Doucet and Tudge
Tharp and Gallimore (1988) argued that the lower achievement scores of many chil- dren of color could be related to the cultural dissonance between schools’ structures and home cultures. As Swick, Brown, and Boutte (1994) asserted, because teachers are not ed- ucated about African American children’s learning styles, and, more importantly, because variations in these children’s learning styles often are framed as weaknesses, Black children are less likely than their White counterparts to be considered “ready” by teachers and other assessors. However, the problems do not rest only at the level of race/ethnicity. Social class is also powerfully implicated in one’s life experiences, and research has shown that working- class and poor children experience cultural dissonance in mainstream classrooms (Boutte & DeFlorimonte, 1998; Heath, 1983; Lareau, 1987, 2000). In Bronfenbrenner’s (1979) terms, this is a classic case of a mesosystem mismatch. Of course, White middle-class chil- dren’s experiences do not precisely mirror those they have in school; the only time children at home engage in the particular instructional style so commonly found in school is when they are “playing school,” and having “show-and-tell” sessions rarely, if ever. Instead, the cul- tural expectations of home and school are such that children from the same cultural group as the teacher are likely to have a far easier time making the adjustment to school than when those expectations are out of alignment (Scrimsher & Tudge, 2003). Moreover, intersections among race/ethnicity and class further complicate relationships between teachers and their students (Graue, 1999; Graue, Kroeger, & Prager, 2001; Heath, 1983; Lareau, 1989; Lareau & Horvat, 1999; Rimm-Kaufman & Pianta, 2000; Serpell, Baker, & Sonnenschein, 2005).
Hitz and Ritcher (1993) outlined the two major perspectives on school readiness: the educational and the legal. Theoretically, from the educational standpoint, readiness has to do with how prepared children are to perform tasks such as reciting the alphabet, couning, and writing their names. The legal aspect of readiness, on the other hand, has to do with every state’s duty to provide all children with equal access to educational services regardless of their backgrounds or abilities. As the researchers pointed out, however, this compar mentalization is actually a false dichotomy. Legal requirements to have all children in school by a certain age are confused with educational readiness, and school systems, re- searchers, and policy makers work to create measures to assess exactly when children are intellectually ready to begin learning school material (Lewit & Baker, 1995). As the age for school entry, which varies by state, increases, kindergarten curricula become more de- manding, and even when the age stays the same, middle- class and affluent mothers retain their children for an extra year in hopes of giving them a developmental advantage over their younger classmates who are judged to be less ready or less prepared (Graue, 1992, 1993a, 1993b; Shepard, 1997). As Morrison’s work has shown, however, holding children back does not ensure they will learn better or be in less danger of academic risk (Morrison, Griffith, & Alberts, 1997).
For all of the attention that has been given to children’s readiness for school, it is striking how little has been made of the necessity for schools and teachers to be ready for children (Carlton & Winsler, 1999; Graue, 1992; Hitz & Richter, 1993). Rather than putting the onus on children’s readiness to learn, President George H.W. Bush’s declara- tion might have read, “By the year 2000, all schools will be ready to learn about the children who populate their classrooms and the families that raise those children.” In fact, few researchers have written about the National Education Goals Panel’s (NEGP) recommendations for “ready schools” (for notable exceptions, see Murphey & Burns, 2002; Pianta, Rimm-Kaufman, & Cox, 1999). In 1998, the NEGP assembled a group