02 03 Notes from the School Psychologist: Welcome to Developmentally Inappropriate University! 04 05 15 16 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 31 32 33

Welcome to Developmentally Inappropriate University!


In my other life, when I am not wrestling with issues in urban education, I also work in private practice at a number of private schools. As I’ve said before, every day is a compare/contrast essay in my head. Each day is a new chapter, with new “Wait, what???” moments.

I thought I had heard it all, until I came across a family of a 3-year-old girl, who told me she was a Sophomore.

Me: Wait, what???
Family: Our child is a sophomore at Pre-College.*
Me: Is that a Pre-school?
Family: Yes, she is in her second year there, so she is a sophomore.
Me: (writing down, trying not to judge) Okay then, your 3-year-old is getting ready for her Junior year of Pre-College, got it.

Really? Have we gotten to the point where we are now preparing our 3-year-olds for college already? What’s her major, Fingerpaint Arts? Will she have a minor in Theories of Dollies? I can’t help but wonder if this “College Starts in Utero!” phenomenon is damaging our kids. I see it frequently in the kids I test who are *gasp* average and their schools are pushing inappropriately difficult curriculum on them, so they appear to be failures.

California is notorious for their “Standards Based Curriculum” being shoved into every classroom, and I have to say it can be disheartening for kids to not “meet the standard,” even when the standard is too high for their normal brain development. In California, we like to raise the bar of expectations, and then not give the kids any tools to reach it. Jump, kid! Jump higher than your gross-motor skills allow! Thanks, No Child Left Behind!

Excuse me, while I get down from my soapbox again. Right. So what can we as educators and parents do about it? What do we do when an average kid is doing average and meant to feel “behind”? As a school psychologist, I normalize wanting the best for the student. I share what developmental milestones are typical for that age group, and assuage fears of being behind. I use curriculum-based and standardized testing data to show that 50th percentile is not the same as 50%. If your child scores at the 50th percentile, s/he did better than half of the students who took the test, and that is average. And average is okay. I just hope Pre-College understands that, so my little one doesn’t become a drop-out at age 4.

*Almost the exact name. I don’t like to mock people outright, so I changed it slightly. Still the same “Wait, what???” reaction would come from the real name, I promise.

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