Pre-K Can Work, writes Shepard Barbash in City Journal — but only it’s focused on disadvantaged children, uses effective teaching techniques and is held accountable for results. Unfortunately, the preschool expansion bills in Congress would fund the same, old programs that have show no lasting results.
Pre-K teachers learn that it’s not “developmentally appropriate practice” to seat children at desks; to give them worksheets; to make them work to master the alphabet, letter sounds, and math; to assess their academic skills (medical, dental, and nutrition assessments are okay); and to group them by skill level for instruction (because all children should receive equal treatment and because children learn as much from one another as they do from adults).
In the ’70s, Project Follow Through, a huge federally funded research project, examined nine preschool models. Only Direct Instruction “consistently accelerated the academic achievement of poor children,” Barbash writes. But DI violated the beliefs of early childhood educators, so the results were ignored.
The dominant preschool curricula “don’t show teachers how to teach oral language and phonological awareness the fast way,” he writes. That’s why pre-K hasn’t improved school performance in Georgia and Oklahoma, which have programs for years.