Peg Tyre's book does a wonderful job exposing the ways in which reduced recess time, early literacy expectations, writing-intensive activities, the decline in penmanship instruction, excessive homework, zero tolerance for aggressive play, and lack of male role models have contributed to a marked decline in how well boys do in school.
Elementary school is a conveyor belt. It moves kids from the magical world of childhood toward a more complex universe where reading and writing, concrete reasoning, abstract thought, and time-management skills are the currency of the land. In the last ten years, that conveyor belt has been speeded up. Our children are being pushed to reach the milestones of literacy and arithmetic earlier and earlier.
If you doubt this is true, talk to any veteran kindergarten, first-grade, second-grade, or third-grade teacher. Fifteen years ago, kindergarten was a place or social and emotional development. Reading was reserved for first grade. First-graders were expected to learn their letters and slowly, over the year, master letter sounds, begin to recognize some words on sight, and read short sentences. Second grade was given over to developing math concepts and reading fluency. These days, in many schools principals urge parents to be sure that their incoming kindergartners already know the letters--uppercase and lowercase--and to make sure they have the corresponding letter sounds solidly under their Hello Kitty or Power Ranger belts. Many parents are warned that in order to stay at grade level, kindergartners should be able to read on their own by the end of the year. Today, first-graders are routinely pushed through a curriculum that fifteen years ago was considered standard for second or sometimes third grade.
A teacher who bucks current trends because she is "determined to prevent filling out worksheets and quiet desk work from taking away from active play and hands-on learning."