The Treasure Hunter

A blog by Joanne Yatvin

My Views on Kindergarten Preparation and “The Hechinger Report”

on August 8, 2017

When I read the article written by teacher Sonja Murray a few days ago, I couldn’t help wondering why “The Hechinger Report” (HR) thought it should be published. Ms. Murray was so far out of line with the research on young children’s capabilities, the expectations of the Common Core State standards, and the views of the well-educated teachers I know, that I wondered if the HR had some personal relationship with her. Surely, the HR with its own good reputation and broad experience had not sought her out as an expert.

After reading the article twice, along with a few others published by the HR, I felt that two things were at work in their decision to publish Murray’s opinions: the desire of the HR staff to appear open-minded and the fact that  some of them share her philosophy. It should also be noted that the HR is focusing on education in Mississippi at the present time, posting several articles that praise the state’s actions.

Even so, I find it unacceptable for a respected news medium to publish such a narrow view without making it clear that it is a single person’s opinion. the only thing the HR did to justify its action was to offer a weak defense of itself below Ms. Murray’s article: “The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, independent news organization focused on inequality and innovation in education, produced this story. “

As for my reasons in posting Murray’s student requirements on my blog, I found her expectations for parents and their children so unreasonable that I couldn’t ignore them.  Moreover, I believe that the situation in her school argues strongly against her recommendations.  It is a Title 1 school in southeast Mississippi where 78 percent of students are on free or reduced-price lunches. When so many children entering kindergarten live in high-poverty families,  it is unreasonable to expect their parents to have the materials, time, and skills to teach their children all the things things Murray expects.

Finally, my lengthy experience as a teacher and school principal, my university degrees, and the honors I’ve received, lead me to be contemptuous of Ms. Murray’s beliefs and practices. When children came to kindergarten at our rural Oregon elementary school, many of them did not know their own last names, could not write their first names in “upper and lower case letters”, and did not understand what was proper behavior in a classroom. When it was time to line up for lunch in the school cafeteria, I had to help the teacher get children into alphabetical order and stay that way so the cafeteria manager knew who she was serving.

Fortunately, our kindergarteners ultimately learned the things they needed to succeed at school. One important change we made was to separate the kindergarten class into two groups and place each one with a first grade class for the morning time. The young children quickly, and without complaint or orders from their teacher, picked up the behavior of their older classmates and a good portion of their knowledge. Since the kindergarteners went home at noon, the two first grade classes in the afternoon were small, and their teachers were able to move students ahead rapidly in reading, writing, and math.

Although I recognize that there are many cultural differences between Oregon and Mississippi that may affect education, I still see the skills and behaviors Ms. Murray expects of very young children to be unreasonable, and the actions of the HR in promoting her ideas to be unethical.



One response to “My Views on Kindergarten Preparation and “The Hechinger Report”

  1. pauleck47 says:

    Spot on messaging, Joanne! Thank you for your efforts.
    Keep on Pushing!!


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