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Volume 30, Number 4
July/August 2014

Common Core for Young Learners

Educators tackle challenges in the early grades


PreK students in Boston Public Schools practice with patterns in preparation for Common Core math standards.

At Cesar E. Chávez Multicultural Academic Center on Chicago’s Southwest Side, teachers are in the thick of implementing the Common Core State Standards. While it’s a tough task for everyone, the teachers of the youngest students face special challenges.

Kindergarten teacher Samantha Roeth is lucky this year; she has 28 children instead of the usual 30. Many are English-language learners. It is the first year Chávez and many other Chicago schools have offered full-day kindergarten. Chicago is also in its first year of full Common Core implementation, and Chávez is especially committed to raising the bar on literacy. While the school’s overall performance and outstanding math scores put it in the top level of district accountability rankings, getting students up to speed as readers and writers remains a challenge.

As a former fourth-grade teacher, Roeth embraces Common Core’s call for more nonfiction text. She reads her students interesting, complex nonfiction, lets them practice reading with simpler text, and couples their reading with related daily writing prompts. She also wrestles with questions about her pupils’ developmental readiness for the work before them. This year she has two students who might benefit from more time before tackling first grade, but district policy forbids delayed entry. At the same time, she feels pressure to ensure that her charges are ready for the rigors that lie ahead. “I think I’m pushing my kids too hard, but then I go to second grade and I’m amazed at what they’re doing,” she says. 

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


Also by this Author

For Further Information

Children’s Defense Fund

K. Cristol and B. S. Ramsey. Common Core in the Districts: An Early Look at Early Implementers. Washington, DC: The Thomas B. Fordham Institute, 2014.

N. Kober, S. McIntosh, and D. S. Rentner. Year 3 of Implementing the Common Core State Standards: Professional Development for Teachers and Principals. Washington, DC: Center on Education Policy, 2013.

K. Snow. Variation in Children’s Experience of Kindergarten and the Common Core. Common Core Issue Brief. Washington, DC: National Association for the Education of Young Children, 2012.

C. Weiland and H. Yoshikawa. “Impacts of a Prekindergarten Program on Children’s Mathematics, Language, Literacy, Executive Function, and Emotional Skills.” Child Development 84, no. 6 (2013): 2112–2130.