Is Kindergarten the New First Grade? The Changing Nature of Kindergarten in the Age of Accountability
Recent accounts suggest that accountability pressures have trickled down into the early elementary grades, and that kindergarten today is characterized by a heightened focus on academic skills. This paper documents substantial changes in kindergarten classrooms between 1998 and 2006, using two large nationally-representative data sets. Nearly all measures examined changed substantially over this period, and always in the direction consistent with a heightened academic focus. While in 1998, 31 percent of kindergarten teachers indicated that most children should learn to read in kindergarten, in 2006 65 percent of teachers agreed with this statement. Time on literacy rose by 25 percent from roughly 5.5 to 7 hours per week and exposure to social studies, science, music, art and physical education all dropped.