School-based pre-K doesn’t work

School-based pre-K doesn’t improve the lives of disadvantaged children in a “significant, sustained” way, write researchers Katharine B. Stevens and Elizabeth English on the American Enterprise Institute blog.

Some early childhood programs do make a lasting difference, they write. “Intensive, carefully designed, well-implemented programs” such as Abecedar­ian, Nurse-Family Partnership and the Perry Preschool Project, “target very young children, engage parents, and teach a broad range of skills.”


Without literate teachers, pre-K will flop

Highly literate pre-K teachers can help disadvantaged kids develop vocabulary and pre-reading skills, writes Connor Williams on The 74. But many preschool teachers aren’t well educated. How will we hire and train early educators who can close language gaps?

“We know the child’s word-gap risk increases his/her lifelong academic, social and income disparities,” e-mailed Elizabeth A. Gilbert, Director of the University of Massachusetts’ Learn at Work Early Childhood Educator Program. “The low-literacy early childhood educator’s word gap is one of the results of such disparity.”

It’s not enough to be great with kids, or have loads of charisma. Early educators need to build emotional connections with children, yes, and that can help students develop social skills and perseverance. But they also need to help students develop linguistically.

Preschool teachers are paid more like babysitters than teachers. If that doesn’t change, it will be impossible to hire highly literate pre-k teachers. It’s very clear that low-quality preschool and pre-K doesn’t improve children’s odds of success in school.


Early childhood ed: Can we all play nicely?

To get beyond the education wars, reformers should focus on early childhood education, advises New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof.

He thinks the reform movement has “peaked,” leaving “bruised” zillionaires and “dispirited” idealists. “K-12 education is an exhausted, bloodsoaked battlefield,” Kristof writes. “It’s Agincourt, the day after.”

It’s possible to break the poverty cycle with high-quality preschool, reading and home visiting programs and coaching parents to stimulate their children, Kristof argues.

Furthermore, early education isn’t “politically polarized.”

New York City liberals have embraced preschool, but so have Oklahoma conservatives. . . . Republicans and Democrats just approved new funding for home visitation for low-income toddlers.

Can we all play together nicely?

I don’t think early education is a no-brainer. If everyone’s for “high-quality” preschool, that does that mean expensive, intensive, language-developing, parent-coaching programs for very disadvantaged kids? Or adult-supervised play time for everyone? “Universal” preschool is popular with voters, but it sucks up the money needed to fund the kind of programs that might make a lasting difference.

Reformers don’t feel stalemated, writes Alexander Russo. They’re taking a few hits, adapting and moving forward.

He’s also dubious about an early childhood consensus. “Previous Obama-led efforts to increase federal spending on ECE have fallen flat, and the merest hint that ECE is a strong issue for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign means that it won’t pass unchallenged by the Bush and Rubio campaigns.”

Teaching preschool doesn’t pay

Child-care workers earn about $10 an hour, according to a new Berkeley report, “Worthy Work, Still Unlivable Wages. That’s more than fast-food cooks but less than animal caretakers. Preschool teachers earn 40 percent less than kindergarten teachers.

Pay preschool teachers like they matter, argues Laura Bornfreund in  The Atlantic. Early-childhood educators can make a big difference, research shows.

 The adults working in early-childhood programs set the foundation for future learning, developing essential knowledge in their young students as well as the skills, habits, and mindsets children need to succeed later in school and flourish in life. And the quality of interactions between teachers and children is especially important when it comes to sustaining the gains children make in pre-k programs.

 It will be hard to hire and retain smart, skilled preschool teachers if they’re paid like babysitters. 

Are We Crazy About Our Kids?

Are We Crazy About Our Kids? is part of a documentary advocating early childhood education from The Raising of America.

Major decisions: What graduates earn

College pays a lot more to the numerate than to the nice. Graduates in engineering, computer science and other quantitative fields will earn a lot more than people who major in early childhood education, family sciences (home economics), theology, fine arts, social work, and elementary education. Over a working lifetime, a chemical engineer can expect to earn more than $2 million. The average graduate with a four-year degree in early childhood education can expect $800,000.

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.