And How are the Children..?

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Obama’s Right-Wing School Reform | The New York Review of Books.

I wonder what people think of this article (HT to @Thanks2Teachers via Twitter for bringing it to my attention).  Please share your thoughts:

I have been disappointed with what feels like a pretty conservative approach to education reform.  *To clarify, I mean conservative in the ‘slow, cautious, playing-it-safe’ way, not as a ideological label for a group of people (i.e. the political opposite of ‘liberal.’)*  Also disappointing: support for early childhood remains insufficient, continuing to follow the ‘table scraps’ model of funding.

I don’t know anything about this author, Diane Ravitch.  Her headline is sensational.  She’s marketing a book.  But she also seems to make some sound points.  I wish she had provided some examples of possible solutions among her list of complaints and criticisms.  This piques my ongoing issue with educators: a great deal of willingness to discuss problems, but little action toward solving those problems. This is not a personal criticism of Ravitch, and may not be consistent with her record – I will have to do some reading before making that determination.  Perhaps there are solutions discussed in her book.

She does note that she is seeking leadership outside of herself – political leadership.  If she finds that leadership, I wonder how she would participate.  How do any of us engage with leaders who have taken up our cause?  How can educators really be the change we want to see in the world?

Thoughts?  Discuss!

Obama’s Right-Wing School Reform | The New York Review of Books.

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John Holland of Inside Pre-K writes about ‘Fueling the Pre-K Fire’ and the effects of negative reports about preschool education.  According to Holland:

Every once in a while a study or report is published that is less than positive about public pre-k. These reports are like rocks thrown on a bonfire when you consider the quantity and quality of studies that support the benefits of pre-k for children and communities. Sure, some sparks fly when a study that is less than positive is published but that is all there is, sparks. When a bonfire is really burning, you can’t put it out with a rock.

I really like this ‘rocks on the fire’ metaphor.  Problem is, a few pieces of bad spin can do more damage to the cause of promoting preschool education than we’d prefer.

Rocks on the fire cannot shake the resolve of those of us who are already dedicated to early childhood care and education (ECE).  But for the uninitiated, the skeptical and the uncertain, what seem like rocks to us die-hards, can be like a bucket of water.  This is an issue because legislators, potential funders and other policy-influencers often tend to be uninitiated, skeptical and/or uncertain when it comes to the value of investing in ECE.

Speaking of exactly why ECE is so important, here’s some useful info (thanks to Mr. Holland at Pre-K Now) – you’ll find this especially useful if, when it comes to early childhood issues, you identify as among the uninitiated, skeptical and/or uncertain:  If you like charts, graphs and tables, I direct you toward the Public Policy Forum’s excellent table of research on early childhood education outcomes.  This great visual provides us with:

  • Names of Longitudinal Studies (studies done over time to figure out whether or not there are lasting effects), Reviews, Meta-analyses (studies done on the outcomes of multiple studies), and Cross-sectional studies (studies that use data from a single point in time).
  • The cognitive, behavioral, social, educational, societal effects found, as well as the benefit-cost ratio of said studies.
  • Whether or not outcomes were measured, and whether or not they were significant outcomes.
  • A glossary of terms in PDF format.

If you’re a visual thinker like me, then you will really appreciate this resource!

Great resource number 2: The Pew Center on the States has published a nice little summary of RECENT evaluation findings for your convenience!  It’s called ‘The Case for Pre-K in Education Reform,’ and it summarizes positive outcomes found in research done on preschool programs in 6 different states.  These studies have been published in the last 5 years, and present important findings on improving early literacy and math skills, as well as reducing numbers of children who repeat grades.  From Louisiana, for example:

An evaluation of the LA 4 pre-k program by the Center for Child Development at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette shows that, at the beginning of the school year, the average early language, literacy and math skills of pre-k children in the state fall within the lowest 20 percent of the national peer group. By year’s end, these children caught up to the national average.

Based on data collected from 2002 to 2006, when compared to peers who did not participate in the program, children who attended LA 4:

• were as much as 36 percent less likely to be held back in kindergarten; and

• were as much as 49 percent less likely to be placed in special education through second grade.

This summary shows how pre-k education continues to be relevant and beneficial across the country.  And it’s only 6 pages long!  Yes, yes, quality over quantity, but we’re all busy people.  Let’s appreciate the opportunity to enjoy a brief, yet highly  informative resource.

I think Holland’s ‘rocks on the fire’ notion applies best in the company of ECE advocates.  Step outside of our ranks, though, and I think it is overly optimistic.  We have got to stay vigilant about bouncing those rocks back at the naysayers, and keeping our spin positive (especially since our positive spin is actually true and beneficial to society!).

And for those of you who have yet to make up your minds, check out these links on your next coffee/tea break and see for yourself.  Our nation needs what quality preschool education has to offer: children, better prepared to succeed.


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