Tuesday, May 30, 2006

California Initiative Renews Preschool Debate et al

California Initiative Renews Preschool Debate - Washington Post

Study Backs Calif. Preschool Proposal - Washington Post

Calif. Preschool Measure Runs Into Trouble - AP

California Initiative Renews Preschool Debate - Washington Post

It is encouraging to see educators’ debating the merits of pre-school programs, as this is the time and place where leading research first recognizes the group disparities that are driving performance in school and into the workplace. The economic plight and disparities of Blacks and Hispanics is the direct result of our inattentiveness to early-age challenges.

While encouraging, there is also the danger that these programs will not survive because we are lacking an understanding of why they often times work and how to make their impact consistent and permanent. Those who are against the programs are voicing bona fide concern, regarding short and long-term program efficacy, which is not yet clear.

The positive impact of these programs is largely driven by the behavioral influence of pre-school on malleable young minds. Pre-school children are not so much taught academics, but more reasonably how to think about learning and their environment, often without the instructors specific knowing it. They are getting an invaluable pre-education in logic, structure, values and the discipline of thinking and doing, prior to the first academic layers of reading, writing and arithmetic.

To the degree that these programs are well thought out and executed, the positive results are significant. The issue is that they are not long lasting for most of the children because their home and later social environments are not re-enforcing. Counter-developmental and academic cultural norms assert themselves too often, resulting in the regression of advancing behaviors learned.

It is critical that our society invest in understanding how to provide every pre-school child with a solid learning foundation, and one that places social premiums on early age assimilation of advancing behaviors. When re-enforced at home, these programs deliver maximum leverage to elementary school success, the pivot to full and long-term participation in the opportunities of our country.

James C. Collier


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