Leave Those Kids Alone
Pre-K is the growth sector of the privatized school industry. There's no existing institutional structure to sweep aside, and there's near-universal agreement that a good Pre-K foundation is important for all future success, coupled with research indicating that many of our children are already behind on the first day of kindergarten.
Unfortunately, "good Pre-K foundation" is a phrase that has been interpreted in some not-very-helpful ways by not-very-clever people with a not-very-deep understanding of what is developmentally appropriate for a four-year-old. Google "kindergarten is the new first grade" and you get over 5,000 results. Because some folks are just certain that what three- and four-year-olds need is academic preparation, direct instruction, and, of course, tests that let us measure the outcomes.
The research on the effectiveness is a huge muddy mess (made more muddy by the continued absence of a reliable and meaningful measure of school effectiveness in general). Some of the research has been rather alarmingly headline-generating, like the Stanford study that suggests that delayed kindergarten enrollment reduces the possibility of developing ADHD.
Now the folks at Defending the Early Years have published a short piece by Lilian Katz that provides a useful framework for explaining and understanding why some approaches to early childhood education are not useful.
Lilian Katz is professor emerita of early childhood education at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign as well as principal investigator for the Illinois Early Learning Project. Her study of and advocacy for early childhood education is extensive and spirited.
"Lively Minds: Distinctions between academic versus intellectual goals for young children" is a four page report with one page of cover and another one of endnotes-- so we can cut to the chase CURMUDGUCATION: Leave Those Kids Alone: