Neither being proactive nor consciously preparing for successful transitioning into school, my children were already strong readers by the age of three. Also, not fulfilling a requirement for a professional credential, I was fulfilling my role as a parent. Unfortunately, not every parent possesses the tools to do so, but they can with our targeted support.
We can help them by building their capacity to support early learning and school readiness skills development of their children. Education breeds education, and skill begets skill! Aren’t we all skilled educators?
I believe that the most effective strategy in the battle to eliminate achievement gaps in education will require home visits. Deemed an outreach standard, the timing must precede the Pre-K early academic intervention/learning programs available to 4-year olds around the nation.
Considering their targeted timeline, efforts to increase classroom readiness can and will not effect any widespread reductions in the achievement gaps that negatively impact children’s educational experiences.
First, we must know that by the time children reach age, disparities exist. Placing children in academic, early learning programs is honorable and well-intended. Though family engagement is an embedded component of early learning programs, it offers too little meaningful engagement opportunities, and a little too late. We are resigning ourselves to conducting more remediation, and less acceleration of instruction.
Fast forward to classroom settings where teachers and other educators seem to experience difficulty in engaging and facilitating learning success among the designated ‘at risk’ students. Strategically, the usual solutions are that we either remediate, refer to SPED or we discipline them. When we give up on them to let the ‘system’ take over, that approach just moves already vulnerable children farther along the route to disengagement, future failure, dropping out of school and….the pipeline to prison.
Is that what we call ‘quality’ education? Is that the best that we can do?
Is promoting the academic success of children, limited to youngsters who live in ‘certain’ areas, under certain conditions or represent certain ethnicities? As 21st Century educators, what holds us back from targeting our efforts, across the board, towards building parents’ capacity to support readiness? Are we not enlightened or haven’t we liberated ourselves from the ‘deficit’ model? Perhaps, our deepest most inner desire to maintain the unscientific myth of superiority, sense of entitlement and benefits from ‘privilege’ prevails over logic and our sense of reason.
Why not gain insight, establish communication, build partnerships and connect with home- the primary learning environment. We can effect positive changes that manifest in the classroom AND in the community! If nothing else, we may emerge with changes in our own mindsets that WILL manifest in instructional delivery.
More cost effective, the ROI will far outweigh any ‘hardships’. No longer can we delay or avoid acknowledging that existing programs for ‘early learning’ are not the ‘fix-it’ that we seek. Teachers will continue to be assessed, evaluated and questioned on competence as pedagogues, and administrators’ leadership will be scrutinized, as well. The numbers of children who will need remediation and standardized test scores will not change significantly, either.
The good news for teachers and children, including families, is that there is still hope. There has always been hope-hope for us and hope for families, and hope for their children’s success. When we apply informed logic and target the primary learning environment, we will witness more youngsters entering our classrooms prepared for achievement. We will see more parents actively involved in the learning process, and solidly connected to education as advocates, leaders and partners.
Central to this argument is the access and opportunity component! Our focus shouldn’t be whether children can learn, or how they learn, but whether they’re given opportunities to learn that which we place great importance, and critical to academic achievement. Gain cultural proficiency, increase opportunity and access, and ensure that we provide learning supports sooner than age 4.
So, tell me again why we shouldn’t be going home before 4!