It’s a trickle-down system.  The standards are imposed from on-high, and they are at the front lines scrambling to retrofit curriculum to the newest wave of standards implementation.

Plus, think of all the money to be made! Textbooks companies must be rejoicing! A new edition!

As a former Chicago teacher, I’ve had to do all those hideous things you hear in the media like teaching to the test.   I’ve seen changes in curriculum and standards come and go in the past 15 years-but never in the best interest of the kids.  Common Core is a hot mess, a horror show.  Sure, teachers will do what they can.  But in the end, it’s the system that’s the problem.  No Child Left Behind morphs into the werewolf that is Common Core, and parents, need to deeply examine the standards and their school’s curriculum.  Parents, please take the time this year to ask WHY, HOW, and WHAT.

I’ve looked into the mouth of the beast here in Chicago, and I didn’t like what I saw.

Many parents think “Common Core” is the curriculum.  It’s NOT.  Standards are the WHY we learn what we learn.  The curriculum is the WHAT and HOW.  If there is an issue with the WHY, the WHAT and HOW will never work. The WHY in this case kills childhood.  It kills play.  It invites more testing, worry, and stress. Period.

If children learn best through play, then Common Core has fired the true work of childhood: imagination.John Taylor Gatto quotes




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  1. I think you have hit the nail on the head, our children’s education has become a business like everything else. It is not for the kids at all. As a parent of two young boys, both in a public school system, I feel very stuck. So much importance put on test scores, homework, etc. Our first parent/teacher meeting in kindergarten was spent showing us where I son landed on a bell cure. At the end, we asked how is he really doing? and we were out of time. She suggested we make a separate appointment to discuss that.

    I have to work so home school is not an option for us. I don’t see parents pushing back on common core- at least in my area. What I see is parents just getting through the day, scrambling to make ends meet (from a time perspective and a financial perspective) and having no choice but to put their trust in the school system. I see teachers saying they back the common core but clearly are frustrated by it but can’t say what they really feel. I’m not an educator but this doesn’t feel right. Any suggestions on what to do about the common core are welcome.

    1. Kelsey-

      All your comments on this post were moved to spam! Sorry for the late reply…

      I think the best things you can do as a parent are to know the standards for your child’s grade, and really understand them. If it’s loaded with “teacherese” don’t be afraid to ask. Ask the what, when, how, and why about your children’s curriculum…

      If you ever have questions, LMK.

  2. So true about Common Core stealing kindergarten from America! I sat in my son’s IEP meeting as he was ready to transition to kindergarten. When I asked about recess, the kindergarten teacher said that Common Core standards are so rigorous, that they simply do not have time for recess every day. They get recess 2-3 times per week, and the other days a break to get a drink from the water fountain was considered their recess. You know if they don’t do recess, they aren’t doing any of the other important things like art, music, dramatic play or play of any kind. This was the moment that I knew for sure we would be homeschooling. It would be pure torture for my son to sit in a classroom for hours without a movement break. What a joke to subject 5-year-olds to this!

  3. I completely agree . I feel so sad for my little grandchildren who are in Kindergarten . They don’t come with stories of fun or activities . They are subjected day in and day to being drilled to learn so they can pass this weeks tests ,so the school can make their goals. Our educational system is more than pathetic. In the long run this will hurt not help.

    1. Agreed, Michelle. I started my teaching career nearing 15 years ago, and it’s been a trickle-down of ACADEMIC push down even into the preschool!

      It really is a death of childhood. It’s sad.


  4. Thank you for this post. I have heard nothing but bad about this common core. My daughter is in Kindergarten this year, and she is above most of the kids in her class when it comes to learning, but that is because she loves to learn and it comes natural to her. But it is also a bad thing because she gets bored. When her teacher and I spoke about it her words were “dont worry when common core takes place in Jan it will become harder and challenge her”. I am all for her being challenged but when it comes to her at an older age where maybe she will need help, I will have NO idea how to help her. I have really been debating on pulling her out next year and home schooling her. My only debate is that she is very social and does great in group settings so I hate to take that away from her but I am also horrified in the public school system and now this common core poo. Thank you for shedding some more light on this. I am sharing this with all my friends and my social media outlets! I would also love to invite you over to my blog and link up!! Have a wonderful week!!

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