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Kindergarten Not All Fun And Games Anymore

Playing tag on the playground and producing finger-painted masterpieces are memories many students -- and their parents -- hold dear about their time spent in elementary school.

Kindergartners are the newest budding flowers into the education system, and often the most vulnerable. With changing standards across the board in education, however, Kindergartners are putting away the paint brushes and opening the books. One of the most significant changes has been the implementation of Kindergarten lasting all day, rather than a half day.

"Full-day Kindergarten used to be an anomaly, now it's pretty much the norm," says Dominic Gullo, professor of early childhood education at Drexel University. "But that doesn't mean you should teach children twice as much, it's all about how you teach within that full-day schedule."

Kindergarten used to be a transitional period where a student learns the first stages of being away from home and going to school. Today, however, there is a lot more focus on schoolwork such as reading and math.

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Teachers fill their students' days and their brains with planned lessons that often account for every minute of the school day, but it needs to be balanced with play and social time. Otherwise, children may struggle with the increased demands, causing a lack of interest in school.

Parents sometimes think their child should be held back another year, especially if they were born in the summer, to mature enough to handle the curriculum. This process, known as "redshirting," isn't necessarily a good thing, according to Gullo.

"Most kids end up evening out over the course of the next few years," Gullo said. "In fact, there have been studies that show redshirting to have a negative impact by the time they're in middle school."

Clark County Assistant Superintendent Danielle Miller, also a former Kindergarten teacher, said she wishes she would have had the full-day schedule with her students. The time, she said, could have been valuable to create a balance between lessons and social time.

"We want them to know the sounds of letters and how to make sense of that ... not just have it be memorization," Miller said.

The goal of a more rigorous schedule is to have students more literate by the time they reach the third grade, when standardized testing comes into the picture.

Some parents have struggled getting their Kindergartners engaged in the more intensified schoolwork, while others say it's just a matter of preparing the student properly beforehand. Kindergarten classes typically have a very diverse set of students --  all at individual maturity levels.

GUESTS

Dominic Gullo, Ph.D, professor of early childhood education, Drexel University

Danielle Miller, associate superintendent, Clark County School District

Rob Bitterman, parent

Janine Green, parent

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