Why We Need Pre-K!

Dear Commons Community,

Ginia Bellafante has a New York Times article on the need for pre-K for all children but especially those of the poor and minorities.  Here is an excerpt;

“Earlier in the year when I met Steven F. Wilson, founder of a network of charter schools that serve poor and largely black communities in Brooklyn, I asked him what he considered the greatest challenge on the first day of kindergarten each year. He answered, without a second’s hesitation: “Word deficit.” As it happens, in the ’80s, the psychologists Betty Hart and Todd R. Risley spent years cataloging the number of words spoken to young children in dozens of families from different socioeconomic groups, and what they found was not only a disparity in the complexity of words used, but also astonishing differences in sheer number. Children of professionals were, on average, exposed to approximately 1,500 more words hourly than children growing up in poverty. This resulted in a gap of more than 32 million words by the time the children reached the age of 4.

This issue, though seemingly crucial, has been obscured in the recently intensified debate over the Specialized High Schools Admissions Test, the multiple-choice exam used as the sole metric for entrance into some of New York City’s elite public high schools, including Stuyvesant and Bronx Science.

Thousands of students in the city are in the throes of preparing for the test to be administered the last weekend of this month. Two weeks ago, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, along with other organizations, filed a federal civil rights complaint challenging the single-score admissions process as perilously narrow and arguing that it negatively affected black and Hispanic children, who are grossly underrepresented in these schools, so long considered forceful agents of mobility…

And yet, all of this focus on the test — which examines reading comprehension, math skills, the ability to reason logically — suggests a myopia of its own. Expanding the ranks of poor black and Hispanic children in the top high schools would seem to require infinitely more backtracking. Consider that Christa McAuliffe Middle School in Brooklyn, one of the major pipelines to top public high schools, last year had a student population that was 0.52 percent black…

a review of Paul Tough’s new book, “How Children Succeed,” there is strong evidence that increasing the general knowledge and vocabulary of a child before age 6 is the single highest correlate with later success. Schools have an enormously hard time pushing through the deficiencies with which many children arrive.”

All of this would seem to argue for a system in which we spent ever more of our energies and money on early, preschool education rather than less.”



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