Sunday, May 5, 2013

No Rich Child Left Behind

Sean F. Reardon, a professor of education at Stanford University wrote an opinion piece that appeared recently in the New York Times titled "No Rich Child Left Behind." In it he makes the case that there is an ever-widening gap between the enriched educational experience provided to rich children in private schools and the paltry fare in public schools stripped of all enrichment by reforms to make good fill-in-the-blank test takers.

In the final paragraphs of his opinion piece, Reardon makes an additional point that children of the rich have enriched preschool experiences. He states that the rich make sure that their children have the best early childhood experiences available.

I have visited some of the schools for the upper classes, and I can attest: schools for the upper classes do not emphasize instruction on numbers or letters. (Some of them actually ban such instruction.) Preschools for the rich are exciting and interesting places filled with music, art, and imaginative play. Their schools do not resemble the preschools run by corporate interests that emphasize early literacy & numeracy.

A good preschool is a place where children are happy—at play in environments that stimulate their curiosity. The teachers in these preschools skillfully encourage the children to investigate the stimulating world around them.

Reardon would like educational reforms that take early childhood education in the opposite direction they've been going in the past thirteen years or so. He writes:

So how can we move toward a society in which educational success is not so strongly linked to family background? Maybe we should take a lesson from the rich and invest much more heavily as a society in our children’s educational opportunities from the day they are born. Investments in early-childhood education pay very high societal dividends. That means investing in developing high-quality child care and preschool that is available to poor and middle-class children. It also means recruiting and training a cadre of skilled preschool teachers and child care providers. These are not new ideas, but we have to stop talking about how expensive and difficult they are to implement and just get on with it.
He concludes by saying

The more we do to ensure that all children have similar cognitively stimulating early childhood experiences, the less we will have to worry about failing schools. This in turn will enable us to let our schools focus on teaching the skills — how to solve complex problems, how to think critically and how to collaborate — essential to a growing economy and a lively democracy.

You can read Reardon's entire commentary by clicking on this link: No Rich Child Left Behind.

Be well.

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