"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Before You Sign On to Universal Pre-K, Ask This Question:

How much does your city or state plan to spend?  

If parameters are in place for professionally-trained teachers, adequate resources, research based pedagogy, socioeconomic integration, and competent leadership, I am all in.  

If, however, your state is like Florida trying to do it on the cheap with half the resources needed, segregation, poorly trained teachers with scripted programs, and "entrepreneurial" bottom feeders running the programs, forget it.  What you end up with are damaged kids in chain gang holding pens learning nothing of any value, but learning that school is all about taking orders and working.

Clip from story by David Kirp in the New York Times:
....New York decided early to make pre-K available to every child, rather than just poor kids. A study of Boston’s preschools found that poor and middle-class children who attended pre-K did better on subsequent tests of literacy and math. Poor youngsters also became more socially and emotionally competent. In short, everyone benefits from pre-K.

In New York, the percentage of 4-year-olds in prekindergarten is essentially the same in every neighborhood, in part because the city made an effort to attract families across the demographic spectrum. A door-to-door campaign was mounted to persuade parents in poorer precincts, many of whom were unfamiliar with the early education the city was offering.

The make-or-break factor for prekindergarten is quality, and every study confirming its long-term benefits focuses on an exemplary initiative. What makes for quality? A full-day program, staffed by well-trained teachers, supported by experienced coaches and social workers, who know how to talk with, not at, youngsters; a teacher for every 10 or fewer children; a challenging curriculum backed by evidence; and parental involvement.

But quality costs money — $9,076 per student per year, according to a report by two groups, The Institute for Women’s Policy Research and Early Childhood Policy Research. Few states are willing to make that kind of commitment. Florida, the only state to deliver preschool on a scale and at a speed comparable to New York City, offers a cautionary lesson. In 2005, voters there made universal prekindergarten a constitutional right. But quality suffered because the state spent a meager $2,238 for each 4-year-old in 2013-14, largely by using underpaid and poorly trained teachers.

Florida isn’t the only place coming up short. During the 2013-14 school year, the 41 states that provide prekindergarten spent an average of $4,125 per child. That’s not much more, in constant dollars, than a decade earlier, and a little more than a third of the average per-student cost for kindergartners through 12th graders.

On paper, New York City’s full-day program checks the quality boxes. The teachers must have at least a bachelor’s degree. They receive in-class tutoring and help from social workers. The curriculum has been well vetted and the classrooms are well stocked. There’s a spot in a full-day class for every 4-year-old. The city is spending $10,200 for each child, about as much as Boston budgets for its public pre-K, a demonstrably effective program....

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