Yes, kids should finish kindergarten knowing how to read, according to a survey of kindergarten teachers. Eighty percent of teachers said yes in 2012, up from 31 percent in 1998.
This change in thinking about kindergarteners’ reading achievement was discovered through research by the University of Virginia. The researchers looked at surveys of 2500 kindergarten teachers in 1998 and compared them with surveys of 2700 kindergarten teachers taken about five years ago.
Expectations of kindergarteners today are more like expectations of first graders in the recent past. According to the teachers, students should enter kindergarten knowing the alphabet and they should leave kindergarten knowing how to read.
Why the change? Credit (or blame) the 2001 No Child Left Behind law which required third graders to be tested in English language skills. To raise third graders’ achievement levels, teachers needed to find more time to teach the basics. That time was found in kindergarten.
This pressure to learn academic skills at younger and younger ages has come at a price, according to the researchers. The amount of time kindergarteners spend in art, music, play and child-selected activities has decreased.
Is this change good or bad for children? We will need to wait for future research to answer that question.