Hart & Risley Turned Inside Out
In Clayton Christensen's book, "Disrupting Class: How Disruptive
Innovation Will Transform Education," I have finally come to the
dreaded chapter on early childhood. In chapter six, Christensen says
flat out that America shouldn't invest in voluntary preschool because
it won't work. He then uses one of the most important studies of early
language learning, Hart and Risley's "Meaningful Differences in the
Everyday Experiences of Young American Children," to argue that pre-k
is too little too late to help kids' language development. The only
supportive evidence he sites is this study. I doubt Hart and Risley
would agree that preschool should not be funded because kids make the
most gains in language development from 0-3 years old.
"Rather than funding programs that hire people to substitute for parents who aren't succeeding at preschool talk, quite possibly we might have a greater impact if we taught children how to be parents before they become parents."
This is why Head Start has, for approximately 40 years, included parent involvement and parent literacy training in its comprehensive services offered and required of parents. In fact, our program recently received an Early Reading First grant through VCU to implement, as part of a holistic literacy program, family literacy strategies based on Hart and Risley's work. To say that children learn most from 0-3 is not the same as saying kids don't learn from 3-5. Shouldn't poor kids have the chance to catch-up even if they do start out behind?