Play, Mathematics, and False Dichotomies

Let’s stop the cycle of “abuse”—or at least confusion—that stems from false dichotomies in early education. “Play vs. academics” is arguably the main one. Of course children should play. But this does not mean they should not learn, and even play, with mathematics. Consider the following.

  1. In their free play, children naturally engage in mathematics. Observations of preschoolers show that when they play, they engage in mathematical thinking at least once in almost half of each minute of play. Almost 9 out of 10 of children engage in at one or more math activities during play episodes.

Please visit National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) for the complete blog post.

Taking the long view on play in early childhood education

The educational value of early childhood activities is determined by how much they contribute to the many dimensions of young children’s development. These include learning how to read, write, add, and subtract – and much, much more. Adding and subtracting depend on the abilities to sort things into categories and count them. Reading and writing depend on the abilities to speak and listen to other people.

Please visit National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) for the complete blog post.

Why preschool critics are wrong

In a recent blog on his Brookings Institution site, Grover Whitehurst claims that the preponderance of scientific evidence does not indicate lasting positive benefits from preschool.  Others disagree, he says, because they are not as “picky” about the evidence. As there is no disputing taste, I assume he means that the research he prefers is more rigorous and relevant, not just better aligned with his personal preferences.  Hence, we would be looking for a valid and reliable process when he arrays the research and grades each study.

Please visit National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) for the complete blog post.

Reflections on Play: Join the Conversation

The early childhood field has a history of conflict over means and goals that periodically erupts into public debates about the role of play versus academics and construction versus instruction. Concerns about whether preschool and kindergarten have become too stressful and regimented are met head on with concerns that they are academically weak and fail to cognitively challenge children. These conflicts have been intensified by increased demands for assessment  and Common Core State Standards driving curriculum in the early grades.

Please visit National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) for the complete blog post.

The Profound Impact of Early Education

Every family in the United States should be able enroll their child in good preschool program, beginning at age three and ought to have access to good child care–including that provided by themselves at home–for infants and toddlers. The benefits would be profound for our children and the larger society, especially children from low-income families–half of all young children–but not only for them. Today we are far from achieving this vision of a more nurturing society and our progress has been painfully slow over the last two decades.

Please visit National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) for the complete blog post.

I’ve Got Two Words to Say

It’s been several years since I last walked down the aisle of my state legislature, as finishing touches were made toward establishing voluntary, universal pre-K through public-private partnerships. It was the end of a long walk spanning several years, different Commissioners, and numerous committees. Though the outcome was generally assured, devilish details eventually gave way to compromise, but I felt a sense of relief when I walked out the State House door that last time, knowing that the greater good prevailed.

Please visit National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) for the complete blog post.

When it Comes to Preschool, Modest Results May Be Meaningful

We ask a lot of early childhood programs: we want them to foster academic development, teach social skills, build character, and provide child care. And there are big expectations for their effects, encouraged by the successes of the Perry Preschool Project and the Abecedarian Project. In recent years, however, evaluations of the effects of some early childhood programs, most notably the Head Start Impact Study, have disappointed.

We need to invest in early childhood programs while being honest about what is required to produce the outcomes we want, and about what size effects current programs are likely to produce.

Please visit National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) for the complete blog post.

Implementing SEA Policies Cohesively, with a Focus on Early Childhood

A common New Year’s resolution is to be better organized. This often refers to closets or file cabinets, but we can begin to consider the benefits of better organizing our work on initiatives in education. One way to do this is by strengthening the connections between the reforms underway, so that we are working on them in tandem, and ensuring that development in one area is linked to progress in others. Educators are implementing the Common Core State Standards, for example, while working through new approaches to teacher evaluation across the country.

Please visit National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) for the complete blog post.

New York in a Preschool State of Mind

This afternoon, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo presented his budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2015, including significant investment in state-funded pre-K. The Governor called for an investment of $1.5 billion over five years, starting with $100 million in its first year up to $500 million in its fifth year. This funding is meant in addition to the $410 million the state already spends on its “Universal” Prekindergarten Program, with the goal of helping the program move towards the “universal” part of its name.

Please visit National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) for the complete blog post.

Expanding Access to Quality Pre-K is Sound Public Policy

In 2013, preschool education received more attention in the media and public policy circles than it has for some time, in part because of a series of high profile proposals to expand access to quality pre-K. The scientific basis for these pre-K proposals is impressive. This new working paper brings to bear the full weight of the evidence to address the following questions.

Please visit National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) for the complete blog post.