Welcome to Developmentally Inappropriate University!

In my other life, when I am not wrestling with issues in urban education, I also work in private practice at a number of private schools. As I’ve said before, every day is a compare/contrast essay in my head. Each day is a new chapter, with new “Wait, what???” moments.

I thought I had heard it all, until I came across a family of a 3-year-old girl, who told me she was a Sophomore.

Me: Wait, what???
Family: Our child is a sophomore at Pre-College.*
Me: Is that a Pre-school?
Family: Yes, she is in her second year there, so she is a sophomore.
Me: (writing down, trying not to judge) Okay then, your 3-year-old is getting ready for her Junior year of Pre-College, got it.

Really? Have we gotten to the point where we are now preparing our 3-year-olds for college already? What’s her major, Fingerpaint Arts? Will she have a minor in Theories of Dollies? I can’t help but wonder if this “College Starts in Utero!” phenomenon is damaging our kids. I see it frequently in the kids I test who are *gasp* average and their schools are pushing inappropriately difficult curriculum on them, so they appear to be failures.

California is notorious for their “Standards Based Curriculum” being shoved into every classroom, and I have to say it can be disheartening for kids to not “meet the standard,” even when the standard is too high for their normal brain development. In California, we like to raise the bar of expectations, and then not give the kids any tools to reach it. Jump, kid! Jump higher than your gross-motor skills allow! Thanks, No Child Left Behind!

Excuse me, while I get down from my soapbox again. Right. So what can we as educators and parents do about it? What do we do when an average kid is doing average and meant to feel “behind”? As a school psychologist, I normalize wanting the best for the student. I share what developmental milestones are typical for that age group, and assuage fears of being behind. I use curriculum-based and standardized testing data to show that 50th percentile is not the same as 50%. If your child scores at the 50th percentile, s/he did better than half of the students who took the test, and that is average. And average is okay. I just hope Pre-College understands that, so my little one doesn’t become a drop-out at age 4.

*Almost the exact name. I don’t like to mock people outright, so I changed it slightly. Still the same “Wait, what???” reaction would come from the real name, I promise.

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Comments on Welcome to Developmentally Inappropriate University!

  1. “In California, we like to raise the bar of expectations, and then not give the kids any tools to reach it.”

    I’m sufficiently boggled by the concept of a sophomore in pre-college to be speechless, but I had to recover my voice to yell my agreement with your above statement.

    Last year our board approved a 12th grade reading level science book for a ninth grade science class because the majority wanted to “challenge” the kids.

    Only one other board member agreed with me that we could challenge the students with curriculum, but the textbook was a tool, not an obstacle! Some folks have difficulty knowing which bar to raise.

    It was a $103.000 mistake.

    The happy ending is that folks realized their mistake, and we all listen to each other a little closer now.

  2. Don’t you know… my child is a graduate magna cum laude from yale… and she isnt even born yet.

    /sarcasm

    I applaud that California has standards. In my state, the standards are so low, children are so used to performing mediocre as are teachers. There is no pride in schools and there are always complaints about how our schools don’t make AYP – Adequate Yearly Progress. But here there are no consequences for the actions until they have failed to reach AYP for 3+ years, then the gov’t steps in and takes over. We all KNOW how thats going to end!

  3. Kelley, fellow Berkeley cohort says:

    Amen! We see the same things in NC. The teachers are disgusted by the achievement test protocols I administer because the material is so much “easier” than what they are required to do in class. And what about the children who have low cognitive abilities and are in life skills classes and are still expected to be “exposed to” grade-level curricular concepts and, in some cases, be tested on them??
    I know I should not introduce the political into your educational blog, but did you hear Obama utter the words “early childhood education” and “importance” in the same sentence?? Crossing my fingers that doesn’t get lost in the economy and alternative energies…..

  4. @Hugh: I’d have put Russian textbooks in front of the board and asked them to read them and write an essay “for a challenge!” to illustrate the point. 🙂

    @Bus Driver: Congrats on your gifted unborn child!

    @Kelley,

    Let’s just hope the early childhood education isn’t shoving more curriculum at the toddlers! 😉

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