Published Online: February 4, 2014
Published in Print: February 5, 2014, as Study Finds Reading Lessons Edging Out Kindergarten Play

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Study Finds Reading Lessons Edging Out Kindergarten Play

"Is Kindergarten the New 1st Grade? The Changing Nature of Kindergarten in the Age of Accountability"

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The days when kindergarten focused on playing and finger painting may be waning, according to a new University of Virginia study, as early-learning classrooms devote significantly more attention to preparing students to read.

From 1998 to 2006, kindergarten teachers reported devoting 25 percent more time to teaching early literacy, from 5.5 hours to seven hours per week, according to the working paper by Daphna Bassok, an assistant professor at the University of Virginia's Curry School of Education and Anna Rorem, a policy associate at the university's Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service.

The researchers analyzed changes over time in teacher expectations, curriculum, and students' time on task using data from the federal Early Childhood Longitudinal Study.

They found that the number of early-education teachers who believe students should begin learning to read in kindergarten more than doubled from 1998 to 2006, from 31 percent in 1998 to 65 percent in 2006. The teachers also became more likely to teach spelling and use standardized assessments in kindergarten, they found.

Though the overall time for kindergarten has increased since the late 1990s, with 75 percent of kindergartners now attending full-day classes up from 56 percent in 1998 the researchers found that time devoted to mathematics flatlined and time for all other non-literacy subjects decreased. Kindergartners today now spend as much time on reading and language arts as they do on mathematics, science, social studies, music, and art combined, according to the study.

Vol. 33, Issue 20, Page 5

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