Monday, January 08, 2007

Preschool for All

The National Association of School Boards of Education (NASBE) published a report on preschool, Fulfilling the Promise of Preschool. They recommend that states get more involved in providing quality, developmentally appropriate preschool. I feel torn about this recommendation. On the one hand, I believe that preschool can be a great experience for young children. They learn to interact with other children and adults other than their parents. With the right program they can develop the skills they need to be ready for kindergarten. (readiness skills)

My state has a program called SmartStart that targets at risk children. The state provides funds for local government to subsidize childcare and preschool. This is terrific! It can help erase the acheivement gap before kids get to kindergarten. We need to help families with young children afford quality child care. We need to provide childcare organizations (whether it is Bright Horizons or Aunt Betty keeping 4 kids in her home) with access to the best research in child development and effective techniques for encouraging growth and development. For families with middle incomes and a discerning eye, quality care is available. Both of my children had wonderful early childhood experiences. They entered kindergarten prepared to learn and excited to take the next step.

However, I fear that the current obsession with accountability and acheivement measurement will be pushed down to preschool. Four year olds will be drilled on their ABCs and the time to learn through play will be lost. I also wonder how far this will go. I don't think Americans are interested in socialized childcare. When do you start public preschool - 4 years old, 3 years old. What effect will this have on for-profit daycare centers?

With all those questions in mind, I do believe that we need to do more. According to Pre-K Now, only 13 states meet eight or more of the ten quality criteria developed by the National Institute for Early Education Research. No state met all ten. We clearly need to do more.

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