The recent edition of Scientific American Mind (March/April 2017)* features a compelling article by Melinda Wenner Moyer about the value of high quality preschool. Vivid examples of what works, and what doesn’t, underscore snapshots of national data and research that show the importance of high quality early experiences for young children.
Ms. Mayer’s article lifts the hood and allows us to peek at the inner workings of preschools and the policies that shape them. She notes disparities in National data (e.g., “Only 18 percent of low-income American children, versus 29 percent of high income kids, are getting a high-quality preschool education…”,p. 29) that echo Tucson’s own situation. She notes tensions between two ends of early childhood education spectrum (i.e., that neither formal, rigid instruction nor completely unstructured play have the same benefits as “scaffolded” play and extended discussions with a skilled adult) and urges attention to key aspects of high quality interactions. She notes, “Frequent opportunities for extended discussions are what boost literacy and languages skills the most” (p. 31) and cites relevant research that shows “Kids in guided play learn the most, by far…” (p. 33).
Arizona is called out as one of only 4 states in the nation that not only do not require preschool teachers to have bachelor’s degrees, but do not even require them to have specialized training in early childhood education. This is one of the many reasons why Strong Start Tucson emphasizes high quality preschool.
Ms. Mayer concludes her article with a call to arms: “Preschool could be a way to help every American child, regardless of barriers, reach his or her fullest potential…” and “…the country… needs to recognize that it is only high quality preschool that accomplishes this feat.”
Submitted by Allison L. Titcomb, PhD