Current accountability measures focus on the immediacy of results, typically holding each year’s teacher responsible for the outcomes of the current year. We assert, however, that much of what is important for students to learn as readers and writers happens in the years that are typically not considered heavily (or at all) in accountability measures. Educational accountability needs to function as a pay-it-forward system. That is, some of the work that teachers on a particular grade-level do is on behalf of the teachers who will be accountable for our students in upcoming years. This is equally true in reading and writing.
Even though the standardized testing associated with the Common Core is likely to begin in third-grade, which continues the NCLB trend established in many states, we encourage schools to resist the urge to throw all their energies into third-grade. While third-grade and beyond warrant considerable attention, meeting the lofty expectations of the Common Core is an impossibility if we don’t offer our youngest readers and writers at least as much support.
This means we start intentionally teaching literacy in preschool. We need to engage four-year-olds in age appropriate practices that teach them letter names and letter sounds, that develop their vocabulary, and that establish efficient reading and writing habits from the onset. This early action is the only way we can ensure that the majority of children graduating from second grade are ready to meet the Common Core challenges they will encounter in third-grade and beyond. Don’t be fooled! It is possible to teach four- and five-year-olds to read and write while holding inviolate critical principles of developmental appropriateness.
On Monday and Tuesday of next week we will share a checklist of our essentials for teaching preK-2 students reading and writing. We hope you will let the list of questions help you consider the ways your instruction in preK-2 is preparing students for the Common Core demands of upper elementary, middle, and high school.