A recent University of Virginia study has found that from 1998 to 2006 kindergarten teachers reported devoting 25% more time to teaching early literacy, increasing from 5.5 hours per week to seven hours. The paper, by Daphna Bassok, an assistant professor at the University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education, and Anna Rorem, a policy associate at the University’s Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service, analyzed changes over time in teacher expectations, curriculum and student’s time on task.

Although overall time for kindergarten has increased, with 75% of kindergarten students no attending full-day classes, as opposed to 56% in 1998, the study found that the time devoted to mathematics and other non-literacy subjects did not increase. In fact, kindergarten students spend as much time on reading and language arts as they do on mathematics, science, social studies, music and art combined. According to the study, time on science, social studies, music and art decreased by 30 minutes per topic.

The change in curriculum focus, in part, appears to be a response by teachers to federal, state and district initiatives and pressure to have all students reading at grade level by third grade. The percentage of early-education students who believe students should begin learning to read in kindergarten more than doubled between 1998 and 2006, from 31% to 65%. As a result, teachers were much more likely to teach spelling and use standardized assessments in kindergarten than in the past.

It appears that one of the effects of curriculum changes and increased standardized tests is that the traditional concept of kindergarten, as a year devoted to play time and socialization, is rapidly changing to more resemble first grade