From Universal Preschool's Founder
Diane Flynn Keith...

  • Fun, anytime learning activities
  • Resources that will save you time!
  • Support and Inspiration!

A sample text widget

Etiam pulvinar consectetur dolor sed malesuada. Ut convallis euismod dolor nec pretium. Nunc ut tristique massa.

Nam sodales mi vitae dolor ullamcorper et vulputate enim accumsan. Morbi orci magna, tincidunt vitae molestie nec, molestie at mi. Nulla nulla lorem, suscipit in posuere in, interdum non magna.

Inaccurate Report on Preschool in Chicago Sun-Times

Preschool education seen as key for kids

RE: Chicago Sun Times
October 17, 2005

By Rosalind Rossi and Maudlyne Ihejirika, Education Reporters

I am dismayed by the inaccuracies and bias in the article referenced above. The article is full of pro-preschool sentiment unsupported by research studies. For example:

“These children need every minute of school,” said Schwab, who teaches at Morse, one of the lowest-scoring public schools. “Obviously the playing field is not level.”

There is no such thing as a level playing field in public education and there never will be. Equal opportunity does not exist in public education. It’s the utopian ideal — but it’s a fraud. The fact that the reporters point out the disparity between kindergartens in Morse and Beaubien schools proves this. High scoring schools have nothing to do with prior preschool attendance, and everything to do with a broken public education system that rewards schools with funds tied to high test scores that research shows is tied to the level of parental income.

“Bryers’ students fell easily into the swing of following directions, standing in line and listening to the teacher — the kinds of readiness skills usually honed in preschool.”

The idea that a child should attend two years of preschool to learn simple obedience tricks is ludicrous. Prior to the 1970’s preschools didn’t exist. Yet kindergarten and first grade teachers were capable of implementing simple classroom crowd control techniques with new, incoming students. The idea that institutionalizing little kids ages 2-5 is necessary to teach something as simple as staying seated during a lesson is absurd.

“Chicago schools have increased preschool slots by 60 percent in the last decade, to 29,000 seats. Even so, officials say, about 5,000 at-risk kids wanted preschool last year and couldn’t get it. Chicago Public Schools CEO Arne Duncan said the Sun-Times’ findings are one more reason to support universal preschool for 3- and 4-year-olds.”

This is illogical thinking. We don’t need to fund universal preschool for all children ages 3-4, we need to make sure existing programs get the funding they need to serve the neediest citizens who may benefit from them. A recent RAND report showed that poor, AT-RISK children gain *some* benefit from one year of preschool, but that once the children enter regular public school the “benefits” dissipate after two years – and that there is no additional benefit from two years of preschool versus one. Ed Zigler (a founder of Head Start) concurred with the RAND report finding that there is No discernible benefit of preschool to children from “normal” (middle class and upper class) homes.

Additionally, only 20% of the preschool-age population fall into the category of poor/at-risk that might benefit from preschool programs. According to a 2004 RAND study, most children, whether they ever attended preschool or not, went to kindergarten and first grade fully prepared to learn and cooperate.

Funding state-run preschool programs for all children will take away funding from existing K-12 programs that Teacher’s Unions tell us are already experiencing fragile quality due to budget cuts. Yet Teacher’s Unions support “universal preschool” begging the question, “Are teachers more concerned with job security and getting a paycheck than with delivering a quality education to K-12 public school children?”

“Every study shows the extraordinary benefits of preschool,” Duncan said. “The more, the better.”

This is an outright lie. There are only 4 studies that show preschool is beneficial — and all of those studies (Abecdedarian, Perry/Highscope, Chicago Child-Parent Centers, and RAND) were concerned with AT-RISK children. Two of those studies were conducted on tiny populations (less than 120 students) some of whom were determined to be borderline retarded. Two of the studies were mired in faulty controls and reporting methods that were not reproducible. None of the study results can be translated as applying to the general preschool-age population. In fact, the largest study, Chicago’s Child-Parent Centers (CPC), conducted by researcher Arthur J. Reynolds, tracked about 1,000 disadvantaged kids in Chicago who attended the Chicago preschool program and compared them with 550 children that did not. While children who attended the program for one or two years showed some advantages in reading achievement and a reduction in the need for special ed programs, evaluations showed that the second year produced smaller incremental benefits beyond those obtained from the first year.

“Nationally, poor kids start kindergarten already 18 months behind other kids, said W. Steven Barnett, director of the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University. They have to compete against kids whose more-affluent family backgrounds give them a power burst out of the kindergarten starting gate — and beyond.”

As mentioned previously, we simply need to fund the programs that already exist for the poor so that they have full access to them. We don’t need to waste tax dollars that could help poor children on massive Universal Preschool programs that don’t benefit “normal” kids or kids from advantaged homes.

“Preschool rates at schools like Wiesbrook are “further evidence that if your community wants to have a top-scoring school, make sure that your kids get two years of preschool to be ready for kindergarten,” said Barbara Radner, director of DePaul University’s Center for Urban Education.”

This assumption is skewed. It would be more accurate to say, “If your community wants to have a top scoring school, make sure that your kids are raised in affluent homes.” There are no studies that trace improved test scores to students’ preschool attendance. There are plenty of studies that show the correlation between family income and student test scores.

Here’s a fact your reporters missed: The National Institute of Child Health and Development found that children who attend structured, curriculum-oriented, non-parental involved preschools have poorer work habits and lower grades and test scores along with inferior peer relationships, substandard emotional health, aggression, and they are disobedient.

“CPS has to raise the average,” Radner said. “Citywide, we have to move this number because if you move that number, you move all the others.”

Why do you suppose there is such a focus on test scores? The average Sun Times reader may assume that raising those scores means helping children learn more – but it doesn’t. The truth is that school funding is tied to testing. No Child Left Behind has left schools scrambling to be “accountable” through testing to receive funding. That funding won’t be used to improve education for children. If more money were the answer to what ails public schools, the problem would have been fixed a long time ago.

More money is used to provide job security for teachers and education administrators, and lucrative contracts for specialty interest groups such as providers of curriculum, transportation, and food services, construction companies that build schools, maintenance and custodial services, school psychologists, etc. Very little trickles down to the children. Sending all kids to preschool won’t improve test scores — but it will provide more job security and lucrative contracts to the purveyors of preschool education.

Finally, the article recounts the pathetic story of Jermaine, a poor little boy with no preschool experience. It was designed to invoke an emotional response in readers and manipulate them to support preschool for all children. What irresponsible reporting.

Jermaine’s problem is that he’s poor and that his mother, in spite of her 12th grade education, apparently didn’t know that she could visit a library to get books to read to Jermaine or take it upon herself to facilitate his education at home. Jermaine, and a small percentage of children like him need help. That’s why it would be better to continue to fully fund and develop programs for kids at-risk — concentrating resources where they will do the most good.

Jermaine is not representative of the majority of children. Most parents have their act together and do a good job of raising their children and fully prepare them for the school rigors of waiting for a turn, hanging up a backpack, coloring in the lines, and following the teacher’s directions to “stand on the big green circle painted on the floor in the middle of the room.”

The reporters’ ignorance about child development shows in this article. The lack of compassion and seeming disapproval of children experiencing “bouts of separation anxiety” and “earned time-outs” is appalling. What the reporters were witnessing wasn’t the result of preschool deprivation, on the contrary, it was likely the result of placing children in an inappropriate environment for their developmental needs.

The National Institute of Child Health and Development found that young children who attend structured, curriculum-oriented, non-parental involved schools have higher cortisol (stress hormone) levels caused by premature separation from their parents and too early academics. These children’s behavioral “problems” stem from being inappropriately institutionalized. The artificial environment of a classroom, the supervision by transient, impassive strangers (certified teachers and aids), and indoctrination with standardized curriculum has been shown to be harmful to the intellectual, social, emotional, psychological and physical development of young children by researchers and educational psychologists including David Elkind, Kathy Hirsch-Pasek, Mary Eberstadt, and Jane Healy. Current research studies show that young children learn best through interest-initiated learning, lots of imaginative play, and the opportunity to explore their environment in a natural rhythm and routine such as takes place at home, under the guidance of parents and attentive, loving adults — not through government preschools.

Diane Flynn Keith

Author of Carschooling,

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>