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The Making of a Pupil: Changing Children Into School Children

Anderson, Scarvia B.
Publication Year:
Report Number:
ETS Research Memorandum
Document Type:
Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
Cognitive Development, Early Childhood Education, Elementary School Students, Readiness, Reading Readiness, Social Behavior, Teacher Attitudes


This speech presents a brief history and discussion of elementary education and the arbitrariness of six years as the age at which a child is ready to learn to read. The speaker urges "reappraisal and change" of the system. A study of the meanings that teachers attach to the term "school readiness" and the expectations they have for first graders is also discussed. Statements from a national sample of 250 first grade teachers about 7,000 pupils' readiness for school were classified into 10 categories, 5 intellectual and 5 non- intellectual. It is noted that "good social adjustment and poor cognitive development were less often cited as evidence of readiness or unreadiness than their converses." The judgments of the teachers about what being ready for first grade meant were supplemented by the deliberations of a committee of child development experts, who covered about the same territory as the first grade teachers, but who were unwilling to ascribe anything but equal weights to the major developmental categories that they thought should be assessed: sensory/motor, cognitive /intellectual, and social/personal. A third group of experts considered what the objectives of preschool education are. In the main there was overlap about readiness for school among these three groups, "but there were also a few differences and some contradictions" which are noted. Three recommendations about early education are given: 1) give fresh consideration to "the role that early education can play in the intellectual, aesthetic, personal, social and physical development of the child"; 2) with this new or revised definition of early education--its obligations, values, and relationships to other institutions and educational levels--make appropriate decisions about when children will get started; and 3) implement the changes based on 1) and 2), possibly using individualized instruction, ungradedness, team teaching and elementary school guidance. Ways that tests and measurement people can help to implement these recommendations are also enumerated.

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