Email Status

Volume 15, Number 3
May/June 1999

Preserving Kindergarten in a High-Stakes Environment


Bonnie Walmsley remembers the kindergartners who arrived at her classroom 14 years ago. For most, it was their first experience of school. Some knew the alphabet and could count to ten. The rare student could read or write.

Today, Walmsley encounters a much wider range of abilities. Many children come in with more sophisticated skills, which she attributes partly to greater exposure to television and computers. Most have attended daycare programs. Some are 6-year-olds held back a year by parents who feared they were not mature enough for school. They share the kindergarten classroom with another population of children—5-year-olds who are still struggling to learn the alphabet and come from homes where literacy is not a priority.

"The gap has widened. There is a greater range of developmental levels now," says Walmsley, as she surveys her bustling classroom in suburban Clifton Park, NY. "I have one child who is doing multiplication and another who's still trying to identify numbers. It's become more challenging as a teacher."

This is an excerpt from the Harvard Education Letter. Subscribers can click here to continue reading this article.


For Further Information

For Further Information

S. Bredekamp and C. Copple, eds. Developmentally Appropriate Practice in Early Childhood Programs Serving Children from Birth through Age 8, rev. ed. Washington, DC: National Association for the Education of Young Children, 1997.

S.J. Meisels. "Doing Harm by Doing Good: Iatrogenic Effects of Early Childhood Enrollment and Promotion Policies." Early Childhood Research Quarterly 7 (1992): 155-174.

S.J. Meisels. "Assessing Readiness." In R.C. Pianta and M.M. Cox, eds., The Transition to Kindergarten. Baltimore; MD: Paul H. Brookes, forthcoming.

L. Shepard, S.L. Kagan, and E. Wurtz, eds. Principles and Recommendations for Early Childhood Assessments. Washington, DC: National Education Goals Panel, 1998.

B. Walmsley, A.M.Camp, and S.A. Walmsley. Teaching Kindergarten: A Developmentally Appropriate Approach. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 1992.

B. Walmsley and S.A. Walmsley. Kindergarten: Ready or Not? Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 1996.