Pre-school push-outs

According to Yale study, pre-schoolers are more likely to be “expelled” than older children. You might think that shows some little kids aren’t ready for a group environment. But no. It’s Bush’s fault! Well, it’s the rising academic standards pushed by No Child Left Behind, suggests a New York Times story.

On Gadfly, Chester Finn defends teaching cognitive skills to pre-schoolers. In fact, he suggests emulating France. Middle-class children typically start kindergarten knowing their colors and the difference between “big” and little” and “mine and “yours,” he writes. Children who haven’t learned these things at home need to learn them at pre-school.

. . . lots of other countries (e.g., France) have had structured, cognitive pre-school programs for decades. . . And such programs have done much to reduce their achievement gaps.

The United States is sorely overdue for such a focus in all its pre-school programs. But that doesn’t mean you should picture tiny tots sitting in big school desks with dictionaries in front of them. Anyone who has witnessed a well put together pre-school knows that cognitive skills can usually be imparted with very little pain via activities that are also fun—not to mention nurturing.

I’ve been impressed by the results of the Abcedarian experiment, which greatly improved the school and life success of low-income, black children placed in an educational child care center that stressed developing language skills.

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  1. The first step to “cognitive pre-school” (what a strange name for teaching!) is to assume that school is for teaching. I fear that many of the people behind and involved in pre-school in America are strong holders of the ALL-school-as-day-care model; they’re the kind of people who object to cognitive school, let alone cognitive pre-school

  2. From the article:

    The crisis was most severe in private or faith-based programs without a school psychologist or social worker on hand to help troubled kids, Gilliam found.

    From the report:

    When teachers reported having access to a mental health consultant that was able to provide classroom-based strategies for dealing with challenging student behaviors, the likelihood of expulsion was lower.

    Sounds like someone has an agenda. Especially when you contrast this particular assumption with the variability of expulsion rates in public schools across states: 0 in Kentucky to 21.1 per 1,000 in New Mexico. Is there a chart that compares expulsion rate to the availability of mental health consultants across states? No.

    If the data suggests a connection between expulsion rates and the availability of mental health professionals it seems like a bit of an oversight not to have a table that clarifies the relationship.