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Making the Body Ready for School: ADHD and Early Schooling in the Era of Accountability

by Kyunghwa Lee

Background: Although concerns about unintended negative consequences of standards-based accountability (SBA) reform for children’s socioemotional development have been raised, few studies have systematically examined early childhood teachers’ perceptions of and practices for children’s behavior and bodies under such policy. This study was conducted against the backdrop of the intersection of the accountability policy and the increasing prevalence of Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) among children, including preschoolers.

Purpose: The study investigated how early childhood teachers’ perspectives of and practices for the behavior and bodies of children considered at risk of being identified with ADHD later in schooling were related to the increasing concern over school readiness under SBA reform.

Research Design: Data for a qualitative case study were generated through multiple methods, including video-recorded observations in two African-American children’s pre-kindergarten and kindergarten classrooms, interviews with their teachers, and artifact collection.

Results:The focal children’s teachers appropriated the authoritative discourses of ADHD and readiness for school to perceive the children’s bodies as uncontrollable and unready for school. The teachers taught the children a variety of bodily techniques to enculturate them in public school and to develop docile student bodies. Keeping their authoritative practices intact, the teachers hardly incorporated the children’s areas of strengths into the curriculum and instruction. School was introduced to the children as a carnivalesqueless place, and both SBA reform and ADHD contributed to disembodiment in the public early childhood education settings.

Conclusions: This study suggests the need for reframing the notion of school readiness; bringing teachers’ folk theories about children’s behavior and bodies to their critical awareness; and intentionally balancing serious, rigid parts of the daily classroom routine with relaxed, pleasurable moments.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 119 Number 9, 2017, p. 1-38 ID Number: 22037, Date Accessed: 11/17/2018 2:35:25 PM

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