Monday, May 10, 2010

Not Ready For Prime Time

Mace Marvelous turns 5 this summer. Wifey and I spent the past couple of months checking out potential kindergartens. We live in California and the woeful budget is slowly chipping away at what's left of the public schools. Even in lovely, coveted Cupertino where I work, the town literally held a city-wide bakesale to stave off furloughs and layoffs. The prediction was that even in Cupertino where test scores are traditionally off the charts (Chinese and Desis represent), kinder class sizes could rise to a 30-1 ratio.

We've decided to go private and it's been quite an education. We saw immaculate classrooms and desks all in a row with amazing artwork. We saw sterile education facilities churning out uniformed geniuses (almost all South Asian). We met an amazing kindergarten teacher who was eager to take our son under her wing. Some of the private schools were so academic there was no P.E. classes. Others made our area public school look dowdy and antiquated as the mismatched sweats the kinder teacher was wearing when we visited.

Mace shadowed at two separate kindergartens months apart and on different spectrums of philosophies. He spent the day in class and pulled out and tested on basic pre-K curriculum. Both came back with the same verdict: Junior K. Painting in broad strokes, one cited fine motor skills and the other cited maturity and language.

We want our son to be fulfilled in class and confident but I'd be lying if I said we weren't disappointed. We all have egos and every parent wants to believe their child is brilliant. We're coming to terms with the placement and signing him up for Junior K program. I know he's totally gonna dig it.

Have you experienced the same situation or been in it as a kindergarten-aged child and put in Junior K? How say you?



Mama Nabi said...

I don't put much stock in these tests. We've been reading (okay, we started to read and it's on a pile of books we are currently reading) - and it pretty much says that researches show that testing kids this early is a futile and even harmful exercise. For most part, kids who might score high now will end up averaging out and kids who don't score so well now might end up being a genius. And yes, I do secretly laugh at people who brag about their 5 year old's IQ test scores. My sister scored at 170+ when she was 4 or 5. She's super smart but certainly not an Einstein. I know that LN, for sure, would not score high - because of her personality, shyness, tendency to not perform so well in front of strangers at this age - yet, once in school (both pre-school and pre-K), her teachers have all come up to me and tell me that they had no idea how amazingly smart LN is. Sure, I think my LN is amazing - but, hell, she's my kid and, of course, I will be biased.

I just don't think that kids should even be tested or judged based on "intellectual level" at this point - and certainly not to be divided into different "levels". This is why, if I could afford to, I would send LN to a Montessori system where she can move around various levels and approach each level comfortably.

And, yes, this was a mini rant about this ridiculous testing system they have for kids at that age - enough researches have been done to discredit that kind of assessments yet these people continue to administer them, which says a lot about these administrators of private schools. Obviously, they have hard time assessing research data. Perhaps they should also pass an assessment test before they can assess children?

Anonymous said...

My boys are all considered "late born," a term used in many of the private schools here. Boys have to be 5 by June 30 to apply for kindergarten that fall. My boys are sometimes almost a full calendar year older that the youngest kid in the class. I've come to accept that it was a good thing. They are now more of the mature kids in their classes and as a result, are actually getting a better education. Also, I hear that if the boy plays sports in high school, the extra year can make a big difference in their skill level. I've seen too many kids that just weren't ready, but met the age requirements, that struggle. I can't imagine it being fun being at the "bottom of the class" all the time.

Think of it as a positive thing. Your child is taking the time to build a stronger foundation for a better life later.

davita said...

I completely agree and strongly believe in the other's comments. I wanted to add that boys and girls develop emotionally at different rates. I once read that 2nd grade boys should really be in classes with kindergarten girls- their emotional maturation rates are that different. We often demand more than little boys are capable of [and sometimes not enough in terms of cruelty and personal responsibility].

In the end, every child is different and has different learning needs. That's what really matters. I have to chuckle whenever I hear parents declare that their 4 year old is a genius. Convince me when they're 8 or 9. It is amazing how many of those so called geniuses are suddenly average in the 3rd grade. Prior to the 2nd grade everything is pretty much rote memorization. Some kids take to it, others do not. The ones that do look like rock stars on tests. I am unimpressed by rote memorization. It definitely has it's place in education, but I think problem solving and critical thinking are far more important and impressive. These two things are not typically tested at younger ages. And I get the feeling that many parents believe that problem solving and critical thinking are beyond younger children. Or maybe it's harder to teach, progresses slower, and isn't as easily displayed like rote memorization. Anyways, now I'm rambling.

My 9 year old is in the top of his 3rd grade class, but as a kindergartner he was terrible at letter and number recognition, writing his name, and a slow reader. The teacher did remark that she was "impressed" by his above average problem solving and critical thinking skills. This year, his teacher commented that he has no academic weaknesses and higher level critical thinking skills.

To each their own, but I believe that as long as you have a normal (undamaged) brain, all that rote memorization "stuff" will come long before schools will be ready to declare your child an idiot, problem solving and critical thinking however, are skills that take time to master and should be focused on earlier rather than later. I hate those tests.

Do what's in your heart. I believe as parents we have an obligation to provide our children with the best educational opportunities that we can afford. Whatever that may be, as long as it's the "best" that you can do, it will great.