Rigorous Preschool?

Photo credit: Woodley Wonder Works (CC-By-2.0)

The New York Times highlights a new national study that preschoolers exposed to formal math and reading lessons come out ahead of preschoolers who don’t.

They write:

The study found that by the end of kindergarten, children who had attended one year of “academic-oriented preschool” outperformed peers who had attended less academic-focused preschools by, on average, the equivalent of two and a half months of learning in literacy and math.

“Simply dressing up like a firefighter or building an exquisite Lego edifice may not be enough,” said Bruce Fuller, the lead author of the study, conducted by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley. “If you can combine creative play with rich language, formal conversations and math concepts, that’s more likely to yield the cognitive gains we observed.”

The study comes amid rapid expansions of taxpayer-funded preschool in cities like Washington, San Antonio and New York, where Mayor Bill de Blasio announced last month that he would eventually expand the program, now open to all 4-year-olds, to 3-year-olds as well.

The new wave of preschools provide playtime, but their major goal is academic “kindergarten readiness,” and the study could provide ammunition for policy makers who want to keep on that course. It could also help officials like Mr. de Blasio make the case for even more public spending on prekindergarten programs.

Let’s stop right there for a moment. “By the end of kindergarten” no doubt preschoolers who experience formal math and reading will have a leg-up on kindergarteners who don’t. The onset of Common Core with its age-inappropriate standards for kindergarteners has helped fuel the push for universal preschool.

My question is this. When a student reaches 2nd grade, 3rd grade and 4th grade will that time spent in a “rigorous preschool” mean anything.

If Head Start is any indication when considering the long-term effectiveness of preschool, I believe the answer would be no.

Get ready for the push for preschool with “rigor.” (I just threw up in my mouth a little writing that.)

They continue.

Many who are college-educated are wary of academic preschool, worrying it will quash the love of learning before their children make it past their holding-hands years. At one prekindergarten information session in the affluent Brooklyn Heights neighborhood last year, parents asked not about math or reading, but about how often their children would be exposed to art and music.

The long-term consequences, like quashing the love of learning, is not something that should be taken lightly.

My kids are way beyond preschool (my baby is going to be a high school senior next year), but if I were a young parent today, I don’t think I would want my wife and me to do anything differently. We spent time reading to our kids and let our kids be kids.

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