kitchen table math, the sequel: E.D. Hirsch explains cause of decline in SAT scores is content-light instruction

Thursday, September 22, 2011

E.D. Hirsch explains cause of decline in SAT scores is content-light instruction

Average SAT scores fell this year, with critical reading results declining to the lowest on record.  E.D. Hirsch writes that the main cause is a move away from content-rich instruction in the elementary grades.
The decline has led some commentators to embrace demographic determinism — the idea that the verbal scores of disadvantaged students will not significantly rise until we overcome poverty. But that explanation does not account for the huge drop in verbal scores across socioeconomic groups in the 1970s.

The most credible analyses have shown that the chief causes were not demographics or TV watching, but vast curricular changes, especially in the critical early grades. In the decades before the Great Verbal Decline, a content-rich elementary school experience evolved into a content-light, skills-based, test-centered approach.

Daniel Willingham on this subject:


More: How Knowledge Helps - It Speeds and Strengthens Reading Comprehension, Learning—and Thinking (Cross-posted at Cost of College)

52 comments:

Luke said...

This makes me glad that homeschoolers have embraced the rather radical idea Sonlight has popularized over the last 20 years: Literature-rich learning with a strong historical bent. By hearing so much fantastic content and talking about the implications of what you hear, we better understand the world and know a little bit about "everything." So encouraging!

Thanks for sharing this!

~Luke

Molly said...

I've read a lot about the decline in scores this year, but only one article pointed out that for the first time, the reported scores included test dates through June. (Past years only reported scores through March.) Apparently, scores that late in the year are much lower than those of early testers, which makes intuitive sense. Those most focused on college and best prepared aren't waiting until late spring to take the SAT. I believe Montgomery County, Maryland recalculate their scores based on the March cutoff and found a 3% increase.

TerriW said...

I just started reading Willingham's book, and it makes a compelling case. (Or at least it is proving to be a very satisfying case of confirmation bias.)

I thought it was very telling, the case of the "strong" readers who didn't know much about baseball pitted against "poor" readers who knew a lot about baseball -- the strong readers get trounced when the sample passage is about baseball.

SteveH said...

Why is Hirsch reduced to making tenuous connections to changes in SAT scores?

Grace said...

Molly, that's an interesting point that I had not read. Please share a link if you have a chance.

What I did read was that more students are taking the the test for the FIRST time in May and June. That's the recommendation at our high school.

But this is confusing. Were May and June scores NEVER captured in previous SAT average score reports? That seems odd.

Grace said...

Steve, it seems the correlation of increasingly content-light instruction with declining SAT scores does exist, so I would not call the connection tenuous. And cognitive science gives us a reason to see this as a causative relationship. But nothing definitively proven, as far as I know.

Bonnie said...

This sounds suspiciously like what the whole-language folks have been arguing all along - that focusing strictly on phonics and decoding skills isn't enough. Hirsch disparages the "content-light, skills-based, test-centered approach." and argues for the development of strategies for learning new words in context. I also see in his article a strong argument for early childhood education, something which some economists, after reviewing the research, think is the most cost-effective thing we could do to improve education.

SteveH said...

It's a correlation that will be dismissed just as easily as so many other things. This isn't about science or proof. This is about pedagogy and belief. Who is he trying to convince? Parents? Who can force K-6 educators to be scientific about their beliefs? They will just pull out their own research. Trust the spiral and blame kids, poverty, parents, or any other variable that will confuse the analysis.

Molly said...

This article in the Washington Post mentions the change in how average SAT scores were calculated. It is just a brief mention on the second page.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/sat-reading-scores-drop-to-lowest-point-in-decades/2011/09/14/gIQAdpoDTK_story.html

Molly said...

Here is a better article describing the change.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/the-new-face-of-the-sat/2011/09/16/gIQA3CNJdK_story.html

concerned said...

Rick Hess adresses the "delusion of rigor" in his article - Our Achievement-Gap Mania

National Affairs
http://www.nationalaffairs.com/publications/detail/our-achievement-gap-mania

SteveH said...

Rick Hess says:

"Consider the case of school choice. Today, for all the vague talk of innovation, charter schools and school vouchers rarely do more than allow poor, urban students to move from unsafe, horrific schools into better conventional-looking schools. The leading brands in charter schooling, for instance, almost uniformly feature traditional classrooms; an extended school day, school year, or both; and a reliance on directive pedagogy attuned to the needs of disadvantaged students. In other words, these are terrific 19th-century schools. One has to search long and hard among the nation's more than 5,000 charter schools to find the handful that are experimenting with labor-saving technologies, technology-infused instruction, or new staffing models better suited to the 21st century."

After tearing apart NCLB and it's top-down gap-fixing approach to education, Hess shows his own bias of what education and rigor means. He allows that NCLB was an inevitable consequence of indifference and incompetence, but he doesn't explain how those problems will disappear with any other model. Urban parents choose those charter schools. Does he suggest that his own prescription of "technology-infused instruction" would fix the competence issue and provide more rigor?

There is a fundamental difference in what people view as a rigorous K-8 education. The discussion does not revolve around minor ups and downs of SAT scores. Hess explains many of the issues and wants to reopen the debate. But who will get to decide, parents or people like Mr. Hess?

Amy P said...

"This sounds suspiciously like what the whole-language folks have been arguing all along - that focusing strictly on phonics and decoding skills isn't enough. This sounds suspiciously like what the whole-language folks have been arguing all along - that focusing strictly on phonics and decoding skills isn't enough."

But the whole-language folks have tried to sidestep and minimize phonics. (I once saw a reading lesson in my daughter's public pre-K class in DC that consisted largely of having kids chorus some sentences several times without sounding them out first--it was the rotest thing I've ever seen.) Presumably, the best approach to reading is to have both strong phonics and strong content, rather than "balance." Also, middle class children may already have a strong content background due to home influences, so they may not need as strong an emphasis on content as part of their reading instruction. It's in non-middle class children that it becomes vital to have both strong phonics and strong content.

"I also see in his article a strong argument for early childhood education, something which some economists, after reviewing the research, think is the most cost-effective thing we could do to improve education."

We won't get much bang for our buck doing state-funded preschool for middle class children. In fact, it's quite possible that middle class children will do worse if more are lured prematurely into a group setting by "free" preschool.

SATVerbalTutor. said...

Someone sent me the following article in regard to the drop in SAT Verbal scores: http://www.aft.org/pdfs/americaneducator/winter1011/Adams.pdf

Apparently the real drop in the level of written content American students are exposed to is occurring not in elementary school but in middle-to-high school. Fourth-graders, on the whole, read well; the problems happen after that.

ChemProf said...

I'd agree with AmyP -- there is no reason to assume that a whole language classroom is content-rich. It often just has lots of fiction books the teacher happens to like, which are usually "girly."

Also, SATVerbalTutor, the argument that the Core Knowledge folks make is that the drop off after 4th grade is because students haven't been exposed to enough content by that point, so lack the basis they need to make inferences as material gets more academic. Up to 4th grade level, reading is mostly about decoding/phonics, but after that point, reading comprehension needs a strong foundation in content. Not sure I totally agree, but that's the argument.

Anonymous said...

"This sounds suspiciously like what the whole-language folks have been arguing all along - that focusing strictly on phonics and decoding skills isn't enough."

Not quite.

The bigger name Whole Language folks have been arguing that teaching phonics was *BAD*, not that it was insufficient.

I am unaware of any phonics advocates claiming that kids were "done" learning to read after they had mastered letter-pattern to sound mapping.

-Mark Roulo

Amy P said...

"Up to 4th grade level, reading is mostly about decoding/phonics, but after that point, reading comprehension needs a strong foundation in content. Not sure I totally agree, but that's the argument."

I do buy it. I have a 4th grader, and at least at our private school, 4th grade is an inflection point. It's a pretty content rich program even in the lower grades, but in 4th grade, they really pour on the coals. Years ago, I personally had a terribly rough time transitioning from the lower grades (where we were largely just learning the mechanics of reading) to the rigors and content-orientation of 4th grade. I had learned to read promptly in 1st grade and mainly coasted through the next two grades, only to find that 4th grade required W-O-R-K. I was not excited about that after a couple years of in-school vacation. Other schools may be different, of course, but there is a reality behind the term "4th grade slump."

Bonnie said...

The interesting thing about preschool is that the research finds that the positive effects show up much later in life. There have been randomized studies of low income kids, following kids who went to preschool vs ones who did not. They tend to find that the positive effects disappear in grade school - and then reappear many years later. When they followed these kids into their 20's, they found that the low income kids who went to preschool were less likely to have been arrested, more likely to have finished school, had better grades, and earned more in their jobs. I recall one of these studies was called the Perry Preschool Project. I heard an interesting interview with an economist about these studies on Planet Money. He made the claim that increasing spending on preschool is the single most cost-effective thing we could do to improve ultimate outcomes.
See http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/28/business/economy/28leonhardt.html
http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2010/07/how-preschool-changes-the-brain/

Amy P said...

I'm a little suspicious about stealth effects for preschool that are invisible for 20 years and then mysteriously reappear. That's kind of weird.

Was it a lottery for the preschool slots? Because otherwise (as I've argued before elsewhere), I would expect that kids who are sent (and smilingly cooperate with being sent) to preschool and don't get kicked out for bad behavior or iffy potty training may just be be an easier to deal with clientele. I know one of my kids (the more "special" one) gave me a devil of a time with preschool and pre-K. If I hadn't had a very supportive home environment, I wouldn't have bothered trying to get her out the door every morning, accompanied by about 20 minutes of "I hate school" literally almost every step of the way. A lot of moms look at their kids at preschool time and think, eh, he or she isn't ready yet, because of immaturity or speech delays or physical or sensory disabilities or whatever.

Amy P said...

I forgot to mention that my preschool-resister used her feet to brake while I was pushing her in her stroller the 20-minute walk to school. I'd have to tip the stroller back and push it to school with just the two back wheels making contact with the sidewalk. If I hadn't had my husband around to help with the baby while I was trying to get out the door, there's no way I would have bothered with 3-hour a morning preschool. And unfortunately, the sort of persistently uncooperative personality type that I have just described does tend to have poor adult outcomes.

Bonnie said...

These were fully randomized studies. The article in Wired talks quite a bit about the reasons that preschool effects show up so much later. In the Planet Money piece, they also discussed what preschool does specifically, quote a bit. The theory is that children's brains are wired to learn social behaviors and fundamental skills such as perseverance, when they are around 3. In the Planet Money piece, they discussed research that has found you can't teach those skills later in life because kids brains are no longer receptive.

SteveH said...

I don't buy any significant preschool effect. Besides, the premise is wrong. It's not about the best use of limited money. There is already a huge amount of money flowing into education. Having all kids go to preschool won't magically create effective preschools. It won't fix really bad curricula and incompetence in later grades.

Look at the simple questions and results on the NAEP test. The stinking bad results are not due to some missing pre-school effect. What do they do all day at school? How difficult is it to master the material even with no homework? How difficult is it to separate those who are willing and able from those who are not? If there are other major issues going on, why can't they tie the scores to the number of days kids are in school? Why are kids promoted when they don't know the material?


I've called this brain research misdirection. Fancy talk of science and pedagogy distracts the discussion from details and issues of competence. Hirsch ties curiculum to changes in SAT, but he might as well talk to a stone wall. Everyday Math has lots of real math in it, but schools don't enforce mastery of anything. Schools could use Singapore Math and the results would still be the same.

In K-6 math, the problem is not that they use Everyday Math and not Singapore Math. The problem is low versus high expectations. They don't ensure that learning gets done - even the basics. Schools talk about balance, but it's just talk. They don't do it. They pass kids along to the next grade. Their pedagogy says that this is OK. "Kids will learn when they are ready." "Trust the spiral." This is a pedagogy that lets them off the hook for everything. They don't even try to separate the variables.

Teachers in later grades get students who are all over the place in their learning. My son's fifth grade math teacher knew that the kids were plenty "ready" for their missing skills, but couldn't make a fuss about it to the school. Schools don't enforce the balance they claim to support. This is an issue of basic competence.

Crimson Wife said...

Singapore Math doesn't foster a "trust the spiral" attitude. While I don't know what the classroom teachers' manual says, but the Home Instructor's Guide specifically states when particular facts ought to be memorized.

SteveH said...

The hope is that if a school selects Singapore Math, they probably accept a different educational philosophy. I'm not so optimistic. The educational world likes to eliminate the opposition by redefining things (like math) in their own image. They did that with critical thinking and understanding.

ChemProf said...

Here's a good article on the Perry Preschool Project. What is usually not discussed in popular press like Wired is that it wasn't just preschool -- every family had a 90 minute home visit from a preschool teacher every week for example -- which is part of why Head Start has shown little/no impact, despite being based on Perry.

https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/ojjdp/181725.pdf

This also explains some of the range of values you see quoted for return on the program -- it is based on estimation of savings to crime victims, since only about 1/3 of the pre-school group were arrested versus half of the control group. However, to put it mildly, that's hard to quantify accurately. Without that, the benefits are estimated at about twice the cost of the program, bearing in mind we are comparing benefits over 40 years with costs over 2.

Bonnie said...

Here is an analysis of another randomized study of preschool effectiveness among low income children
http://evidencebasedprograms.org/wordpress/?page_id=70
and the official site for it
http://www.fpg.unc.edu/~abc/

Amy P said...

"What is usually not discussed in popular press like Wired is that it wasn't just preschool -- every family had a 90 minute home visit from a preschool teacher every week for example -- which is part of why Head Start has shown little/no impact, despite being based on Perry."

Holy cow! That makes a huge difference in who is going to agree to the program and who is going to stick with it, and how they're going to parent (it's like having your mother-in-law visiting). You'd have to be very confident about your parenting and housekeeping to go for that deal. I know I wouldn't have, even for free preschool, and I have cleaning help. Also, I think that the visits themselves would affect the phenomena quite a bit. I think I remember reading in Unequal Childhoods (a book about the difference between poor and middle class parenting culture), there was one case study where the researchers concluded that their presence in the poor household had caused vegetables to appear in the family diet.

I'm working up to doing a blog post on the Smithsonian article on the Finnish miracle, and one of the things that I'm going to say is that with all of the many things they do as part of their model, it may be impossible to figure out what is the active ingredient and what is just filler. The same may be true of the preschool studies.

ChemProf said...

The Abecedarian program had better randomization than the Perry Preschool program, although still a small number of kids (111 in four groups). But again, it isn't what people usually mean by preschool -- the kids were in full day care from 0 to 5 years, with a low teacher-child ratio (one instructor for three infants up to 1:6 for the five year olds). If it had the same economic benefits as the Perry Preschool is estimated to have, then it would cost 2x the benefits (and here you really can't include savings to crime victims, because the difference in arrests between the groups wasn't statistically significant, unlike the Perry study).

ChemProf said...

Oh and AmyP is right -- they had to move 5-10 kids (why the number isn't firmer, I don't know) from the treatment to the control group because their mothers worked and couldn't arrange the home visits!

Amy P said...

"Oh and AmyP is right -- they had to move 5-10 kids (why the number isn't firmer, I don't know) from the treatment to the control group because their mothers worked and couldn't arrange the home visits!"

That's very interesting.

I was looking at one of the articles on Perry that was posted upthread. Apparently, it was a 2.5 hour a day, 5-day a week program, with 5-6 students per staffer (not sure how many would actually be in the classroom, though--that's always sticky). The Perry group had 58 kids and the control group had 65, which is really small. They did have a huge effect, but I wonder if it isn't exactly the sort of effect that vanishes when replicated on a large scale with less committed staffers. Additionally, they had "weekly home visits by teachers and regular parent group meetings" to "promote the strengthening of parent-child relationships and increase parent involvement in the educational process."

I think we may be starting to see why a 2.5 hour a day program could be so effective (at least for this small group of kids). And I'm starting to wonder whether it might not be worthwhile to re-run the experiment, using not just a control but also a group that did only home visits and parent meetings. From my own experience of doing preschool co-op in DC, one of the most valuable things I got from the experience was the relationships with other parents, so the experience of more parent interaction with the teachers and other parents could likewise be a very socializing experience for the parents themselves.

Amy P said...

I'm not sure about the math on this, but the staffing levels used for Perry or Abecedarian would probably require every other working woman in the US to go into early childhood education. When my daughter was in public pre-K in DC, there was a teacher and an aide in the class and about 26 children. Likewise, in preschool co-op the previous year, there were 16-18 (?) kids in the room, one real preschool teacher and then two parents working co-op. Technically, we had something like the Perry student-teacher ratio, but I don't think the parent volunteers really count. (All the art projects I led resulted in the kids mixing all the colors of paint together and winding up with a big brown spot on their papers.)

Genevieve said...

When I was at college we had one of the Early Head Start researcher's come give a few talks. She also came to my Early Childhood seminar.
If I remember correctly, Early Head Start showed more promising returns than Head Start. Which makes sense considering the majority of brain development is 0-3.
I believe she also said that one of the major things they see (and my professor that had worked on Head Start also said was true for Head Start) is that it helps the parents (usually moms) get their lives together. So the parents were less likely to be depressed, more likely to have treatment for their mental health needs, more likely to become employed, family income rose, etc. These effects could have more of an effect on children's later school performance than the actual learning that went on in the classroom.

Genevieve said...

Head Start does have a home visiting component (though I think the visits are aprox. once a month).

I think most of the problems with scaling up a pilot program happen and have happened with preschool. The quality of staff is uneven across the different preschool programs.

Many of the problems facing K-12 schooling, also exist at the preschool level. Curriculum (or lack there of), teacher quality, program quality, etc. If most K-12 schools for students in poverty, are struggling with student achievement, why would we think it would be different just because the students are a year younger?

Amy P said...

"...they had to move 5-10 kids (why the number isn't firmer, I don't know) from the treatment to the control group because their mothers worked and couldn't arrange the home visits!"

So, to state the obvious, they weren't randomly assigned anymore. Oops!

"I believe she also said that one of the major things they see (and my professor that had worked on Head Start also said was true for Head Start) is that it helps the parents (usually moms) get their lives together. So the parents were less likely to be depressed, more likely to have treatment for their mental health needs, more likely to become employed, family income rose, etc. These effects could have more of an effect on children's later school performance than the actual learning that went on in the classroom."

Very interesting.

"I think most of the problems with scaling up a pilot program happen and have happened with preschool. The quality of staff is uneven across the different preschool programs."

It's probably worse than with K-12, because the preschools aimed at disadvantaged kids would be hiring more or less the same maternal population that supplies the kids that need preschool to bring them up to speed. It's an Escheresque problem--like the hand drawing itself. You don't run into that so much if it's a small pilot program that can hire the best and the brightest, rather than a nationwide program that needs lots of warm adult bodies.

Bonnie said...

I think 6 students per teacher is what NY requires for preschools, so that isn't an unreasonable staff to student ratio. That was the ratio at my kids preschool.

Right now, I know several students who want to major in early childhood ed and work in preschools, but are afraid because there aren't that many jobs. I don't think staffing would be a problem if there was a commitment.

And personally, I think the lack of commitment to something that has more evidence of success than most of the other reforms out there is just appalling.

BTW, I posted earlier on this topic, but my post was swallowed. This happens all the time here.

Genevieve said...

Its not just that there aren't jobs out there for early childhood, the ones that don't have school system contracts have very low pay. Turnover is very high. Many of the programs serve high needs children and are usually stressful to work at.

I remember working at a child care (that included preschool) where the majority of children received state aid. Pay was little more than minimum wage, you worked 10 hrs a day, most of the children had behavioral difficulties, no mentoring, little administrative support, very few benefits (almost all staff children were on SCHIP). I didn't even last a year (at that point I had a B.A. but not in Early Childhood).
Later I worked/volunteered at another center. The teachers all had or were working on Associate degrees. Same situation as before except the children had more needs and the staff was paid a little better. Then everyone was switched to working 32 hr weeks because of the loss of a grant, low enrollment and the use of Americorp volunteers to plug staffing holes. Many staff members relied on government programs to make ends meet (Section 8, SCHIP, Medicaid, WIC, food stamps).
Sometimes the ratio was 1:6 other times it was 1:8, or even 1:12. However, even when there was a low ratio, the staff didn't always do their work. Often staff would spend their time talking with each other, especially when they were outside. There were times when I was working with 8 2 year olds while the other staff were gossiping. (and there were a few days when I wasn't feeling well that I'm sure other staff felt I wasn't pulling my own weight).

In the public school preschools, there was also a problem of hiring adequate assistants (pay of about $8 an hour). Sometimes the assistants were great, other times it was almost better not to have any. The same was true, but to a far lesser extent with teachers.
Both centers received a lot of money from United Way to improve quality, fill the gap between state funds and the cost of providing care, providing preschool to those that didn't qualify for other programs,etc. For the most part it was wasted money. The only thing you could say for sure about the programs is that they enabled the parents to work.

While I am in favor of quality early childhood programs,at least where I live we haven't done a good job of ensuring that the programs are high quality.

Genevieve said...

I wonder if there are lower cost solutions to a full year of universal pre-k.
The summer before my daughter went to Kindergarten, the district had a special grant for summer school. Incoming Kindergartners went to summer school for 5 weeks. Preference was given to children that didn't have any preschool experience. The classes were taught by the Kindergarten teachers (and in a few cases the preschool teachers).
The 5 weeks allowed the students to become used to the routine, separating from parents, and allowed the teachers to start identifying children that might need extra help.
While this isn't enough to close the achievement gap, I think it is more likely to succeed in its goals than many of the other preschool programs I have seen.

Bonnie said...

I don't think 5 weeks is enough for the kids to overcome years of falling behind. What preschool teaches is social competency - sharing, sticking up for oneself, staying on a task, cooperating. That is easy for middle and upper class kids because they are skills taught in the family. For kids who are stuffed in front of a TV all day while their parents work long hours at low pay, the skills are never learned. That is why preschool helps low income kids more than higher income kids.

My kids went to fullday preschool which was very high quality. It was accredited by NAEYP (sp?). I don't think state minimum standards are high enough, personally. I think it would be expensive, but cheaper than prison 20 years down the road.

Amy P said...

"The 5 weeks allowed the students to become used to the routine, separating from parents, and allowed the teachers to start identifying children that might need extra help."

That does sound good.

While I think about it, one of the dirty secrets of preschool and pre-K is that 90% of the educational stuff happens in the morning. The afternoon is largely taken up by nap time, so it's really child care, rather than education (something to bear in mind if you're wondering whether it's worth it to pay for full day). My kids had both dropped their naps by pre-K, so this was a very sore point with them.

ChemProf said...

"While I am in favor of quality early childhood programs,at least where I live we haven't done a good job of ensuring that the programs are high quality."

Exactly! I think that pre-school for low-income families is a better use of government money than a lot of other things they do (although I share Allison's concern that it becomes universal pre-K and subsidizes families who were already getting good preschool care). But most of the studies were incredible programs that kept the same teachers for the whole research period, or at least for a few years at a time. So how the gains can be extended from the 60 kids in the study to the population as a whole is not obvious.

Even the head start study showed that the kids who started at 3 benefited more than those who started at 4.

Bonnie said...

I really disagree that all education happens in the first 2 hours of preschool. And I have experience - all three of my kids went through fullday (8am to 6pm) preschool, at two different preschools. First of all, at both preschools, education happened in the afternoon after nap just as it did in the morning. They had a full 3 hours between end of nap and pickup. Secondly, the important things that kids learn at preschool, as evidenced by the research, is NOT what they do with worksheets or letter-of-the-day. It is the social interaction. Even the nap itself is educational for kids who may be from very disordered backgrounds, with no routines. They learn they have to be quiet at a certain time, that they cannot disrupt the group because it hurts other people. They have snacks together, and usually, breakfast. They learn to pour their own milk, to wipe the tables, to pass food politely. I cannot say enough for the everyday learning that happens at a good preschool.

As for financing, what if we could do sliding payment scales, so that middle class families could access good preschool too? That way, they could buy in. Too often, programs that are just for the poor become targets for cuts, and get snipped at continually, because they are just for those "other people".

Amy P said...

I'm talking about a 8:30-2:30ish type school schedule, where there really isn't a lot of afternoon.
I've had a couple of pre-K teachers who teach in that setting and schedule tell me that not much happens in the afternoon besides the nap.

And really, any preschool program that runs 8 to 6 is a daycare, not a preschool.

Bonnie said...

If it runs 8 to 6, it is BOTH a daycare and a preschool. There is no contradiction between the two.

Genevieve said...

I think it really depends on the program. Some places that are open 6:30-6:30 have learning the entire time. Others are custodial care except from 9-1. I have seen this even in quality programs.
The problem with half day programs is that they just aren't long enough to really offer a quality program. Especially for children with high needs. The Head Starts I have been in have 2 meals, tooth brushing and a half hour of outside time to fit into a 3 hour day. Plus all of the other learning activities. The few school day length Head Start programs in the area have more time even with the nap. The nap is the majority of afternoon is nap, but it starts later and then there is a little time after nap for one more meal and a closing group.
The other problem with half day programs is what do you do with children for the rest of the day and how do you get them to preschool (our Head Start and universal pre-k's do not offer transportation)? With welfare reform, there just aren't that many parents that are around at home.
The early childhood department at my college was early care and education. If we could put together quality programs, there is no reason why preschool couldn't be both care and education.
I really like the idea of a sliding scale, because I really don't like education programs that are just of children in poverty. In my experience having only children in poverty makes it hard for the teachers and the students. Its the same problem as high poverty schools.

Allison said...

-- They learn to pour their own milk, to wipe the tables, to pass food politely. I cannot say enough for the everyday learning that happens at a good preschool.

Because that learning couldn't possibly take place at home.

Amy P said...

"Because that learning couldn't possibly take place at home."

Ouch.

Yeah, I don't see the point in a middle class parent of an average child enthusing over these particular skills, but if a child is more or less being reared by wolves, preschool could be very beneficial for both mother and child. (Having low muscle tone and poor coordination, my oldest would have spilled the milk over and over again at 3, 4, 5, 6 and even 7, so I would personally applaud the preschool's effort, while rejoicing that I didn't have to clean up afterwards.)

Allison said...

Ferile children are not the problem with Irvington's schools. Ferile children are not the problem with K-12 education in Westchester County. Ferile children aren't the problem in my neighborhood public school, either. Ferile children aren't the problem in the private schools which cost upwards of $20k a year and yet still use TERC investigations.

Well off districts are failing their students. K-12 is a disaster in places where parents aren't the problem.

The refrain "we've got ferile children in the school system, therefore, we should do MORE that should be done in the home" is at best a non sequitur, and at worst, irrational--they can't do their specific mandate of teaching reading, writing, and arithmetic. Why in the world would you think they would be able to fix ferile children?

Universal PreK will have the same problems as Universal K-12: the populations are NOT homogenous, and giving "everyone" added instruction time or added seat time isn't going to make them homogenous. If the real notion is "we need *these* kids away from their families of origin", then proponents should say so, so we could begin to discuss as a society the costs and benefits of such a statement, and what society's tradeoffs are going to be.

FedUpMom said...

Allison, it's "feral".

I agree with your basic point. The astonishing thing is how poor education is in affluent districts like the one where I live.

Allison said...

Of course it is. I was just confusing myself with "fertile". See what having 3 kids does to me! :)

FedUpMom said...

Ah, I thought you might be combining "feral" and "febrile".

And congrats on the several results of your fertility!

Bonnie said...

I thought we were talking about disadvantaged kids here. Those are the kids that showed the benefit from preschool. Yes, learning to pour milk is beneficial for those kids - they don't learn it at home. These kinds of skills are centerpieces of Montessori. You might want to read some of Maria Montessori's writings - she worked with disadvantaged kids in Italy long before the term "disadvantaged" was even used. Her insights into what kids really need at that age are remarkable.

Kitchen Benchtops said...

The more you know, the easier it will be for you to learn new things. Learning new things is actually a seamless process, but in order to study it and understand it better, cognitive scientists have approached it as a three-stage process.