(BOSTON GLOBE) LAST SPRING, Susan Sluyter quit teaching kindergarten in the Cambridge Public Schools. She’d spent nearly two decades in the classroom, and her departure wasn’t a happy one. In a resignation letter, Sluyter railed against a “disturbing era of testing and data” that had trickled down from the upper grades and was now assaulting kindergartners with a barrage of new academic demands that “smack of 1st or 2nd grade.” The school district did not respond to a request for comment.
But Sluyter’s complaints touched a national nerve. Her letter went viral, prompting scores of sympathetic comments by other frustrated teachers and parents. Sluyter’s letter was fresh evidence for groups of early-childhood educators who oppose the kindergarten expectations for math and English Language Arts, or ELA, set by the new Common Core, the academic benchmarks for K-12 that most states have adopted to replace the historic patchwork of standards.
The thrust of the opposition is that many of the standards are too high and not developmentally appropriate for kindergartners. Opponents say teaching some academic skills too early can be counterproductive. They cite research suggesting that reading and math advantages in kindergarten are fleeting. Furthermore, they say, the pressure to meet academic standards will lead to lecture and work sheet style teaching, foster rote memorization, and snuff out the inquiry and play-based instruction that can instill a love of learning.
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