1. REQUIRED AGE TO START SCHOOL – I am finding more and more that many people, including educators, are either unaware or have not considered that all states have different laws that govern when a child must attend school. While most people assume that kindergarten is the age that all kids are required to start, that couldn’t be further from the truth. How is it possible for the students in this country to be on the same page and/or required to be held accountable to the same standards when not all students are expected to enter school at the same time?
“While 33 states require kids to start their education no later than age 6 and 15 states make it mandatory by age 7, only Washington and Pennsylvania don’t require kids in the classroom until they turn 8.”
Most children, age 7, start second grade at that age. The compulsory age requirement to start school does not mean they start kindergarten at age 7 or age 8. For example, Mississippi children aren’t required to start school until age 6 or first grade. Kindergarten is not mandatory. The compulsory age requirement in Mississippi is 6 to 17. I am going to share an actual example of how this really plays out in the schools.
Let’s say that Jorge is 6, and his parents did not enroll him in school until 1st grade. Jorge is an ELL student and speaks very, very little English. Is there any chance in the world that he will be on the same page with the other kids and especially if his classmates attended kindergarten the prior year? How will the teacher be able to reach 25-30 students with such varying student backgrounds because of the laws we have set?
Now imagine that same teacher, and let’s say she has 2 more kids in the class that started school for the first time (skipping kindergarten). Add to this, two more ELL students (these who attended school the year before and speak a little English), 2 SPED children, 3 students with IEPs, 3 kids with severe food allergies, 7 average students, 8 advanced students and several students that are below average. Some of these kids may have access to resources and have involved parents and others do not have either. Some kids may come from a more affluent home and others come from a family struggling to get by. (Believe me when I say, all of these factors play a big role in determining a student’s success or failures in the classroom).
How in the world can we expect ONE teacher to bridge these gaps, show growth for all students, ensure that her students are passing all of the required tests, be able to pull all of these kids 3-5 times/year for assessment tests and/or state testing, meet all of the needs in this classroom all while tying their pay to the success of their students, (which obviously is an extremely challenging, daunting and nearly impossible task)?!! Have we really given these teachers and students a fighting chance when we didn’t give them reasonable expectations to begin with?
Now imagine the states that don’t expect students to start school until age 7 or 8. Are they going to be on the same page as the student in another state that was required to start by age 5 or 6? What happens when one of these students moves to a state with a different compulsory age requirement? Will they be on the same page? Most likely, the answer is NO, but it depends on what the parents did or didn’t do for the student at home to prepare them for school or what was or was not required by state law.
The rhetoric about kids moving from one state to another and being on the same page in theory sounds great, but in reality, it is a failed plan before you ever get out of the gate. How many people would be OK with changing the laws and mandating all kids start school at the same age?! That is highly unlikely to happen. Parents are already fearful that kids are going to be forced into preschool with this new push for universal preschool. If they mandate kindergarten, how long will it be before they mandate preschool? People may disagree over compulsory age requirements, but the bottom line is, no matter what your opinion is on this issue, we have a FAILED PLAN with the laws we have in place right here and right now! Is Common Core a magic pill that fixes these issues? Absolutely not!
2. NO ELL INCLUSION CLASSES – Expanding upon the ELL students and their situations, why do we not have any inclusion classes for these students? My question is rhetorical because I know WHY we don’t, but shouldn’t we have them for these kids? Wouldn’t a non-English speaking student do better in a room with other non-English speaking students? Does it not make it extremely difficult for the teacher in the classroom when she has 3-5 ELL students, and they don’t understand a word of what she is saying?!
When my daughter was at a DCS school, I remember volunteering to do the vision tests for the kindergartners. I was SHOCKED at the number of kids in kindergarten that did not speak any English and others that spoke very, very little English. I didn’t know how to communicate with them, and their poor teacher didn’t know any better than I did. It was a feeling of helplessness on my part and probably fear and isolation for the child.
I know some ELL teachers have as many as 90-100 ELL kids spread out over 2-3 schools. How many times are those kids able to be pulled each week with one person bouncing from school to school (doing the best they can)?! I believe we have approximately 16 ELL teachers in our district for approximately 1300 ELL students. We have 40+ schools in the district, so you can see how hard it is on these ELL teachers and the students’ teachers in the classroom. How does Common Core fix this? How can these children possibly be on the same page? I know that our DCS ELL kids speak between 10-20 different languages, with the majority being Spanish but many different languages nonetheless. Can Common Core bridge this gap?
Taking into consideration just these two factors alone, how is Common Core or nationalized standards going to make it possible for our K-12 students to move from state to state and be on the same page? How will they be on the same page even within their own states?! Before we jumped the gun on education standards, these other factors should have been considered.
Alabama’s compulsory age requirement is 7 to 16.
Tennessee’s compulsory age requirement is 6 to 17.
Arkansas’s compulsory age requirement is 5 to 17.
Florida’s compulsory age requirement is 6 to 16.
Louisiana’s compulsory age requirement is 7 to 18.