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December 08, 2008

20/20 Wants to Know What You Think about Pre-k

The ABC news organization, 20/20 has announced they are planning to do a story on parents' experiences with pre-k. They are looking for viewers like you to submit their stories. It's so important that the American public see the value of pre-k so please take a moment to submit a story.
Here is the story I will submit.

Every year, I seem to have a student who has the capacity to become something great. This key child also has, if I allow him or her to fail, the power to bring the achievement of my entire class crashing down around us. One of these students was Isaac. Isaac was a feisty and intelligent 5 year old boy with a smile that could make flowers grow. When he came to school at age 3, he had never been in a structured environment before. He started off well, but after winter break, each morning for three weeks, he refused to get off of the school bus. He hit, kicked, and cursed at adults who tried to move him, at one point telling me, “I hate this &#@$! school!” Isaac had enormous potential as a student, but it would take the patience of a mountain to make him see it. Slowly, over two years as my student, Isaac has seen what I saw in him. Isaac’s mother said, “Your dedication has turned a potentially traumatic time into a smooth and fun-filled transition for me as well as my son.” I am glad she thought it was smooth, but it wasn't. She may have forgotten crying on my shoulder with frustration about his behavior at school. She may have forgotten when I visited his apartment in Gilpin Court - a turning point for Isaac. He told all his friends, “Mr. H. came to my house!”

Now Isaac has no limits. He passed his Phonemic Awareness Literacy Screening, recognizing all of the upper-case, lower-case, and letter sounds. He scored above his peers on his High Scope Child Observation Record. He can solve problems, like when he helped Rasheed and Teshawna share crayons so that they both had more colors. He is great at conflict resolution, even when he is the cause. And, he loves to learn. When Isaac left my classroom he could read unfamiliar three letter words, create a growing pattern, count as high as he needed, do simple addition and subtraction, and ask questions about why things happen in the world.


This is just one story. It could have been a different story if I hadn't been his teacher. It could also have been different if Isaac's family had shut me out of their lives, if I didn't have the ability to gain Isaac's trust, or if I didn't respect Isaac for who he was and really "see" and value him. I bring up this story because this is just the kind of story that ABC News is looking for about public pre-K. It seems that the investigative news organization 20/20 wants to learn about parent's experiences with pre-k.

    Was your child's experience in public Pre-K good or bad? Was your public school prepared to handle the wants and needs of 4-year-olds? Do you think the government should also pay for younger children as well?

    ABC News wants to talk to parents whose children are in, or have been in, government-funded Pre-K.

    If you were unhappy or happy with your child's experience in public Pre-K we want to hear from you. Please fill out the form below and a producer may contact you.

This will be a timely story for America. When Barack Obama was campaigning he said early childhood education would be a major issue for his education platform. This was a smart move on Obama's part since early childhood is one of the issues that conservatives and liberals can agree on. According to a Pre-K Now survey of 802 registered voters, 7 out of 10 voters support federal grants to support and expand state funded high quality pre-k programs.
Another telling statistic was this question on the survey. Perhaps ABC will find that parents agree that high quality pre-k is a change we can build a dream on.


How important do you think it is for four-year-old children to spend time in a learning program outside the home?


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Comments

I work for Head Start in WV as an Education Specialist. In our state, we collaborate with the county school systems to provide pre-K to as many children as we can. By 2012 it must be available to all who are age eligible. My son, Wayne, is 5. He was in a county pre-k/Head Start collaborative room last year. He is the cutest child, especially when he grins and that dimple pops out at you. He also can climb anything and everything.He is a challenge in the classroom. He loves stories, but can't sit still while the teacher reads in circle time. You ask if I was happy or unhappy with pre-k, the answer is both.

I have worked for the McDowell County Board of Education in West Virginia for the past twenty-six years. I taught behavior disordered students for four years; students with preschool special needs for twenty-one years; and I am currently teaching Title I Pre-K as part of our collaboration with Head Start. I teach in a local Head Start Center, and Head Start provides my assistant.

You ask of the importance of pre-K and whether or not it should be expanded. It is my professional and personal belief that pre-k is absolutely essential for the future academic and personal growth and development of our children.

The number of children born with sensory and/or developmental problems are increasing due to substance abuse. In addition, working parents or stay-at-home parents seem to interact less frequently or less effectively with their children, than parents did in the past. Therefore, these children need pre-k to give them a "fighting chance" to succeed in kindergarten and future grades.

There are many reasons why pre-k should be expanded. Perhaps one reason of utmost importance is this: our American students perform more poorly than students from many other countries. Those holding the economic purse strings for education need to recognize that there is no time for partisan politics when it comes to fully funding pre-k. It is time to focus solely on what is best for the children in our country. After all, these children are our most precious resource. Given the proper pre-k experience and education, they may be able to use critical thinking skills as adults that will put us on solid ground in domestic and foreign issues.

I am a mommy of 2, a boy & girl. My daughter is attending Pre-K this year and my son did a few years ago. I can't really express how much my son grew socially from going, amongst other things. Starting out, he cried for a couple weeks until he finally got used to being around a group of other children, interacting with them. etc. From being there, he excelled faster than some other kids I knew of, whose parents didn't have theirs in Pre-K. He's in 3rd grade now and I'm proud to say that his teacher tells me he's one of the top in his class with his grades & reading skills. I do believe it had alot to do with him starting out in Pre-k. The earlier they learn, the better.

My daughter, who attends now, absolutely loves it! She doesn't want to miss a day even when she's sick. She has a great teacher that she loves & I'm amazed by how much she has learned already from being there. So, in my honest opinion, I believe Pre-K to be a very benificial experience for children.

I work with special needs preschool in McDowell County, West Virginia. I feel that they have a wonderful arrangement; they have Pre-K, collaborative classrooms with Head Start and also preschool special classrooms. This system works well because all students receive the services they need. I do inclusion most of the day with pre-k; however my students are able to still get the one on one they so desperately need. I have two daughters who attended Head Start in Wyoming County; now a freshman and sophomore in high school, both of which are in the talented and gifted program at school. I feel that this may have not been possible without Head Start’s intervention. Head Start gave them the opportunity to not only become prepared for school but to also advanced developmentally. I am a firm believer in the Head Start Program, because of their "whole family approach", I myself am a Head Start success story (at less I feel that way) Head Start not only worked with my children they worked with me. When my youngest daughter started Head Start, I started as well. I was first employed as an assistant teacher, with in a year to a year and half, I received my CDA (child development) and was working as center teacher, next I completed an apprenticeship program through the Dept. of Labor, and then I completed an Associates degree in Childhood Education and Development, then a B.S. in Pre-k, K, and Preschool Special. I am currently working on my Masters in Special Education k-12 at GCU.I feel this may have not been possible with the encouragement of Head Start, because when my first daughter started I was a cashier at a local grocery store making minimum wage. I worked with Head Start almost ten years and this is my second school year with BOE. These young children need these services, and we need the funding in order to make them available. Young children are our future. One thing I often say is “it takes but one small pebble to create a ripple in the pond, the moves outward in a circular motion. What pre-k teacher do for these young students, affects every thing around them. I believe that pre-k programs should be on the top of everyone’s list. They are our future.

These are some great stories.

Nan could you describe how your son's experiences could have been improved?

Debbie,
You mentioned working parents and the benefits of pre-k. Your comment relates to our recent post on Hart & Risley's study of language development. What are somethings that students get in the classroom that helps these student's develop?

T. Hyatt,
What aspects of your son's current success do you attribute to pre-k?

Carolyn,
Thank you for highlighting the effects of Head Start on your family. Many times people forget that Head Start is a social service program, not just an education program.
Are there similar stories out there about state funded pre-k and its effects on families and children?

I teach Universal Pre-k in West Virginia. I have 15 four and five year olds. My children love coming to school, one parent told me their child actually cried one Saturday because they wanted to come to school. If only high schoolers did that! The drop out rate would drecrease so fast.My main goal as a pre-k teacher is to make my kids excited about school. Yes, we have standards and educational goals as well. But, we want them to be excited and to love school.Everything else just clicks into place after that!

I have a now 5 year old who struggles in crowds and in group settings. He tried every day care in our county in WV with very limited success. We started in Head Start and are now in a shared Pre-K Head Start setting. Considering my expectations, my five year is doing really well. Each class size increased each year and he has handled these changes quite well. Out of the four children that I have shared my home with, three have gone to Head Start or Pre-K in West Virginia. The eldest, who struggles in school the most, did not.
I have spent a lifetime wondering about education and achievement based on "forcing" children to start learning early, but every day I see positive changes from my youngest from being in this classroom group. Given what I have seen I would recommend early childhood group situations for every child that can attend.

My first child went to headstart two years ago. I was concerned because she was never away from me. After the first day she loved it.Her confidence improved.She met friends and she learned to speak out.I know because of headstart that is why she is doing so well in school.My son now is in headstart and he loves it .He has really came out of his shell.and I know because of being in this program he will do fine in school.

My four year old daugther is in the Jefferson County, WV Resa VIII Head Start/Pre-K program. It has been the best thing ever for her! She started Pre-school at the age of two in another state because she has a very active personality and needed the structure early. What is so wonderful about the pre-k class this year for the four year old's is that they teach the Creative Curriculum, and I love it! It is so wonderful going into the class to volunteer, and to see how the children's imagination takes hold and how they learn through play. Our teachers at this facility are wonderful, and I know that they all love what they do and their children. The staff goes above and beyond for the children and their families. I recommend all children at the age of four to go into a pre-k program and would love to see the state/federal government fund more and more programs. I think that the children in this country need to start the basics at four and that the curriculum that is used here is a perfect fit for children that have never been in a program away from home before. My daughter has enjoyed her year and loves coming to school every week!

My daughter attended the Jefferson County Resa VIII Head Start Pre-k last year and it did wonders for her and the whole family. My daughter loved all the teachers, bus drivers, and aides. She learned so much from her class and the staff, that she grew up tremendously in front of our eyes. We can't thank them enough.

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