Speeding Early Development and its Effects on High School

Leah Packard, Special to The Big Red

Over the past couple decades or so it has become apparent that schools are wanting more out of the youngest of school children. This push seems like it would be extremely helpful; the earlier you know topics, the more in depth you can get with them, and the further you can expand your mind.

However, it has overwhelmingly been found that pushing kids too far and too fast can actually be detrimental to their development. Play is an essential part of development, and the time for it gets smaller and smaller every year.

Play is so important because it helps children develop many vital skills (i.e. imagination, creativity, dexterity, and communication to name a few). I recall when I was in preschool, twelve years ago, that we spent most of the time playing.

We had structured activities, but we participated is different types of play most of the time. I do not remember having  a formal ‘circle time’ with a lesson until kindergarten when it was the norm everyday.

I now intern at the Mary O’Malley CHAPS academy in one of the preschool rooms and it reminds me more of my kindergarten experience than my preschool experience. The kids do get time to play, but once all the students have arrived, its circle time.

The children also have assessments before every parent teacher conference where they are expected to count beyond ten, associate colors with objects and draw certain shapes as well as write their name. This seems all well and good, but these seem more like kindergarten expectations rather than preschool.

Scientifically, if you try to teach a kid something when they are not developmentally ready they may learn it in that moment, but they are less likely to retain the information later. This is probably part of the reason why some concepts that you know you learned in, say sixth grade, and when you return to them in bio, you are like, “I kinda remember that but I never understood it.”

Pushing kids ahead goes further than preschool and kindergarten, just look at our school and how ‘8th grade math’ is skipped by so many kids, and therefore isolates the others and makes them feel not as smart or slower.

This push also lessens the options high schoolers have for math in the future. Because some kids don’t take Algebra 1 as an eighth grader, they then have limited options for math and the other students have a leg up on them, which is not fair. Many students in this position feel like they will never catch up unless they double up on math, which then limits their elective options.

Although, it is guaranteed that some kids are just more developmentally ready for skipping a math level. However, I think it is unfair to give so much power to the seventh grade math teacher in deciding any child’s future in math.

There should be an official evaluation of a child’s math skill before they are put in a certain level—I do not think this should solely be a standardized test, but and evaluation of study skills and effort.

If there was a formal document stating these points, no student would slip out of view of their seventh grade math teacher and be wrongly or accidentally placed in the inadequate math level.