The Blame Game: Start Changing and Stop Blaming

It seems that in this day and age, with what we know about education and learning, we would spend less time blaming people and programs and spend more of our time addressing the needs of children. After all, that is why we got into education isn’t it?

Kindergarten studentsOn February 6, 2015, Joanna Weiss wrote a piece in the Boston Globe referencing the work and research Nancy Carlsson-Paige, an early childhood education expert. The premise of the article written by Weiss and the research done by Carlsson Page focused on what they deemed would be a “joyless kindergarten” resulting from the implementation of the Common Core State Standards and increased pressures to have students read in Kindergarten, among other skills.

The reality is, that Common Core State Standards are not the root of Kindergarten becoming “joyless”, if that is in fact the case.  In 1957, the launching of the Sputnik by the Russians let to complaints about early education in the United States to include both kindergarten and pre-kindergarten.  As a result, there was increased infiltration of academic skills into kindergarten to help prepare students for later academic success.


Again, in 1983 with the publishing of A Nation at Risk, focus was also placed on academics in an effort to help prepare US students to compete with the intellectual capacity of the Japanese.  Later, with the advent of Goals 2000, another push came to make sure that kindergarten students were prepared for academic success.  This followed an increase in kindergarten enrollment in the early 1980’s as well.


How is it that after almost sixty years of increased accountability for kindergarten students, that people are now coming about to blame the Common Core State Standards for a “joyless” kindergarten experience?

In actuality, you could teach a kindergarten student physics if you taught it to them at their developmental level.  Key words: Developmental Level.  Teaching kindergarten students how to read does not need to be devoid of joy or fun.  Skilled teachers should be able to differentiate learning experiences for all children coming in to kindergarten.  For those students coming in knowing how to read, teachers should be able to provide them an experience commensurate with their skills, while those students coming in not knowing how to read should participate in activities that build their love of literacy, are enjoyable, and move them along from where they are at developmentally.

The changing times in kindergarten and education reform came into play a long time ago.  Researchers need to stop blaming those responsible for the Common Core and start placing their focus on how to support teachers and school leaders in providing meaningful, developmentally appropriate teaching and learning experiences for our children.  Common Core’s greatest strength, is that it should unify us educationally, and ensure that children come to us and leave us with a body of knowledge and experiences that prepares them for post-secondary learning and job opportunities.

For further thoughts about Common Core and Creativity and Engagement with students, here’s a piece I wrote almost 2 years ago addressing this.


  1. Amen! As a kindergarten teacher I know that some of my students can come in and excel in reading and writing, while others might not attain that skill until the beginning of first grade, and that’s okay! Despite their different levels, we still have a lot of fun in kindergarten! I am also the Vice Principal of Academics at my school, and I wish everyone would just get over the Common Core uproar already! They are here, start unpacking them, and make the most out of your students learning experience!

    February 8, 2015
  2. Whitney M said:

    Being responsible for rules and regulations that are in place for greater good of children should be followed. Common Core standards are implemented because they are thought to be in the child’s best interest why not use them effectively as required. Although some may not agree with all Common Core standards and question its effectiveness, these speculators should consider then studies and results of the standards.

    February 9, 2015
  3. Alahrie said:

    Well said. Great educators teach students to the best of their efforts and in the students’ best interests. Accountability metrics are not for children, they are for adults. We should have greater belief that the quality of instruction makes a difference and will be demonstrated in accountability. Common Core is one of the strongest set of standards that I have ever seen – there are only a few, they have clear descriptions, and they are minimal, allowing teachers and schools to add to the curriculum as they see fit. And, even better, they are vertically aligned – the fact is that we will not know the power of the whole alignment for at least another 10 years.

    February 9, 2015
  4. Alan said:

    What if you are held accountable to getting them all to the same place by the end of the year, or at least a minimum place on the scale and you KNOW that some of them are not developmentally ready, yet you have to push and pull and cajole, because someone else has said what is developmentally appropriate for the students in your classroom.

    How scary of an experiment are we in when we won’t know if it works OR NOT for another 10 years. BGates has said as much too (that we won’t know for 10 years). What are the chances that we will stick with CC for 10 years?

    February 9, 2015
  5. Dr. Wilkens said:

    In 2002 I wrote my thesis, Hurrying our Children; Are we Stressing them out? The answer was a resounding yes! At the time we were veering away from Piaget’s teaching on the developmental child and the developmental brain. In an effort to be more like China- we have pushed our children to a breaking point.

    As an educator both in the general education and special education fields, I find that many of our students are simply in a developmental stage that is beyond the curricular expectations of the common core, and in some cases State standards. We have gone from 1/2 day Kindergarten, to full day kindergarten, and we are now looking at making pre-K a full day.

    When students are unable to manage a full day due to the need for a nap, some movement time, or simply time to use their imagination in free play they break down. And sadly- they are immediately sent for intervention and then a referral to special education.

    Questions to Ponder
    If we met students at their developmental level and focused on their areas of strength as a way to develop excellence, would students have more fun in school? Would they like it more?

    If students in the 1980’s scored higher on anxiety scales than their 1950’s counterparts who were institutionalized, what would be our numbers today? What will they be in 20 years?

    February 10, 2015

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