Last week the Detroit Free Press ran a short article about the “Kindergarten Hub” at Brenda Scott Academy, a school in Michigan’s Education Achievement Authority district designed for the 15 lowest performing schools in the state. As the most recent iteration in the district’s 2-year streak of controversy, the Kindergarten Hub combines three classes of students into one whopping class of roughly 100 children. The move has received national attention in the Washington Post and been condemned by all-too-few Michigan lawmakers.
This is educational malpractice and should stop immediately.
Anyone who does not work for the Education Achievement Authority already knows this. Kindergarten and the early childhood schooling years are not and should not be solely about reading and math. These critical years of development are also about relationships and bonding: how to play, work, and make friends in a small and steady community of peers, not a room of 99 other faces. Equally important is feeling safe and cared for by a consistent adult figure, not a rotating team of teachers. Community and care are the groundwork for social and emotional stability that help children to learn academic skills and content later as they progress in schools.
This will not happen in the Kindergarten Hub.
And this name. One tactic to legitimize a suspect practice is to rename it with technical terms or words that suggest innovation. A basic computer program for students instead of a high-quality curriculum gets called a “learning platform.” Experiments on children get called “unique” and “outside the box.” And malpractice like this gets called the Kindergarten Hub.
And it is malpractice. It contradicts basic recommendations about class size, ability segregation, and developmental appropriateness given by professional education organizations, from the National Association for the Education of Young Children to the American Education Research Association. These are recommendations from hundreds of research studies and countless hours of professional practice from over a century of American schooling. When acceptable professional practice is developed through these means, we don’t have to “come and see for ourselves” or “wait for the results” to make a judgment. This is why fields like education, public health, and medicine that are concerned with human welfare conduct research: so we won’t try something irresponsible like the Kindergarten Hub.
But here is Marques Stewart, Principal of Brenda Scott Academy, speaking to the Free Press on five months of the Kindergarten Hub: “Research has shown smaller [class] sizes work, but this model has pretty much in a sense, early on, has kind of proved that wrong.” This is like the chief medical officer at a hospital saying, “Research has shown that rest and plenty of fluids helps people recover from the flu, but we’ve kind of proved that wrong in five months by having patients stay up all night binge drinking.” Adults should be held accountable for their words and actions that impact the livelihood of children.
But this disaster is about more than a principal, a school on Detroit’s east side, and 100 five-year-olds in a room. This fish stinks from the head, from the governor who initiated it to his recently-resigned chancellor. The Educational Achievement Authority has been marred in controversy since its inception, and what we see happening at Brenda Scott Academy is only the most recent iteration of its failure. What will be next? Students don’t need health and physical education because they can just sprint home from school? Curriculum is no longer necessary because everything is on Wikipedia? I don’t want to find out.
Photo: Flickr/Robert S. Donovan