Taking Off the Rose-Colored Glasses: Introspections and Reflections upon the state of our profession’s need for a critical analysis of itself.
While I was riding my motorcycle home, it occurred to me that I had struck upon the undercurrent of my current dissatisfaction with my profession – I knew too much, had seen too much, had heard too much.
In reviewing some texts used in two local community colleges in my County, I found for example, that Head Start programs were referenced liberally in the texts. In the text, Early Childhood Education, Birth-8, (Fourth Edition) by Amy Driscoll and Nancy Nagel, L. Schorr is quoted from the 2004 book, The Head Start Debates, describing Head Start as “one of the most successful federal programs in the nations’ history.” Head Start is referenced on ten occasions, and Early Head Start is referenced once in the Early Childhood Education, Birth-8 text. Meanwhile, in Los Angeles County, one Head Start Delegate Agency after another is faltering or disappearing entirely. Urban League, Delta Sigma Theta Head Start, and CCFS Head Start, serving approximately 3,000 children, have all been taken over by the “Feds” within less than one year.
In the text, Planning and Administering Early Childhood Programs, Decker, et al. state that “Head Start and other preschool programs for at-risk preschool children are often full-school-day programs” (p. 237). My experience in Los Angeles County, one of the two largest Grantees (Los Angeles County Office of Education, LACOE), states in its contract with its delegate agencies that part day Head Start can operate up to six hours per day. Nevertheless, when we attempted to modify our originally planned 3.5 hour day into a six hour program (granted, it was without prior approval), LACOE instructed us to cease and desist immediately or face disallowed costs. I know of very few Head Start programs in our area that operate more than 4 hours per day. Many Head Start classrooms operate only 4 days a week for children with one day off per week for documentation, paperwork, and planning. In the Decker, et al. text, Head Start is referenced at least 18 times!
In comparison, another innovative model, Universal Preschool , is mentioned but once in both texts combined.
The time has come for us to become honest with ourselves in the texts and articles that we produce as a profession, lest we be seen as biased. Certainly, we demand of our history texts that they produce an unbiased description of our history.
Neither of the texts I looked at mentioned the University of California study by Russell Rumberger, showing that for non-English-speaking students attending preschool, advantages by the end of third grade in both cognitive and social development had leveled out for all children. Rumberger also describes the positive impact of preschool, on reducing grade-retention in students. Inclusion of studies such as these would provide for critical thinking among students entering the early education field. Rumberger has been a supporter of early education through his work at the University of California Linguistic Minority Research Institute at UC, Santa Barbara.
Such critical thinking could also be supported by student examination of such articles as, Inject critical thinking into state standards to think outside the bubble, posted on March 21, 2011. According to this article, “curriculum frameworks are written without regard to interconnection and interrelationships among content areas, and do not support application of content knowledge to real-world challenges.” Further provoking such critical thinking, examination of a long term study in Chicago and following over 1,500 children born in 1979-1980, found that preschool attendance had far ranging positive impact 25 years later! Educational attainment, criminal arrest rates, substance abuse and incarceration rates were all positively impacted. It is worth noting that these children attended preschool long before the current movement to standardize, rate, and assess early learning experiences.
This introspection is done having concluded study of, “sectors of a caring community, the wealth of resources, current thinking, and professionalism, advocacy and leadership.” I hope that this “rant” does something to “connect the dots” and provide a picture of my current distress.
What does this mean for us as we become leaders in our profession? Perhaps it means that we must face our shortcomings, learn from our failings, and be able to change our course. Perhaps the generation that mentored me has it absolutely correct when they encourage us to defend a child’s right to play and nature. I myself will no longer be an “apologist for play.” I will make it a point to tell people that children not only learn through play, but they NEED play, simple, old-fashioned, unevaluated, un-assessed play.
Decker, Celia A., Decker, John R., Freeman, Nancy K., Knopf, Herman T., (2009), Planning and Administering Early Childhood Education Programs, Ninth Edition, Columbus, OH
Driscoll, Amy, Nagel, Nancy G., (2008), Early Childhood Education Birth-8: The World of Children, Families, and Educators, Boston
Lelchuk, Ilene, (2006), California/UC study examines preschool benefits/By third grade, no difference shown among students, http://articles.sfgate.com
Matsuda, Michael, (2011), Inject critical thinking into state standards to think outside the bubble, Thoughts on Public Education/Silicon Valley Education Foundation
Rumberger, Russell W., (2006), Less Costly alternatives to Prop 82 could yield better results, Mercury News
Szalavitz, Maia, (2011), How to Cut Crime, Alcoholism and Addiction? It’s Not Elementary, But Preschool, http://healthland.time.com