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November 02, 2008

"Pre-k for all?!"

Jay Mathews of the Washington Post, is looking for opinions from readers as to whether “the pre-k for all movement is going too far.”  This was recently posted in the Extra Credit Section of the Washington Post in which the topic was “Questioning the benefits of Preschool for the Middle Class."  As pre-k teacher, I am sure you can guess my obvious bias.  However, it is interesting to take a step back and look at this issue with the eyes of a tax paying, law-abiding citizen of the middle class. 


I recently had a political discussion with a few of my good friends from my home town.  It is eye opening to hear that so much of what they support and believe in is based on how they were raised and what job they currently hold.  Some them feel like big government is too involved in our lives  going against what they see as the tennants of democracy.  Others feel that elected officials, through the allocation of our tax dollars, have a social obligation to make life, liberty, and the persuit of happiness a possibility for all of us. 


In this discussion, I mentioned the importance of my job.  While early childhood education is not required in Minnesota, our existing state programs by in large, are successful.  I have not yet - at least in my short 5 years of teaching - seen a negative side effect when it comes down to pre-kindergarten outcomes.  Any lack of retention or increase in behavioral problems that might occur in the K-12 years is largely related to the instruction, accountability and support students receive as they continue on in their academic lives. 


But is the movement going too far?  In my mind, it depends on how you define “pre-k for all.”  I firmly believe that every child between the ages of 3 and 5 should have the opportunity to participate in a program that prepares them for a lifetime of learning . Pre-k does that while reinforcing values and compassion for their neighbor.  


There are many ways to provide pre-k opportunities to children and their families, but they need to be supported,  funded, and publicized.  Even families who are lucky enough to have a stay-at-home parent should have the opportunity to introduce their young child to socialization, self regulation skills and pre-literacy skills with the support of a licensed professional.


Why Pre-k for all? Well, pre-k now puts it best in their resource document that goes by the same name. 

Nearly 50 percent of all kindergarten teachers report that at least half of their students come to school with problems that hinder their success. These problems include difficulty following directions, struggles with academic skills, and an inability to work independently. Children like these, who arrive unprepared for kindergarten, tax the resources of the entire system.

Many middle-income children are starting school without the social and academic skills they need for success. The readiness gap between middle- and upper-income children is greater than the gap between middle-income and lower-income children. Forty-nine percent of the children who don’t recognize the letters of the alphabet when they enter kindergarten are middle income or higher. Twelve percent of middle-income children repeat a grade and 11 percent drop out of high school. Pre-k offers an opportunity for all children, regardless of socioeconomic status, to start school armed with the skills necessary for future success.


In closing, I’ve got a question to shoot back at Mr. Matthews. Given all the pre-k research, the proven social/emotional and educational benefits, and of course the guaranteed return on investment and then some that pre-k provides, is the government doing enough to provide high quality pre-k to the families that want it?


Hi Sue,
Thanks for leaving your comment.

I use firefox and it worked fine on my pc.
Maybe this is a Firefox-Mac issue?

I think it requires java installed. Have you updated firefox or your java engine recently?

Has anyone else had trouble with the applet?

The comments to this entry are closed.


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