One Sharp Contrast In Notions About “Ready Children”

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In conceptualizing “ready children,” one of the points of tension that has emerged is what appears to be expectations that kindergarten teachers have versus those held by the pre-kindergarten and child care community.  The main characteristic of this tension is the difference in views about the importance of intellectual/cognitive development versus social/emotional development.  In its most extreme (and exaggerated for the sake of argument) form, kindergarten teachers would argue that children are ready for success when they acquire academic skills like recognizing and reciting letters and numbers. While at the other extreme, pre-k/child care teachers would argue that being ready for success is demonstrated by a child’s social skills, self-confidence and ability to control his emotions.  The reality of these hypothetical extremes might better be described as a difference in how teachers prioritize which domains of development are most important.  That is, there appears to be a perception that the child care community isn’t doing enough to prepare children with the cognitive skills that kindergarten success requires.  And on the other side, the pre-k/child care community believes that the kindergarten world focuses too narrowly on letter and number recognition and fails to give children credit for the role that holistic development, including social/emotional skills play in making them well-prepared learners.

Because this discussion has a familiar ring throughout the early childhood profession across the country, as we write the TN definition of school readiness, we wonder if there is a way for the definition to create some common expectations that would reduce these disparities where they exist.

  • Do you think that a definition of school readiness could help address this problem?
  • And if so, what would the definition have to include in order to do so?

3 Responses

  1. Krista Bright says:

    I believe that a preschool environment with an academic, learn-and-drill emphasis should be frowned upon because it emphasizes skills that will be easily learned later at the expense of the creativity, repetitive play, and security that studies show the brain needs most during the preschool years in order to function optimally later in life. I think social-emotional development needs to be a K readiness milestone just as much as academic letter and sound awareness.

  2. Krista Bright MS CCC/SLP says:

    A preschool environment with an academic, learn-and-drill emphasis should be frowned upon because it emphasizes skills that will be easily learned later at the expense of the creativity, repetitive play, and security that studies show the brain needs most during the preschool years in order to function optimally later in life. Social-emotional development is important in the preschool education, as well as a very important indicator for K readiness.

    Preschool Assessment Specialist
    Krista Bright MS CCC/SLP

  3. Lori Sharp says:

    Yes, a definition and communication recognition of that definition would help all involved. Kindergarten teachers are held accountable for skills in a progression that leads the students to first grade and beyond. Students in reality need both social and academic skills in order to be successful in kindergarten. One does not proclude the other.

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