Be Careful What You Wish For: Obama’s Preschool Plan

My column today on why little kids need to be little kids (and we should be worried about turning preschool into ‘big school’):

photo: TIME, Inc.

photo: TIME, Inc.

Early childhood advocates were elated by Obama’s State of the Union proposal to vastly expand our infrastructure of early childhood programs. Economists like Nobel laureate James Heckman have long argued that early childhood education is the best financial investment a society can make. Gaps in ability that predict future life outcomes tend to open wide at an early age, so the call to level the playing field for young kids is both welcome and overdue.

The cornerstone of Obama’s proposal is a plan to make preschool education available for all four-year-olds at or below 200 percent of the poverty line. Pre-K funds would be distributed to local school districts and much of the programming would likely be placed in existing elementary schools. States would have access to federal dollars if they met “quality benchmarks,” including state-level learning and assessment standards. This sounds reasonable enough.

But the devil is in the details, and in this case, those details may not be developmentally appropriate for young children. If you need a cautionary tale of what goes wrong when politicians and school boards ride roughshod over the developmental needs of children, you need look no further than the dramatic changes to Kindergarten over the last decade…

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About ErikaChristakis

Yale Lecturer in early childhood education/Licensed teacher/Former preschool director/author. In possession of: unmarketable bachelor’s degree (Harvard, anthropology), semi-marketable graduate degrees (public health, education…). Rewarding career at the intersection of family, society, and schools (including long stint in parenting vortex). Forging a new path to connect all of the above.
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