College math for early childhood ed majors

Early Childhood Education Majors Can’t Do 3rd Grade Math, complains Captain Capitalism, who prints a math test from a “collegiate agent in the field.”

Most of this would have been fifth-grade math in my day.  I don’t think I could solve question 13 till eighth grade.

How much math does a preschool teacher need to know?

Needed: More ideologues, less kumbaya

“Can’t we all just get along?” asked Rodney King. No, answers Matt Barnum on Dropout Nation. School reformers and traditionalists have different ideas on “what’s best for kids.”  Ideas matter.

A Teach for America alum, he criticizes TFA President Wendy Kopp for writing, “We have to stop thinking of ourselves as locked in an ideological battle and focus on doing everything in our power to give students today the education they deserve.”

. . . Kopp seems to create a dichotomy between ideologues –those “locked in an ideological battle” – on the one hand, and those who want to do what’s best for kids, on the other. In actuality, ideologues not only want what’s best for kids, they actually have ideas – some good, some bad – for how to achieve results. Reformers emphasize school choice, parental empowerment, and teacher quality; traditionalists focus on class size, early-childhood education, and wrap-around services.

It seems to me that part of the problem in education is not too many, but rather, too few ideologues.

Traditionalist Diane Ravitch and union leader Karen Lewis have engaged in increasingly vicious attacks, writes Barnum. Reformers have employed “harmful and distasteful rhetoric.”  He favors “discussing ideas over demeaning people.”

At times, compromise may be necessary Barnum concedes. But not always. An “uncompromising, ideological vision of change to our education system may, in fact, be what’s best for kids.”

Mother-child language researcher dies

Betty Hart, whose research showed the importance of mother-child communication in the early years, has died at 85 in Tucson, reports the New York Times.

“Rather than concede to the unmalleable forces of heredity, we decided that we would undertake research that would allow us to understand the disparate developmental trajectories we saw,” she and her former graduate supervisor, Todd R. Risley, wrote in 1995 in “Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experience of Young American Children,” a book about their findings, which were reported in 1992.

. . . “Simply in words heard, the average child on welfare was having half as much experience per hour (616 words per hour) as the average working-class child (1,251 words per hour) and less than one-third that of the average child in a professional family (2,153 words per hour),” Drs. Hart and Risley wrote.

“By age 4, the average child in a welfare family might have 13 million fewer words of cumulative experience than the average child in a working-class family,” they added.

Educated mothers were much more likely to use an encouraging, warm tone with young children,  while welfare mothers were more likely to reprimand their children.

The Hart-Risley research has been very influential, yet I think we could do more to help poorly educated mothers improve their parenting styles. Early childhood education funding should be focused on very disadvantaged children who need social and emotional support and exposure to language.

Start kids at 3 and abolish 12th grade

Children should start school at 3 but skip 12th grade, writes Linus D. Wright, who served as undersecretary of Education in the Reagan administration, in The Chronicle of Higher Education.

The Center on the Developing Child, at Harvard University, found that in the first few years of life, 700 neuron connections are formed every second. If children do not receive sufficient nurturing, nutrition, interaction, and stimulation during this period of remarkable growth, they may have deficiencies that will affect the rest of their lives.

“A fully financed mandatory early-childhood-education program would do more to change the culture and academic outcomes of students than any other area of reform,” Wright argues.

Step two of the formula for improving education at every level in the United States is to eliminate the 12th grade. It is the least productive and most expensive of all grades, and the money saved by getting rid of it would pay for early-childhood programs, which are the most productive and least expensive.

Most students are taking electives in 12th grade, he writes. They’re focused on their part-time jobs. Move ‘em out and use the savings for the little kids.

High-quality preschool pays off

The Chicago Public Schools’ federally funded Child-Parent Centers, started in 1967, provide high-quality preschool and after-school programs for disadvantaged children in early elementary school. The program generates $4 to $11 of benefits for every dollar it costs, concludes the National Institutes of Health.

CPC facilities, located in or near elementary schools in poor Chicago neighborhoods, are staffed by certified teachers and offer instruction in reading and math, small group activities and educational field trips for children ages 3 through 9. The centers also provide meals and health screening. Center staff offer support services such as parenting or job skills training to parents and encourage them to volunteer in the classroom and to help supervise student field trips.

The researchers analyzed education, employment, criminal justice and child welfare records for the participants through to age 26. A previous analysis found that children who had been enrolled in the centers were more likely to go to college,work full time and have health insurance and less likely to go to prison or suffer from depression.

However, the study did not assign children randomly, so it’s possible the CPC children had more motivated parents.  The non-CPC children went to another program or did not attend preschool.

“These findings suggest that high-quality education programs focused on preschool through the elementary grades may produce long term benefits not only for the children enrolled, but for society as well,” said Alan E. Guttmacher, director of the . . .  NIH institute that funded the study. “The findings also provide evidence that combining early education with job skills training and other instruction for parents also may increase benefits for children.”

Ninety-three percent of the children in the study were African-American and 7 percent were Hispanic.

Researchers estimated the value of increased lifetime earnings, taxes paid on these earnings and savings on schooling (fewer children repeating a grade), health care, depression treatment, child welfare services and criminal-justice costs.

Lifetime benefits were greater for children who started CPC in preschool compared to those who started in elementary school.  Greater benefits also were found for certain subsets, such as boys, children living in higher-poverty areas and those in high-risk homes.

Compared to Head Start, which doesn’t produce lasting benefits for children, the CPCs are much more intensive and long-term and provide more parental support. The average preschool isn’t a game changer for very disadvantaged children. They need more.

Via Shanker Blog.

'Kindergarten ready' kids

Getting children “kindergarten ready” is just as important as college and career readiness, argues Elanna Yalow in Education Week. She wants “common standards for early-childhood learning” that “both capitalize on the unique abilities and interests of all children and create a clear path to helping them develop the skills they will need in school and beyond.”

Much of the development that influences achievement throughout life occurs before children even set foot in school, and kindergarten teachers will tell you that they are not molding fresh pieces of clay. Not only do we need to create consistency across state lines for early learning, but we also need to expand content areas beyond language arts and mathematics, the focus of the Common Core State Standards Initiative, to include social and emotional competencies that are the foundations of learning itself.

It’s critical that children arrive at kindergarten with the cognitive, emotional, and social skills needed to succeed. We know that children who start behind tend to stay behind.

Children develop at very different rates. Is it possible to create a common standard for all five-year-olds?