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March 15, 2008

It Will Happen in My Lifetime

When the Red Sox won the World Series in 2004 my husband; a native Bostonian and die hard Red Sox fan, purchased a t-shirt that read “It happened in my lifetime,” which he still wears to this day with great pride.  While it was - and still is - a very appropriate slogan for the Red Sox, I can’t help but think it also lends itself well to the pre-k-for-all cause. The fact that all the political candidates have made pre-k a part of their platforms is telling; pre-k has finally become a major bipartisan issue. Regardless of your political affiliations, one thing is for sure: big changes are in store for pre-k in the very near future.

When I first started teaching I thought I would never see pre-k for all in my lifetime, but now I’m beginning to think I may. During the last ten years, I have seen a gradual shift in the public perception of pre-k. It’s the little things like conferences being offered nationally just for pre-k teachers, or even vendors offering products and services for pre-k (yes, even curriculum!) that give me hope.

In the last ten years the number of states offering pre-k has grown dramatically, states such as Florida, Georgia, and Oklahoma now provide pre-k for all.  When I was looking for a job teaching public pre-k in 1999 my options were very limited, but as you can see from the map, things have changed.

There are those who are opposed to pre-k for all, and while I don’t have all the answers I can tell them this. The students in my classroom may be identified as “at-risk” when they arrive, but after 190 days spent in our pre-k program, they are so far ahead of their peers who didn’t attend public pre-k that the gap isn’t even a gap anymore - it’s a chasm and it can’t be bridged. Our kindergarten teachers notice a huge difference between those students who did and didn’t attend our public pre-k program. They spend all year trying to play “catch up” with those students who didn’t go to pre-k; many struggle with the higher standards of today’s kindergarten classrooms.

There was a time when kindergarten wasn’t widespread or widely accepted. I believe that pre-k will follow in the footsteps of kindergarten and will someday be accepted and offered in every state to every child. I know that one day, in the not too distant future, my husband and I will be wearing t-shirts with identical slogans, but they will hold different meanings.

Comments

While I agree with the fact that all children should be exposed to PreK..it also makes me take pause to wonder...Kindergarten was the "pre" for beginning school. Now we are pushing 3 and 4 years old to be academically ready for school. How much is going to be too much? Children are beginning to lose the ability to be children and explore.

Hi Jetta: Thank you for visiting Inside Pre-K. I don’t think anybody is advocating “pushing” 4 year olds to do anything. Simply offering pre-k to all does not equate pushing, if a parent does not feel pre-k is appropriate for his or her child then the answer is simple, they do not have to send them. Compulsory attendance begins in first grade in many states; therefore students are not technically “required” to attend pre-k or kindergarten. I can’t speak for any other classrooms, but my students have many opportunities to explore daily, everything we do is done in a very DAP way.

I agree that Kindergarten used to be the “pre” for beginning school in the 19th and 20th centuries. The face of education has changed and we are now in the 21st century, we must meet the needs of 21st century students and incorporate 21st century learning into our classrooms. Just as there have been great advances in technology in recent years there have also been advances in brain research and education. If we are to move forward we must look to the future instead of the past and start making changes now. Any adult who compares what they were taught in kindergarten vs. what students today are being taught in kindergarten will agree that education has changed drastically.

I do believe that if we are going to offer pre-k for all it needs to be administered and taught by highly qualified and degreed individuals who have been educated in Developmentally Appropriate Practices. If we simply offer pre-k for all but don’t provide the infrastructure then the results could be disastrous.

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