Are no-excuses charter schools setting kids up to struggle later by pushing academic skills too hard, too soon?
By Emily Kaplan
She poses many questions, including the following:
- Why do children who learn to read earlier than their peers do so poorly in ways that matter later on?
- Why do children for whom every aspect of their education, from kindergarten onward, is tailored toward graduating from college so often struggle to graduate from college?
- What if the struggles of graduates of “no excuses” schools reveal deficits that are not academic, but rather socioemotional?
- What would happen if, instead of spending nine hours a day engaged in academic tasks determined by a teacher, children were to spend a large portion of their day developing “soft skills” that would enable them to overcome the hurdles they will encounter when they’re older?
- What if, like their suburban counterparts, they spent large portions of their day in rigorous, developmentally appropriate activities: learning to make friends, make art, and make believe, exploring and creating their interests and their identities?
- What if a necessary component of improving the long-term prospects of small children from disadvantaged backgrounds is not accelerating through childhood, but purposefully lingering in it?
The case for developmentally appropriate activities
This is a terrific article that I will share widely. Thanks, Emily, for seeing through the smokescreen of rote learning and chants for success which have just about nothing to do with real learning in the early years. Thanks too for great descriptions of developmentally sound education–the place where kids gain the deep capacities for real success: thinking deeply, solving problems, imagining and creating, inventing, getting along with others, gaining confidence socially and as learners. And thanks to Dienne for naming exactly a problem we white early childhood educators have. We need stronger alliances, more diverse voices and more trust across groups if we are going to give all young kids the best education possible. And Emily, thanks for naming poverty as an obstacle to that goal. We can’t solve it all in the schools. —Dr. Nancy Carlsson-Paige, DEY’s Senior Advisor and Board President.
About Guest Contributor
Emily Kaplan is an elementary school teacher who has taught in suburban, charter, public, and private schools in greater Boston and rural Guatemala. Her writing, which focuses on children, education, and social equity, has been featured by The Washington Post, Esquire, Edushyster, Curmudgucation, and ECE PolicyWorks. Prior to becoming a teacher, Emily conducted sociological research at Project Zero at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.