Sunday, October 12, 2014

College-ready Five Year Olds

We periodically hear of the notion of college-ready five year olds. Not that they are ready to go to college while still that young, but that we can clearly tell in kindergarten whether these children are on the collegiate trajectory or not.

Recently a pair of teachers attempted a response to Carol Burris's Real Clear Education interview. Since the two work for Student Achievement Partners, a group started by CCSS architect David Coleman and financed by Bill Gates, what the two SAPs is not exactly a surprise.

The kindergarten SAP argues that her students (at her select charter school in Oakland, California) are able to do super-hard things that let her know that they are ready for college. In particular she is arguing for having kindergartners count to 100. She does not clarify whether she uses the technique of Rote Repetition of the Numbers With No Idea What They Mean or the technique of Counseling Out Students Who Can't Count To 100.

I'm excited about being able to ID college-ready five year olds. This presents a host of opportunities including the chance to start applying to college at age six. I mean, my high school juniors and seniors get very stressed about the whole application process. Imagine how much more relaxed and focused they could be if they had locked up that collegiate spot by age seven. They are just childhood as an excuse to be lazy anyway.

Of course, deciding college that early would really mess with David Coleman"s College Board SAT revenue stream. There's a pretty hefty industry driven by the general college-seeking panic of teenagers and their parents, so even as Core boosters claim that we can determine the college prospects of small children, reformsters once again face two challenging choice:

1) Shift the industry around to monetize the new impact areas or

2) Pretend they don't understand the implications of what they're saying.

For cradle-to-career railroad, it's a big number two all the way.

Mind you, they've occasionally admitted that they really do want to be able to predict the adult life of a small child with a "seamless web that literally extends from cradle to grave." But nobody who A) knows who Big Brother is or B) wants a future in American politics is going to hold up that infamous Marc Tucker "Dear Hillary" letter and say, "Yes, this is what we should do." Not out loud.

Reformsters could argue that the very notion of being able to place a five year old in a college is silly because, of course, any number of things in his life outside of school could happen in the next thirteen years to interfere with his college readiness-- but they can't make that argument because then they would have to admit that life factors outside of school affect the child's education.

No, we have to pretend that the educational journey is a train-- one track, one beginning and ending, everyone traveling along the undeviating, uninterrupted trail.

So if that's true, why wouldn't we fill out those college applications at the end of kindergarten? If all students are going to meet the same standards at the same time, and we can tell whether kindergartners are on track, and there's only one track, why isn't that good enough?

I suspect that in a dark moment of honesty, some reformsters would say it was good enough, that they already knew that Chris was destined for a life of corporate servitude and all we're doing is waiting for the sapling to grow large enough to harvest.

But in the meantime, reformsters will at once pretend that it's not absurd to declare a five year old on track for college, even as they fail to acknowledge the implications of that college-ready declaration. If we know that a five year old is on track for college, why not sign her up now? The answer-- sort of-- is that reformsters can't explain why a five year old's college application is absurd without also explaining why reform itself is absurd.


  1. Soo true, I teach firsties and when we are writing sentences about what they want to be when they grow up...they say a mermaid, a ninja or whatever wonderful idea pops into their brains. Now if I was a really good common core delivery teacher, I would realize the lack of rigor in their choice and make them think of what college they would choose instead of what they aspire to be....:) you are so right, so funny but really not that grumpy.

  2. In fact, there's a bigger goal here: Why not just throw up our hands and admit that we don't want to bother with childhood any more? Here we are, celebrating these tiny, chocolate-stained narcissists with their dinosaur fixations, their propensity for ill-timed urination, their mangling of the language, their insistence that being a fairy is a viable career - they would stop all this nonsense and be ready to participate in the adult world much earlier (eight or nine, maybe) if we just took a firmer line.

  3. Yikes!

    I followed the links to RealClear Education and saw another article: "Young teachers deserve Retirement Protections Too". Turns out, the author is advocating for allowing teachers "to participate in more modern, portable options like cash balance plans, which accrue at a normal rate and can be taken by employees between careers and across state lines" because they might only teach for three years. Guess the TFA's and other temporary help want their retirement cake. When I checked (admittedly I am cynical), turns out that this website is funded by the John (Enron) and Laura Arnold Foundation - you know, the folks who paid for the PBS show advocating for stripping teachers of a defined benefit plan - "The Pension Peril".

    Guess we can't trust PBS or RealClear.

  4. I clicked your childhood as excuse link and re-read your post on the 3 yr old slackers. I had forgotten how great it is, one of your best.

  5. I'm 35 and still dream of being a ninja when I grow up. How I spent all my time (and money) on various credentials and graduate degrees, yet still have an imagination, is unknown to me.

    1. Obviously your teachers just didn't try hard enough. Hopefully they were all fired, and have spent the last years contemplating their failure.

  6. My high achieving kindergartener says she wants to be a doctor, a mommy, and a teacher (obviously, she means med school professor). But since she still can't read after a month and a half of kindergarten, I haven't started filling out the med school applications.

    Seriously, send my child off to kindergarten was emotionally harder for me than dropping her off at daycare at 3 months old. Her homework load is crazy!

  7. I remember a friend of mine in high school who got a very high score on the SAT and joked, "Why can't they just give me my money now?"

    Funny thing is that thirty years later he doesn't make a lot of money, because he chose work that he enjoys (working with delinquent youth) instead.