Tuesday, April 14, 2020

'Preschool: A Step, Not a Journey' (Robert Slavin)

Here are extracts from  Robert Slavin's Blog post together with my comments.

“A journey of a thousand miles beings with a single step.” (Lao Zi)
For many years, especially since the extraordinary long-term outcomes of the Perry Preschool became known, many educators have seen high-quality preschool as an essential “first step” in a quality education. Truly, a first step in a journey of a thousand miles. Further, due to the Perry Preschool findings, educators, researchers, and policy makers have maintained that quality preschool is not only the first step in a quality education, but it is the most important, capable of making substantial differences in the lives of disadvantaged students.

My comments:

This time I did not comment on his blog as he, like many other bloggists, doesn't respond to comments especially critical comments that don’t agree with what he says.

Back in 1913, Thorndike had already written about the importance of initial learning.

Yes, not only preschool but also kindergarten are the foundation of learning to read. The westerners have found a way to prevent the best brains in the world to learn to read. They teach pronunciation of phonemes wrongly knowing that smart kids will disengage from learning to read and then they (the guys with a vested interest) can sell medicine, special colour layered glasses and conduct intervention, therapy, research etc. to mint money.
There are no disadvantaged kids when the kids go to preschool and kindergarten. They are ‘created’ by teachers teaching the wrong pronunciation of phonemes. Robert Slavin and his whole group of researchers are welcome to discuss openly on this matter.

I believe, based on the evidence, that high-quality preschool helps students enter kindergarten and, perhaps, first grade, with important advantages in academic and social skills. It is clear that quality preschool can provide a good start, and for this reason, I’d support investments in providing the best preschool experiences we can afford.
My comment: Yes, I agree, but does Robert Slavin know what is high-quality preschool education? The foundation which is the pronunciation of phonemes should be laid correctly. When this is done wrongly kids get confused.
But the claims of most preschool advocates go far beyond benefits through kindergarten. We have been led to expect benefits that last throughout children’s lives.

Would that this were so, but it is not. The problem is that randomized studies rarely find long-term impacts.
My comment: AND why is there no long term impacts? Because the foundation has been wrongly laid! Educators ought to know that when the foundation is wrong the building will be shaky and often collapse.

Lao Tzi’s observation reminds us that any great accomplishment is composed of many small, simple activities. Representing a student’s educational career as a journey, this fits. 
My comment: True! However, kids predisposed to disengaging from learning to read will shut down from learning to read and then are wrongly classified as dyslexic.
In the journey of education, it is surely important to begin with a positive experience, one that provides children with a positive orientation toward school, skills needed to get along with teachers and classmates, knowledge about how the world works, a love for books, stories, and drama, early mathematical ideas, and much more. This is the importance of preschool. Yet it is not enough. Major make-or-break objectives lie in the future. In the years after preschool, students must learn to read proficiently, they must learn basic concepts of mathematics, and they must continue to build social-emotional skills for the formal classroom setting.
My comment: Do most of the kids begin with a positive experience? Why don’t these educators find out from kids why they are unable to read while most of the other kids in the same class are able.

A journey of a thousand miles may begin with a single step, but what matters is how the traveler negotiates all the challenges between the first step and the last one. This is true of education. We need to find effective and replicable methods to maximize the possibility that every student will succeed at every stage of the learning process. This can be done, and every year our profession finds more and better ways to improve outcomes at every grade level, in every subject. Preschool is only the first of a series of opportunities to enable all children to reach challenging goals. An important step, to be sure, but not the whole journey.
My comment: If as he says, every year we are finding better ways to improve outcomes then why are there still about the same percentage of kids leaving school as illiterate year after year? What happened to the statement by David Kilpatrick in his book 'Equipped for Reading Success' which says 'These examples question the inevitability of widespread reading failure'.

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