Just because children have to do something when they grow up does not mean it is appropriate for elementary school students. 6 year olds are not college students. Not yet.
I am so tired of “college readiness” being used to justify innumerable teaching mandates that are not developmentally appropriate. For instance- the common core shift to non-fiction in writing and reading, or there was that time my principal told us to use testing language with first graders, and then of course, the pages of homework being sent home starting in kindergarten. I don’t care what they have to do in college- 5 and 6 year olds should be writing stories, not essays, using language that makes sense for them and playing, not filling out worksheets after school.
You know what else college students should probably be prepared for? Sex. But no one has mandated that teachers introduce kindergarteners to details of STD prevention. Because it is not appropriate! They are not ready!
One teacher at my school recently told me that she thought taking tests in 3rd grade was important practice for the SATs. Wait. A. Second. So we need to be preparing kids for the SATs almost 10 years before they take them? Taking a 3 hour test might be developmentally appropriate for 17 year olds. But make no mistake, no matter what anyone tells you, any seated task that lasts more than 40 minutes is not developmentally appropriate for a typical 8 year old.
If we really want our elementary school kids to be “college ready”, we can…
a. Make college affordable so they actually have the option of going.
b. Offer them rich, sensory, creative and meaningful learning experiences so that they love school and develop some of the non-academic skills that actually matter in college – self motivation and self control, executive functioning and organization, independence and the ability to problem solve and communicate.
c. Meet kids’ needs in the here and now. Stop worrying about what they need to do when they are 18. You know what they need to do right now? Eat breakfast every day. Button their coats. Make friends. Solve problems. Feel emotionally and physically safe. Read books they love. Write stories. Do experiments. Play outside. Dig in the dirt.
Imagine if doctors started telling parents that their babies should practice walking immediately upon emergence from the womb. We have to prepare them now for the walking they’ll do later in life, they might say. Make sure you stand them up on 2 feet right after they are born so that they get a head start. And then just let go, they’ll be just fine.
That is what we’re doing to our children in far too many schools, all for the sake of college readiness. Enough.
And, as far as college readiness in high school, my three kids would tell you that they need to learn to work in groups, stand up and give a presentation, and budget their time. We don’t do that for them. No, now we have exams full of Document Based Questions, finding evidence in non-fiction texts, and making sure that you are “number 1”. None of that matters when you get to college and have to work in a group, stand up and speak, or figure out when and how to study and when and how to relax.