No Time to Lose on Early Reading

I’m pleased to report that I’m going to be doing a bit of education blogging over at U.S. News. My first piece revisits the controversy over Common Core and kindergarten. I’ve taken some heat for my defense of the kindergarten reading standards, but I’m sticking to my guns. I share critics concerns that early childhood learning is leading schools to take all the joy out of kindergarten. But I see no reason to blame Common Core for that—and nothing in the standards that demands teachers do so. Meanwhile, the stakes for not teaching disadvantaged kids to read early seem too high to ignore. Here’s the thrust of my piece.

The broad thrust of Common Core for kindergarten is ensuring kids are ready to read by the first grade. There is arguably no more important task in American education. A struggling first grade reader has a nearly 90 percent chance of still struggling in fourth grade; three out of four struggling third grade readers are still behind in ninth grade. Early reading success or failure is highly predictive of a child’s academic trajectory: one out of six kids who are not reading proficiently by third grade will not graduate from high school on time.

I hope that those who say “Common Core made me do it” will support their argument by pointing to exactly where in the standards the problem lies. That’s not a knee-jerk defense of standards, mind you (at some point, you own the outcome of your plans and policies). But if a school misinterprets a set of standards or uses them to justify turning kindergarten into a pressure cooker, it’s essential, I think, to follow the misinterpretation to its source and diagnose how an outcome that no one could possibly want and doesn’t make sense is happening.

– Robert Pondiscio

This first appeared on Common Core Watch.

Last Updated


Notify Me When Education Next

Posts a Big Story

Business + Editorial Office

Program on Education Policy and Governance
Harvard Kennedy School
79 JFK Street, Cambridge, MA 02138
Phone (617) 496-5488
Fax (617) 496-4428

For subscription service to the printed journal
Phone (617) 496-5488

Copyright © 2024 President & Fellows of Harvard College