I am one member of a five person board. The opinions I express on this forum are mine only, and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Escambia County Staff, Administrators, Employees, or anyone else associated with Escambia County Florida. I am interested in establishing this blog as a means of additional transparency to the public, outreach to the community, and information dissemination to all who choose to look. Feedback is welcome, but because public participation is equally encouraged, appropriate language and decorum is mandatory.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

What is the Academic Value of Early Childhood Education and Pre-K Programs?

A local survey regarding the academic efficacy of Early Childhood Education programs suggests continued strong support among educators, while the latest published studies show minimal, if any, academic benefit attributable to such programs.... Why?

In early November, 2014, I surveyed approximately 1,900 teachers in the Escambia County School District on the subject of Early Childhood Education.

I immediately received nearly 400 responses to the six question survey I distributed, and I am very thankful to all who responded and submitted responses!  These summarized responses are presented in the table below.

I completed  a research project utilizing the latest published study results from this field combined with these local survey data on the subject of VPK, Universal Pre-K, Head Start, and other taxpayer subsidized early childhood education.

The results of the survey were not surprising; the vast majority of teachers locally strongly support the continuation/expansion of these taxpayer subsidized ECE programs--- even if the academic benefit of such expenditures, according to recent studies I cite in my research--- cannot be clearly demonstrated.  This overwhelming support for continuation is seemingly at odds with the majority of responses to question #5 below.  Interesting and perplexing.


Lorraine said...

One of the few things we may agree on? That ECE may not be worth it. I remember being at a friends house a few years back. She was a teacher's aide to a Kindergarten teacher. She mentioned that children are not "Kindergarten ready." I thought it was so strange. You need to know the alphabet BEFORE you're in Kindergarten? I remember learning it in Kindergarten my self. My teacher was pointing to the letters and was on D or E or maybe as I was my eyes were drifting around. She said, "Lorraine! What letter did we just learn?" I said, "I don't know." That's because I wasn't paying attention. But doggon it, I know my alphabet now! I am a lover of words and the beauty they can convey!

ECE is something I haven't really looked into, so maybe I am wrong, but I've always just thought it was a little strange to place such demands on a 3 or 4 year old kid.

Anonymous said...

Pre-K does not drill, we do not focus on sitting and learning. We learn through movement, we learn through play. We learn by engaging. My students are constantly engaged in their learning due to them exploring and using their hands. Just yesterday we worked on letter recognition by building letters of the alphabet with magnetic strips. They were not sat at a table and repetitively asked what letter they were holding. They were given a flash card and magnetic strips. They were asked if they knew the letter on the card, and if they did not, I told them what it was. I then asked them if they could show me how to create that specific letter with manipulatives given. I offered hand-over-hand assistance when I saw it was needed, and I encouraged engagement with them by talking about words that started with that specific letter. Students want to learn; however, they don't need to be drilled. They need to explore, ask questions and get out of their seats!
Pre-K is valuable in so many ways. You have to be creative and patient. You have to genuinely love the children you work with and continually seek out new ways to keep your students engaged by using their hands,voices and movement.

Jeff Bergosh said...

Lorraine-this may be something we agree on. I have completed a comprehensive, 26 page, in-depth research paper on this subject, utilizing all of the latest published study data (including the HHS Head-start study and the recent Vanderbilt Peabody study) and I believe the academic benefits are very hard to show. I will publish this research on this blog soon, for the very few who may be interested in reading it :) . I have no doubt these programs are popular, I have no doubt that parents and kids love them. My issue becomes quite simple: If by third grade, the academic outcomes of participants and non-participants cannot be distinguished--why keep funding these and calling them "Academic" programs? If these programs are not showing measurable benefits academically, but are otherwise beneficial for socialization or behavioral reasons, why can't we call it that? Let's be intellectually honest about that. First we HAD to have Kindergarten, next (and now) the push is universal Pre-K. What is next, we take babies from mothers right after they are delivered? At what point does the nanny-state end. Parents have the responsibility to raise their kids, care for them, and educate them until they reach school age. My personal opinion is we need to focus the LIMITED education dollars we have on programs that benefit students, where there are measurable benefits that can be demonstrated, and where these limited funds will have the greatest impacts. I know I am in the minority in this opinion. I also STRONGLY opposed class size reductions, as that destroyed our ability to pay teachers a decent wage. Unions wanted small class sizes and effectively capped our ability to significantly raise teacher pay. An argument for a different forum I know...

Lorraine said...

I reposted an edited version. I really need to sto typing lengthy paragraphs on this tiny device!