Orwell Award Announcement SusanOhanian.Org Home


[Susan notes: Richard Rothstein makes THE important point: Policies based on exaggerating school reform's ability to ameliorate inequality leave most working families and their children unprotected.



I grew up in a town that didn't offer kindergarten. So we started first grade at age 5. ]

Published in New York Times
08/03/2010

To the editor

In The Case for $320,000 Kindergarten Teachers (Economic Scene column, front page, July 28), David Leonhardt suggests that a study of kindergarten’s impact disproves arguments by Economic Policy Institute researchers that “an education can't protect workers" in today's economy.



Mr. Leonhardt uses as an example a 27-year-old who would have an additional $1,000 a year in income thanks to a good kindergarten teacher. This makes quality kindergarten investments worthwhile, yet doesn't solve the wage stagnation bedeviling even college-educated workers. The income gap between affluent and both middle- and low-income families has been growing so substantially that an additional $1,000 won't help much.



Policies based on exaggerating school reform's ability to ameliorate inequality leave most working families and their children unprotected. We need educational improvement, including better kindergarten, but also economic reforms -- more job creation, greater protection of union organizing rights, higher minimum wages and more generous earned income tax credits -- if we want disadvantaged children to have a fighting chance.



Richard Rothstein

Wellfleet, Mass., July 28, 2010



The writer is a research associate with the Economic Policy Institute and a former education columnist for The Times.



To the Editor:



David Leonhardt reports evidence that highly effective teachers of young children make a lifelong difference. But what makes for highly effective teachers?



Another important study may hold the answer. The HighScope Preschool Curriculum Comparison Study followed children randomly assigned to different preschool programs through young adulthood, with striking results. The children who learned mainly through playful activities fared much better at their work and social responsibilities than those in an academic instruction-oriented class.



Social and dramatic play in kindergarten develops patience, self-regulation, empathy and perseverance -- the critical "skills that last a lifetime," as Mr. Leonhardt puts it, but aren't measured by multiple-choice tests. Yet teachers in thousands of schools are being told not to let children play in the classroom. That's a recipe for long-term failure.



Edward Miller

New York, July 28, 2010



The writer is a senior researcher for Alliance for Childhood and co-author of its 2009 report "Crisis in the Kindergarten: Why Children Need to Play in School."



To the Editor:



A child's emotional, academic and social development is shaped during the early childhood grades. Your article refers to standardized testing and academic success but does not discuss the most fundamental concern: readiness skills. It does refer to the importance of well-trained teachers and small classes. But teachers must work within required guidelines. Those recent guidelines subordinate readiness skills and the arts to a preoccupation with testing. Thus, our teachers cannot focus on the social, emotional and physical development of their young learners.



Our future adults should be expected to communicate with creativity and humor, as generous, thoughtful, caring learners and human beings. The development of these attributes must take precedence in early childhood. Test prepping and academic focus in the early stages of learning will never create the kind of citizens we want to embrace our future world.



Gail Rosenberg

Brooklyn, July 28, 2010



The writer is a retired teacher and administrator in the New York City public schools and an adjunct professor of education at the College of Staten Island, CUNY.



To the Editor:



How wonderful to see the benefits an excellent kindergarten education can provide years down the road. How tragic, though, that despite such rigorous research, so many states and districts have chosen to eliminate funding for full-day kindergarten programs for the coming school year. Perhaps some missed their kindergarten lessons in the perils of shortsightedness.



Nicholas Commins

New York, July 28, 2010



To the Editor:



Many thanks for this article, although I wish it had not played down other contributing factors, like class size. After all, we have more control over class size than the elusive "teacher quality."



Anne Mackin

Boston, July 29, 2010



To the Editor:



You grazed over the fact that early interventions for long-term benefits start even earlier than kindergarten — they begin in preschool. Notable longitudinal research has been done (like the Perry Preschool Project and the Chicago Child-Parent Center Program) on the effects of high-quality preschool programs. They saw similar results to the Project Star research: preschool study participants were less likely to drop out of high school, to be placed in special education and to be held back a grade, and were more likely to own a home and be employed.



Ultimately, these studies do say the same thing: The earliest years matter!



Ashlee Tran

Berkeley, Calif., July 29, 2010



The writer works for an early childhood advocacy organization.

Richard Rothstein and others


FAIR USE NOTICE
This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of education issues vital to a democracy. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information click here. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.