A parent I know whose child goes to one of our southeast Ann Arbor Public Schools says that her daughter, who is in kindergarten, gets a packet full of worksheets every week for homework. She, as a parent, finds it takes her quite a bit of time at least twice a week to work with her daughter on these worksheets.
Another friend, hearing about this, is thinking seriously about sending her daughter to Rudolf Steiner. The Rudolf Steiner school follows a Waldorf, play-based curriculum and actually does not believe in teaching young children to read, but rather believes it is important developmentally to wait. In the Waldorf world, they are more interested in developing "critical thinking and innovation, open-mindedness and compassion."
Seven years later, I noticed that there was a big difference in the kindergarten and first grade experience for my youngest son. The class was much more structured and there was much less time for open play. Unfortunately, it appears that in the years since my youngest son finished kindergarten that trend has greatly accelerated.
Where does this trend come from? Friend #2, above, says to me (completely unsolicited--I don't even think she knew I was involved with Ann Arbor STOP: Stop Overtesting Our Pupils), "is all this testing really necessary?"
And the answer, of course, is no. There is no reason to use the NWEA MAP test on kindergartners or first graders, something that we have been doing in the Ann Arbor Public Schools without a good reason for doing so, and apparently without an evaluation plan (at least, none that has been made public). Its use exacerbates a trend toward "test prep" worksheets.
There is no reason that we shouldn't be teaching reading or math, social studies or science using a play- and project-based curriculum with early elementary students. If they are going to give kindergartners homework (which, to me, is questionable in any case), can't they at least be fun projects?