Kindergarten Has Changed in the US

With the realization of the importance of the early years in education, changes have occurred in the kindergarten curriculum in the United States. To gauge whether these changes are for better or worse, it is necessary to identify the changes first. Daphna Bassok, Scott Latham, and Anna Rorem from the University of Virginia have recently provided a systematic comparison between the state of kindergarten during the years 1998 and 2011, considering the following dimensions: (1) what teachers consider as important for school, (2) time spent on each subject, (3) how teachers manage their classroom, (4) teaching practices, and (5) how teachers measure learning outcomes. Their findings are published in the journal AERA Open.

By examining data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study (ECLS-K:1998 and ECLS-K:2011), which includes thousands of kindergarten students and teachers, major changes in Kindergarten have been found across all dimensions. Especially worth noting is the difference seen in the amount of time allocated for each subject. Kindergarten pupils in the US are now spending more time in math and reading, and less time in arts and music.

Only 11 percent of kindergarten teachers spend time on art on a daily basis while close to 100 percent tackle reading everyday. More than 10 percent do not even provide an art class at least once a week. Science does not seem to have suffered a reduction in time, but the authors point out that exposure to science content has decreased substantially.

Exposure to dinosaurs has been cut into half. These differences are in fact much bigger if one considers the fact that kindergarten over the past decade has been increasingly becoming full day:

Above copied from ChildTrends DataBank
With these changes properly documented, one can then address the next question: Are these changes for better or worse?