As part of Superintendent Cindy Marten’s mission to close the achievement gap by the end of first grade, she wants to double down on programs for preschool-aged children.
It’s a gutsy goal, swaddled in good will, but the proposal hinges on two important beliefs: that a gap exists by first grade, and that programs like preschool could help close it — two notions critics don’t accept at face value.
While Marten hasn’t broadcast her ultimate goal — she wants every child in San Diego to have access to free preschool — she hasn’t made it a secret, either.
But if Marten wants to persuade San Diego that expanded preschool is a sound investment, she must first make the case that it’s even feasible — no easy feat in a district facing a $75 million deficit.
Marten and the school board haven’t yet hung a price tag on their proposed strategies for closing the achievement gap — expanded early-childhood education programs, extra help for long-term English learners and interventions to keep high school students on track to graduate.
We Stand Up for You. Will You Stand Up for Us?
Another issue is socialization. When children have had a good pre-school experience or a home experience that includes lots of interaction with children of their own age, their maturity/confidence level allows them to be open to the kindergarten environment. The kindergarten environment today requires that children be able to listen for lengthy periods of time and absorb quickly the information elicited by the teacher(s). To observe the difference all anyone needs to do is observe what happens on the first day of Kindergarten. Children that are ready confidently wave mommy and daddy good-bye. While those that have not been socialized cling to mommy or daddy and are fearful of their experience. Often,these same children don't begin to socialize until mid-year. By that time, those that have not socialized have lost as much as half a year in essential academics and enter 1st grade not ready academically. And, this follows them throughout their primary school experience, unless they receive an intensive tutoring program to catch up.
The question is not for universal pre-k, but mandatory Kindergarten. And, then universal pre-k. There are parents that still don't know that a child needs to read, write, add, and subtract by the end of Kindergarten. And, now, the Common Core will demand even more and higher level instruction in Kindergarten. What has been happening over the last 40 years is that most of the education, before the onset of formal school begins, has not been taken up by "the home", whatever that may be. So, education has been the purview of hired educators to push children ahead. And that is not a very easy job when many parents remain clueless about the process. The added "wild card" are the second language learners. It is very, very difficult to get second language learners to produce "at grade level" without sufficient phonemic awareness IN ANY LANGUAGE. Second language learners are very intelligent, but must be brought "along" on a different matrix than children whose primary language is English; that just basic.
And when it turns out that some kids are better prepared for pre-school than others, what will we do?
The problem solution lies in a new and vigorous emphasis on the responsibility of parents in the early education of their children, of their responsibility to make sure the children are fluent in the primary language of their country before they enter school, of the responsibility of parents to make sure their kids are warm, well fed, well clothed. And maybe we should remind parents not to bring kids into the world and expect somebody else to provide for them.
Maybe the answer is that people don't have kids unless they know how to and are willing to take care of them.
Get out your pens and call me racist or whatever names you want. But anybody who thinks that there are not people who should never have children have their rose colored glasses on.
@David Molnar Interesting point, David. What do you think should be done to ensure that parents don't have kids until they know how to take care of them?
I am a child development teacher. The most conclusive research about education shows that the level attained by parents greatly impacts how the child performs. I believe that the most efficient use of funding would be to ensure that all parents who seek higher education have access to quality child care that enables them to move forward with their own education. Requiring child development be taught in high school, to the future parents and care takers of young children, would also have more impact than universal preschool. The excessive micromanagement and bureaucracy that has infiltrated the child development field over the course of the ten years I have been a part of the profession is only likely to become a greater issue in a system with universal preschool. What does it matter if we improve the education of young children if only to send them into a broken elementary/high school system? My own son, who went to 2 years of preschool, private elementary, and then to public high school where he was a B+ student and took AP courses (passing 2/3 AP exams), could not pass the math assessment at a UC and had to repeat 2 levels of math, adding thousands to his loans. He tested above national average in math in private junior high, only to lose ground at public high school. Fix the failures in the system we already have now, before we create new ones.
@Leah Placido Dutra That's such an interesting observation. I wonder how it is that in the past so many children of parents with little or no education managed to get college degrees. My own father, first generation American, 2nd grade education, my mother, first generation American, 8th grade education raised four kids that between them got one PhD, two Masters degrees, and four Bachelor of Science degrees.
We had no preschool, no affirmative action, no special English language learner programs....funny, isn't it?
@David Molnar @Leah Placido DutraIt is not an observation, it is research data. Educated parents have better performing kids. You had great parents, obviously. Some of us are stuck with heroin addicts and drunks. I am now working on my masters, but I am well aware I am a statistical anomaly. If you look at the numbers, half of college students are first generation, but less than 30% graduate in 5 years, much less than kids whose parents went to college. Helping young parents get educated improves the chances their kids will graduate from college. I think it is money better spent than on preschool for all. It is one of the rare instances I believe in government subsidies, because it requires personal responsibility and hard work to access it and it will impact numerous generations.