Is Kindergarten the New First Grade?

The Academicization of Kindergarten in the Age of Accountability

In recent years, many researchers, early childhood educators, and the popular press have warned that kindergarten in the United States has experienced radical changes, and that developmentally appropriate learning practices centered on play, exploration and social interactions have been replaced with highly-prescriptive curricula, test preparation and an explicit focus on academic skill-building.   Further, a common explanation for this trend is that pressure caused by a heightened emphasis on accountability and standardized testing for children in grades three and up has trickled down into the early elementary grades. Despite these accounts, we have very little empirical evidence about whether, to what extent, and along which dimensions, kindergarten classrooms have actually changed over time.  This study fills this gap using two nationally representative datasets about kindergarten activities, curricular focus, assessment practices and attitudes about school readiness over time.  The study, funded by the American Education Research Association,  will describe changes in kindergarten practices during this period of heightened accountability pressures and provide causal estimates of the impact of No Child Left Behind on kindergarten teachers’ self-reported practices and beliefs.

Associated Faculty

  • Daphna Bassok, Associate Professor
    Associate Director, EdPolicyWorks