Chairman Cleo Fields of the Louisiana Senate Education Committee has pre-filed Senate Bill 10 to be debated in this year’s upcoming legislative session designed to give all children in Louisiana a head start in life. The bill mandates that all kids must attend kindergarten and demonstrate before moving on to first grade that they have achieved certain benchmarks in kindergarten. Discipline, high standards; elements of the education process sorely missing in traditional public schools.
We have known for a very long time that vast numbers of Louisiana’s children struggle in their academic career because they were simply just not prepared in their early years. Perhaps a major reason for their lack of preparation is that so many come from homes in which the adults are un- or under-educated themselves and the kids do not receive what they need from their home in order to be ready for kindergarten.
Unsurprisingly, this lack of readiness for kindergarten may be problematic to the Chairman’s plan as after a year of kindergarten so many will not likely be able to demonstrate their ability to move on to first grade. Parents will not be happy if their children are held back, but the reality is for the sake of some of the children they must be. Even though this number may initially be overwhelming, if we are firm and do not surrender to political pressure, I would expect over time to see it slowly decline.
For once, we will actually be able to evaluate under-prepared kids and we will be able to stop the unprepared from being “socially promoted” onto an academic path that may be impossible for them. As they will have to repeat kindergarten, we will be able to give these children the extra attention needed to be ready for first grade. All-in-all, the chance of success for those who in years gone by had no such chance should go up dramatically.
I know, many in the state will look at this as an unwelcome intrusion. But to me, it is that desperately needed addition of discipline and higher standards. The folly of the past has been that we knew that because of ill preparation so many would fail, yet we just ignored that inconvenient truth and forced them into a system in which they could never succeed.
If this plan is implemented, I am sure there will be the usual pressure from unhappy parents and the Education Establishment to ignore failure and pass on those not ready. Surrender to that pressure assures continued generational failure. If we sincerely want to see children achieve high performance, we must abandon what we have been doing and address Early Childhood Education issues head on.
This seems like a great way to start.