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Early Childhood Education is Overrated. However...


11 replies to this topic

#1
Poe Dameron

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Early childhood education gains become basically undetectable within a few years after children start elementary school.  This has actually been known for a number of years, despite politicians touting early childhood education programs like Head Start and various pre-K programs, but I thought I'd bring it up now because it appears that Vox got the memo.

 

But, despite the lack of any learning advantage, kids in programs like Head Start do better later on in life.  The answer seems simple, and something I've been saying for a long time.  It's all just really expensive subsidized daycare.  Of course, providing safe and healthy environments during a critical age is good for children, particularly poor and at risk children which Head Start focuses on.  Not to mention, having the option of subsidized daycare is a boon to parents who can focus their daily attention on work and not have to give up a good chunk of their paycheck.

 

So what's the takeaway from all this?  Basically, that we should kill early childhood education programs that don't do much and replace them with less learning intensive preschool and quality daycare.  It'd be both cheaper and could help more families at the same time.

 

I would also suggest focusing more educational attention on shoring up middle and high school children.  That's where they actually fall behind and get lost.  Elementary schools are actually just fine.  The reason why politicians like to focus on early-childhood education despite it being pretty worthless is because it's easier to start and expand programs than to make changes in the school system that already exists.



#2
Ms. Spam

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Eh, I think early childhood education is fantastic and if there is a program it should be used. I'd like to see more of a sorting where we go to school for say 8 years and get some learning like math, how to write and read and then based on some testing and choices of the kid you can either go on to a technical school to learn auto mechanics or a trade of some kind, service type stuff or you can go on to a further high school like education through a kind of voucher system that helps you prepare more for college where when you finally get to college you just learn what you need to become a master at it and not spend endless amounts of money taking useless dumb classes that are basically forced on you to make more money for the school. Less money spent on the dumb who will be doing menial work and more money spent on producing good scientists, lawyers, cpas and doctors. 


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#3
Poe Dameron

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Eh, I think early childhood education is fantastic

 

But it's not.  As far as education goes, it's basically tossing money down the toilet.  Gains have been consistently found to be lost within a few years.



#4
Iceheart

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So what's the takeaway from all this?  Basically, that we should kill early childhood education programs that don't do much and replace them with less learning intensive preschool and quality daycare.  It'd be both cheaper and could help more families at the same time.

 

 

Daycare centers are required by law to provide quality activities for the children in their care. That usually translates to art activities, sensory playtime, story time, song circle, simple games that work on dexterity and memory and cooperation - all things that kids do in a traditional preschool. So, how would providing daycare over preschool save money, exactly? Keeping in mind that private daycare providers and public school teachers make generally the same salary, and use the same classroom/playroom equipment.

 

I read that Vox article last week, and my takeaway was that while Head Start didn't provide the initial intended outcome, the outcome it did provide more than justifies the program, including expanding it to serve more families. I also think that we should be learning from and emulating the French and Japanese preschool systems.


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#5
Darth Ender

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Kind of...

 

I am a subscriber to Piaget's Theory of Cognitive Development.  It essentially states that children move through different levels of development up until adulthood.  Ages 2-7 is the pre-operational stage.  Children primarily learn through play and thought processes are concrete.  Children can understand abstract ideas, such as numbers and letters, when tied to concrete concepts (children can understand five toys but not understand what the concept of five).  Soft skills, such as socialization and structure, are much more valuable than hard academic skills (memorization of the alphabet or site words).

 

However, that is not to say that all instruction of literacy skills should be abandoned at the pre-K level.  Students who have strong pre-literacy/ early literacy and number sense have a tremendous head start over their peers.  Something that the article did not touch on (but a few of its sources did) was the importance of high quality primary teachers.  Schools that serve highly impacted populations have a difficult time retaining high quality teachers.  Head Start serves students that generally go to schools with high staff turnover and not as a high quality of teachers. 

 

 

Reading this article reminded me of a few studies:   

 

First, reading to your children doesn't have a huge impact on student achievement.  What is important is that parents who read to their children value education.  It is the household value on education that is important.  Parents that value education but do not read to their children will likely have similarly achieving students than those that do read.  Do students that enter K knowing their ABCs have more success because they know their ABCs or they come from an environment which views knowing ABCs are important?

 

Second, the Sesame Street Effect.  Primarily in the 1970s and the 1980s, PBS was not available in all US homes.  Access to PBS was not decided based on income, ethnic background, or home language.  Research found that Sesame Street DID improve student literacy across the board.  Similar to the Vox article, these literacy gains were lost after a few years.  However, these gains were only lost in students from impacted backgrounds.  Students from middle class backgrounds MAINTAINED these gains.  Head Start serves students from impacted populations so it is likely they will have similar obstacles to maintaining those gains.  

 

Third, research on pure play programs show that these students struggle with skills such as academic resiliency and conceptual change which causes a learning dip in the mid-primary years, primarily in third grade, when students switch from learning to read to reading to learn.  So even though literacy skills may diminish in the Head Start program, there are many soft skills that are developed because of the literacy component.  So even though the literacy skills may dip, there are other soft skills which are developed.  Learning how to learn is more important than the learning itself.  

 

I am not arguing that there isn't validity to reducing the literacy emphasis in pre-K programs, but we shouldn't throw the baby out with the bath water because the learning expectations are not aligned with expected results.  


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#6
Poe Dameron

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Daycare centers are required by law to provide quality activities for the children in their care. That usually translates to art activities, sensory playtime, story time, song circle, simple games that work on dexterity and memory and cooperation - all things that kids do in a traditional preschool.

 

I said "less learning intensive preschool and quality daycare".  The question is more of the value of relatively intensive programs like Head Start and such that try to, well, give them a head start in school.  I've got no issue with having plenty of positive activities like art, story time, and even some basic phonetics and math sprinkled throughout the day to keep the kids busy and give them a sense of structure.  That's just good daycare and preschooling.

 

Also, there is no uniform law as you just described.  Any daycare laws would be patchwork among states, but I've never heard of state that requires what you listed.

 

So, how would providing daycare over preschool save money, exactly? Keeping in mind that private daycare providers and public school teachers make generally the same salary, and use the same classroom/playroom equipment.

 

Programs like Head Start require teachers with higher levels of education.  It requires more specific learning tools.  It requires a stronger curriculum.  It requires more oversight to make sure the program is being followed.  All these things require a lot more money.

 

I read that Vox article last week, and my takeaway was that while Head Start didn't provide the initial intended outcome, the outcome it did provide more than justifies the program

 

But the article is saying the same thing I have.  The program Head Start doesn't do much.  There's an easier, more cost-effective, way to get the same results that could be expanded to more families if we just ax the gold-plated program and instead provide what's actually important.

 

Third, research on pure play programs show that these students struggle with skills such as determination and conceptual change which causes a learning dip in the mid-primary years, primarily in third grade, when students switch from learning to read to reading to learn.

 

By all means, post the study.

 

I am not arguing that there isn't validity to reducing the literacy emphasis in pre-K programs, but we shouldn't throw the baby out with the bath water because the learning expectations are not aligned with expected results.

 

I don't think I am.  If I were trying to do that I'd just say to cut the programs.  Instead I'm saying that programs like Head Start are luxuries we don't need when there are easier ways to get the same outcome.



#7
Ms. Spam

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So what's the takeaway from all this?  Basically, that we should kill early childhood education programs that don't do much and replace them with less learning intensive preschool and quality daycare.  It'd be both cheaper and could help more families at the same time.

 

 

Daycare centers are required by law to provide quality activities for the children in their care. That usually translates to art activities, sensory playtime, story time, song circle, simple games that work on dexterity and memory and cooperation - all things that kids do in a traditional preschool. So, how would providing daycare over preschool save money, exactly? Keeping in mind that private daycare providers and public school teachers make generally the same salary, and use the same classroom/playroom equipment.

 

I read that Vox article last week, and my takeaway was that while Head Start didn't provide the initial intended outcome, the outcome it did provide more than justifies the program, including expanding it to serve more families. I also think that we should be learning from and emulating the French and Japanese preschool systems.

 

This basically what I heard today on NPR.



#8
Ms. Spam

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Kind of...

 

I am a subscriber to Piaget's Theory of Cognitive Development.  It essentially states that children move through different levels of development up until adulthood.  Ages 2-7 is the pre-operational stage.  Children primarily learn through play and thought processes are concrete.  Children can understand abstract ideas, such as numbers and letters, when tied to concrete concepts (children can understand five toys but not understand what the concept of five).  Soft skills, such as socialization and structure, are much more valuable than hard academic skills (memorization of the alphabet or site words).

 

However, that is not to say that all instruction of literacy skills should be abandoned at the pre-K level.  Students who have strong pre-literacy/ early literacy and number sense have a tremendous head start over their peers.  Something that the article did not touch on (but a few of its sources did) was the importance of high quality primary teachers.  Schools that serve highly impacted populations have a difficult time retaining high quality teachers.  Head Start serves students that generally go to schools with high staff turnover and not as a high quality of teachers. 

 

  

YES!

 

It is not about the act of reading but actually causing a sense of security that helps you to better stretch boundries and learn more because you feel safe enough. You create a bond or something akin to being with a person who is willing to read those Golden Book Stories that shows your values to which a child can live up to. I'm tired so I can't write as cohesively but I work in a lower income school district and the turn over affects so much! 


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#9
Poe Dameron

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[quote]This basically what I heard today on NPR.[/quote]

 

<sigh>

 

But I already pointed out that Iceheart's post was objectively incorrect.

 

[quote]I'm tired so I can't write as cohesively but I work in a lower income school district and the turn over affects so much![/quote

 

I'm sure it does.  However, again, what does this have to do with gold-plated educational programs like Head Start?

 

Besides, as I keep repeating, the real problem isn't elementary school anyway.  Generally speaking, our elementary school system does a decent job.  It's middle school and high school where things fall apart.

 

So why is it that we always look backwards to the one part of education that's not broken and keep trying to fix it?



#10
Iceheart

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Also, there is no uniform law as you just described.  Any daycare laws would be patchwork among states, but I've never heard of state that requires what you listed.

 

 

I wasn't speaking universally, I was speaking from experience. I've worked home daycare, and my mom has worked both home and childcare center care. And your reading comprehension is off, I never said that states require all the things I listed as examples, I simply said that licensed daycares need to have a curriculum in place that focuses on learning and development, that looks a whole lot like a standard preschool class. To the point where daycare resources intended for the whole country outline activity curricula.

 

... that being said, I may have been confusing the Elder Care laws on activity participation in nursing and care facilities, which is another field I've worked in, with the child care laws.

 

 

 

 

 

Programs like Head Start require teachers with higher levels of education.  It requires more specific learning tools.  It requires a stronger curriculum.  It requires more oversight to make sure the program is being followed.  All these things require a lot more money.

 

 

The level of education a preschool teacher needs is not uniform across states. And regardless of education, you'll still probably only make $20K annually as a full-time employee of your local public school system, which I would hope they would offer to any full-time employee regardless of education status. Preschool does not require more specific learning tools or a stronger curriculum - look at any random child care center's curriculum page, and many flat-out call their 3-4 year old program "preschool."  And even though some states do offer Head Start programs - not all - preschool is not a requirement in the US, so they'd just be subjected to whatever curriculum oversight the state requires of any school system if the states decide they do require it, and around here our Head Starts tend to partner with the public school systems anyway.  And if you're a licensed child care facility in my state, you're subjected to frequent state inspections anyway, paid for by your tax dollars.

 

 

 

 

 

<sigh>

 

But I already pointed out that Iceheart's post was objectively incorrect.

 

 

If you want to take it up with NPR, you can do so here

 

Poe, do you mind if I ask what your skin in the game is here, beyond (I assume) being a taxpayer who votes on school millages? Spam and Ender are both teachers, so this issue directly impacts them, and they clearly have a lot of knowledge and experience backing up their replies. I have some personal experience in the daycare field from a provider's standpoint. Everyone has brought their receipts to this conversation so far but you, and yet you seem to have the strongest opinions about this.


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#11
Ms. Spam

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From a certain point of view...  if you're talking about the value of tax dollars being spent on head start programs and how to measure them it really depends on where you want your benchmarks to get  results.

 

I have taken early childhood education classes and am working towards a masters in math ed where my focus is more middle school high school level but Ender who has much more teaching under his belt than me and a PhD pretty much covered what I think Icey was trying to say and expanded on it.

 

Personally I feel headstart programs serve a purpose within a community and are just as good as say enrolling your kid in Mom's Day out with the local Church where they learn "Bible" crafts and lore and get a meal/snack. One you pay out of pocket for the other comes from taxes.


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#12
Poe Dameron

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Poe, do you mind if I ask what your skin in the game is here, beyond (I assume) being a taxpayer who votes on school millages?

 

I've been on a break, so didn't realize I had a direct question.  I find appeals of authority to be self-defeating and much prefer others rate the worth of my position by the strength of my facts, interpretation, and how well I make them as opposed to whipping out credentials.  But since you asked, I have about a decade in education under my belt and, though I've moved on, still maintain subbing privileges just for the fun of it.  As it happens, I spent a long lunch break away from my regular job teaching a class today while the regular teacher did some training for a period.

 

Anyway, back to the shadows.





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