Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Preschool school: is it the right thing?

I have preschool kids in my family, and I’m going to read this book:
Erika Christakis, The Importance of Being Little: What Preschoolers Really Need From Grownups, to be published in a few weeks.

Obviously I’m not reviewing the book here, but sample some quotes from the author’s recent piece in The Atlantic, “The New Preschool Is Crushing Kids.”

“The academic takeover of American early learning can be understood as a shift from what I would call an ‘ideas-based curriculum’ to a ‘naming-and-labeling-based curriculum.’ Not coincidentally, the latter can be delivered without substantially improving our teaching force. Inexperienced or poorly supported teachers are directed to rely heavily on scripted lesson plans for a reason: We can point to a defined objective, and tell ourselves that at least kids are getting something this way.

“…One major study of 700 preschool classrooms in 11 states found that only 15 percent showed evidence of effective interactions between teacher and child…We neglect vital teacher-child interactions at our peril. Although the infusion of academics into preschool has been justified as a way to close the achievement gap between poor and well-off children, Robert Pianta, one of the country’s leading child-policy experts, cautions that there is “no evidence whatsoever” that our early-learning system is suited to that task. He estimates that the average preschool program ‘narrows the achievement gap by perhaps only 5 percent’…

“…Contrasting the dismal results of Tennessee’s preschool system with the more promising results in places such as Boston, which promotes active, child-centered learning (and, spends more than twice the national average on preschool), lends further credence to the idea that preschool quality really does matter.

“…when I’ve visited Finland, I’ve found it impossible to remain unmoved by the example of preschools where the learning environment is assessed, rather than the children in it. Having rejected many of the pseudo-academic benchmarks that can, and do, fit on a scorecard, preschool teachers in Finland are free to focus on what’s really essential: their relationship with the growing child.

“Here’s what the Finns, who don’t begin formal reading instruction until around age 7, have to say about preparing preschoolers to read: ‘The basis for the beginnings of literacy is that children have heard and listened … They have spoken and been spoken to, people have discussed [things] with them … They have asked questions and received answers.’ “

I talk to my grandchildren. A lot. They talk to me. We like to tell stories.

It’s good for me, and I’m pretty sure it’s good for them.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.

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