January 29, 2014
If you think back to kindergarten, you may remember playing with toys or enjoying a nap. But a new study from the University of Virginia says kindergarten is getting harder.
"The students in kindergarten these days are learning a lot of things," said Luella Anderson, a kindergarten teacher at Greenbrier Elementary School in Charlottesville.
Anderson has been teaching for 29 years and, for the past 10 years, has taught at the kindergarten level.
"When people ask me, 'Do you have kids?' I say I have 21 because they are like my kids," she said.
And the things she's teaching them go beyond the social skills or simple letters and numbers.
"They're learning to get along with each other," she said. "Students are learning to identify numbers, to add numbers to subtract numbers."
UVa researchers suggest there's been a shift in kindergarten curricula. Instead of a focus on social skills, the focus is on academics -- particularly literacy.
"Kindergarten is more academic because we're preparing them for first grade, second and third," Anderson said.
The study says one reason for the nationwide shift is because of changing standardized tests, specifically the SOLs in Virginia.
"They start in kindergarten, they may know their letters and sounds, but by the time they leave, some of them are learning at a second- and third-grade level," Anderson said.
The study says the focus on academics comes at a cost. It could limit the amount of time dedicated to social skills. Anderson said she finds a balance.
"We don't use the word 'can't' because I tell them they can. And every day, it's written on the board to do your best and believe in yourself," she said. "We expect every student here to achieve and do their best."
And the payoff is preparation for the future -- not just for the kids, but for Anderson herself.
"I've been doing this for 29 years," she said, "and I still enjoy coming into work every day."