On the Frontlines: Discovering Kindergarten Teachers' Perspectives on Play and Increased Academics in Modern Title I Kindergarten Classrooms



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Academic instruction has increased in kindergarten classrooms while play, a developmentally appropriate practice (DAP) has seen a steady decline. The increase in academics hinges on the implementation of policies such as the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), which promotes accountability for student learning through testing and data tracking measures. While kindergarten is not specifically mentioned in NCLB as a mandated grade, the curricular impact of the accountability reform has left a resounding mark in early childhood education. This study discovered the perspectives of kindergarten teachers regarding the impact increased academics have had on the use of play within modern kindergarten classrooms at Title I schools. Additional inquiries discovered how increased academics have impacted the usage of other DAPs and identified the roadblocks teachers have faced when implementing play in the classroom. The study followed a basic qualitative research design with 12 participants recruited from Houston area title I schools using purposive sampling and social networking. Focus group interviews and individual interviews were the primary source of data collection for the study. Braun and Clark’s six-step framework of thematic analysis was used to discover codes and themes derived from interview transcript data. Five major themes were interpreted from the data: (1) play is an essential component of kindergarten, (2) high academic expectations take the focus away from supporting students in other areas, (3) most of the kindergarten day is academic, (4) centers are synonymous with play, and (5) administration is not supportive of play. The study reveals a chasm between kindergarten teachers and administrators concerning the importance of play, its implementation in classrooms, and academic expectations. Therefore, it is recommended that educational stakeholders at all levels revisit the foundational purposes of kindergarten, and the benefits of play when creating curriculums to not only support kindergarten teachers in play implementation, but also the development of the whole child.



Kindergarten, Play, Title I, Academics