Blog: The Educated Reporter

Early Education Plans Hit Snags

Students play at an early education center in New Orleans (Source: Mikhail Zinshteyn/EWA)

Early education gets support from both sides of the aisle. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce runs campaigns advocating for it. So does Hillary Clinton. And research appears conclusive that it’s important.

But as states respond to the data, a new challenge emerges: implementing early education programs successfully. Several recent stories provide different looks at how some locales are scaling up their early education offerings.

In New York City, the newly elected mayor set out to open up more than 50,000 seats for prekindergarten. A week removed from the first day of school, the enrollment goal is within the city’s grasp, but the rush to hit that milestone has overwhelmed regulators and early education providers.

A story in Chalkbeat New York indicates that 70 percent of the city’s pre-K contracts haven’t been vetted, according to the city’s comptroller. A New York Times report found that pre-K programs were scrambling to find qualified instructors, and that some classrooms weren’t in compliance with city health and fire codes. (One school found lead in its walls, pushing back the start of school by at least a week.)

And as the city ramps up its pre-K enrollment, school principals will face the challenge of evaluating teachers on a subject few know well. Chalkbeat New York writes that so far New York City has conducted one daylong training session on pre-K assessment for school leaders, but analysts worry that may be insufficient. The story paints the pre-K rollout in Washington, D.C., in a more positive light, where city school officials handed out rubrics to school leaders to better gauge the performance of pre-K teachers. However, the city’s pre-K evaluation guidelines don’t specifically mention pre-K, Chalkbeat reports. 

But as policymakers sound their support for early education programs, some academics opine that the public isn’t getting the full picture. The first story in an occasional series in The Dallas Morning News points out that “[d]espite the seeming certainty of the public and political rhetoric, the research behind most education theory generally includes huge uncertainties and comes with cautionary notes about making too much out of small studies. Those ‘howevers’ tend to get stripped out when the debate leaves academia.”

And finally, the teaching profession has long had a reputation of employing far more women than men, but male instructors in early education are almost nonexistent. A WNYC story notes that just 2 percent of the nation’s early education teachers are men.

The dearth of Y chromosomes can have a negative effect on the littlest learners. From the piece:

‘I think the absence of men in the lives of boys is one that they experience some pain around,’ said Oscar Barbarin, a psychology professor at Tulane University whose work focuses on the education and upbringing of minority boys.

Male teachers, he said, can help keep vulnerable students engaged and more naturally teach them important lessons about life outside the classroom.

Eager to venture forth and write your own early education story? EWA has a few tips on:

How to interview students;
Story ideas on early education;
And a checklist of what you should cover when writing your early-ed stories.

Bonus reads on what we know about early education’s effectiveness and cost:

Early Childhood Education: Does the Research Justify the Cost?

Early Childhood Education: Why 0 to 5 Are the Crucial Years

Early Ed and the Common Core

Early Childhood Ed: Combatting Effects of Toxic Stress

 

 



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