Last week I wrote a blog about whether kindergarteners should receive traditional letter grades as opposed to pass/fail grades. The idea was spurred by an article in our local paper debating the merits of this new policy here in Mobile. In Sunday’s paper, a retired child management specialist for the Mobile Mental Health Center and a former public school teacher wrote a guest editorial concerning this new policy.
The headline was Grading Too Soon, so I knew right away what his opinion was. In the article he wrote that kindergarteners need encouragement not labeling. He went on to say that he was disturbed by the demands these new requirements are placing on children, their parents and their teachers. He also feels that students can become easily discouraged if they received unacceptable grades.
He further points out that some kindergarten students enter school after having just turned 5 while some are closer to 6. Some have had preschool experience while others don’t. In addition there are significant differences in a child’s learning abilities between the ages of 5 and 6 and it is unrealistic to expect the same performance from these young students. He feels progress reports would be a better way of recording a child’s strengths and weaknesses.
He also points out that giving grades to kids this young might cause some parents to become negative toward their children if they are not receiving acceptable grades. Not to mention some students may feel bad about not being as “smart” as some of the other kids in their class. Also, when you praise a child for trying they are motivated to try harder, but when you tell a child that their work is “not right” their self-esteem suffers. The smarter kids may also resort to calling classmates, “dumb” or “stupid” and unfortunately the kids with the lower grades start believing this label.
The purpose of kindergarten, he goes on to point out, should be to teach students to socialize with their peers in a structured but fun setting and to prepare them for learning new skills that will be introduced in first grade. He ends by stating that kindergarteners simply aren’t mature enough to understand the grading system and to accept the reasoning behind being graded. He ends by hoping that the powers that be will reassess the guidelines and realize that the purpose of kindergarten is to encourage and not discourage students.