Early Childhood Proposals

Should Kansas expand K-12 to E-12? That’s a proposal being advocated in some quarters. But before Kansans expand the existing school system, they ought to consider some evidence.

Writing for the Washington Policy Center, Liv Finne looks at Early Learning Proposals in Washington State. The report starts out with the number of children in institutional care of some sort (roughly 23 percent of children under kindergarten age) and the cost of that care (median cost in 2005: $8,840 for an infant; $7,540 for a toddler; $6,916 for a preschooler). The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation identifies one in four children under age 5 to be at risk to fail socially and academically for a variety of factors.

Finne addresses and then critiques four major arguments in favor of government-based programs for young children.

Will it improve their neurological functioning and thus contribute to a better education? It’s a lot more complicated than advocates argue. Children can bounce back from rough beginnings more than we think, while institutional care, even of the best kind, is not as good as we think. A key point here is that a better use of resources would be to focus on children already in institutional care, rather than expanding the number of children in that care.

Will it save money by avoiding welfare and criminal justice costs? Perhaps–but much of the enthusiasm for early childhood education calls for universal programs, making overall spending on pre-k programs less cost-effective than advertised.

Do the Perry, Abecedarian and Chicago studies prove that intense pre-K programs can compensate for early risk factors? Again, not necessarily. These programs are more intense than anything advocated in Washington, and they’re rather expensive, limiting the likelihood that they will be replicated on a large scale. In addition, some factors involved in the programs, such as improved parent-child interaction, don’t necessarily need a program like these three.

Finally, does institutional care provide the social and emotional skills required for learning at school? More likely, parent-child interaction produces those skills. Indeed, participation full-day kindergarten is associated with less, not more preparedness towards learning.

FADE OUT

One major problem with using pre-K as the skeleton key to unlock educational success is that such programs are prone to fade-out: that is, their benefits tend to disappear over time.

COSTS OF INSTITUTIONAL CARE

The costs of institutional care, the report suggests, can be personal (increased aggression, for example), academic (undermining natural curiosity) and financial . The financial costs, assuming the ideal setting as envisioned by the National Institute for Early Education Research, come out to $11,000 per child–about as much as the K-12 system costs in Kansas.

Any program, the report suggests, should be limited to low-income families and voluntary, with families able to transfer children between programs as the need requires.

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Comments

  • ryanw17  On March 4, 2008 at 1:49 pm

    Here is the solution for Kansas, Washington, and all states! I work for the Reality Works Company in Washington State. We have a proposal that will be cost effective and provide quantifiable data involving each student on our program, along with the ability to witness students gaining knowledge and an excitment for learning, not being entertained.

    Bringing Education to the 21st Century

    A change in education must take place. The Reality Works Company (RWC) has designed an online program that teaches children how to think and learn in the real world and also within the classroom. The program is intended to reach children from non-challenged to challenged, ELL to non ELL and more. All student performance is collected and provides immediate feedback to the teacher and student, offering motivation for learning new and more complex skills while also providing confidence in what they already know. The program targets the early years in which a child’s brain develops most dramatically and creates a strong foundation for the student’s future educational development. The real world curricula that is offered in the computer program was designed around 3 – 5 year old children; however they have also found notable gains with students up to the age of 12.

    The goals are as follows:
    • Launching a state wide or a county wide program to improve the student’s school readiness with knowledge and to begin bridging the digital divide while inspiring a personal value for technology and the lifelong process of learning.
    • The program should eventually be utilized within communities and classrooms nationwide.
    • To bring back the responsibility of the parent to better prepare their children for the classroom.
    • We will bridge the current gap between pre-school and elementary schools.
    • To develop cognitive thinking and to create the fundamental elements of reading and math while introducing children to computer technology.
    • There is a great value in multimedia, internet delivered curricula and we believe that this form of delivery will become the standard in preschool and elementary education.
    The proposal is a pilot program involving 4 year olds and elementary schools in order for them to be prepared for kindergarten. Children could access programs from day care, home, school, church, community center etc.

    How we begin: (Pre-school)
    • Launch a state wide or a county wide pilot program for all 4 year old children within a given county or area using the program provided by RWC called BeSchoolReady (BSR.)
    • All families register their child by the county they reside in or school district. A list of locations within their community that provide the program will be given.
    • The student performance data for registered children will be available to the pre-school provider and each school district involved so that they know exactly what learning level their new attending students are at.
    • Funding Structure: $340 per enrolled child, per year

    How we begin: (Elementary Schools)
    • All Elementary Schools in the chosen state or county will register with the program provided by RWC called Knowledge First (KF.)
    • Any new kindergarten student registered with BSR will use KF within the school. The activities offered in both of the programs are the same. The student will start right where they left off within the program once they enter Kindergarten.
    • Teachers, Principals, and the district will have access to all of their registered student’s quantifiable data.
    • Funding Structure: Same As Above.

    The program is currently being used in 5 schools within a School district in Washington State. They are in the process of developing a community outreach program that’s similar to the proposed state wide/county pilot but on a much smaller scale. The Lynwood School District in California has taken on the program in 9 out of their 12 schools. Mexican American Opportunity Foundation (CA.) is currently using the program with 500 of their pre-school students. The program has found significant success in California. Three years ago, Rosa Parks Elementary (Lynwood District) raised their state test scores by 2 points (Academic Performance Index points.) In 2006, the only change in their curricula was adding the computer based, cognitive learning program and since then their test scores raised 114 points. This was the highest raise in test scores within 5,661 schools that offer k-5/6 in California. RWC currently serves 10,000 children within WA and CA.

    In conclusion, it’s very important that the parents get involved and start preparing their children for life readiness and school. This would be a very efficient and quantifiable way to build a statewide structure for preschool. As well as helping students in school develop real world skills and abilities. There would be many other details to work out involving the state wide pilot program with BeSchoolReady and launching Knowledge First within the elementary schools but it can be done if we put well meaning minds together.

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