Monday, June 16, 2014

Seattle and Universal Pre-K (Not all that it appears)

 Update: From KPLU comes news that the City Council has delayed their vote on the Pre-K plan, apparently because a separate referendum (I-107) will likely be on the ballot in November. 

The Mayor had wanted his proposal to go on the ballot in 2015.  Councilman Burgess says it might loosen the city's control over the qualifications for teachers.  But the I-107 side says that with their initiative more of the existing teachers would get professional development while with the City's proposal there would be many fewer current preschool teachers eligible. 

end of update.

Again, like mom, apple pie and the flag, we can all like the idea of providing enriching activities to stimulate the brains of our Seattle toddlers.  Research has shown that kids with good preschool do better when they enter kindergarten.

Over at the Seattle Education blog, Dora Taylor does an incredibly heavy lift over the question of what exactly is being promoted (and by who) for the issue of universal pre-K for Seattle toddlers.

I will point out that no parent has to send their child to any pre-K program.

There are several compelling issues.

1) Like Common Core, the legislation being pushed by Councilman Tim Burgess seems on an incredibly fast track.  I find this troubling.

2) Are we talking pre-school or pre-K (which are not the same things).  Ask any expert on early childhood learning. Again, I find another link to Common Core because early childhood learning experts have raised real issues about the Common Core standards for K-2 being developmentally inappropriate.

3)  Forty (40!) public employees made trip to Boston to check out their work on universal pre-K centers.  As Dora asks, who paid for that and why so many people?

4) Red flag for me and Dora - DFER is involved with this issue and they link it to ...charter schools.  Ah, now the picture becomes clearer.  KIPP is starting their own chain called LEAP.

5)  It's worth pointing out the push coming from Councilman Tim Burgess.  Councilman Burgess refused - repeatedly - to ever state his views on charter schools during the 1240 campaign.

It's interesting because Burgess wrote an e-mail to Susan Enfield in Nov. 2011 (when she was superintendent) where he said he was deeply interested in the World School and vocational education.  There is no mention of pre-K.  I do keep up and I don't recall any Board member or Superintendent Banda mentioning this input/interest from the Councilman.  

5) Mayor Murray is to attend the Mayor's Conference in Austin with panels on education that include, Kevin Johnson (mayor of Sacramento, married to Michelle Rhee), Arne Duncan, Jackie Bezos (yes, married to Jeff and head of their foundation), Antonio Villaraigosa (former mayor of LA and linked to Eli Broad). 

Other concerns via Seattle Education blog:
  • The Seattle Public School district is listed as a crucial partner for this program but given no oversight.
  • There is an emphasis on assessments (testing).
  • There is wording that implies a waiver for teachers who aren’t fully certified. KIPP uses Teach for America, Inc recruits to staff their charter schools, is this what is meant in the Ordinance about non-certified “teachers”?  (To which I'll add, what is the normal requirement for being a teacher in a "quality" pre-K?)
  •  There are references to using Head Start funding as well. Will that divert federal funds from existing SPS pre-k s to this new project?
  • Data sharing mentioned.
From Politico:

 PRE-K DATA VARIES ACROSS STATES: Thirty states say they’re securely linking early education child-level data from some programs to their state’s K-12 data system, but 49 states say they aren’t connecting that child-level data across all early childhood programs to the K-12 system. Pennsylvania is the exception, according to a new study released by the Early Childhood Data Collaborative. Twenty states are linking early childhood data to social services data and 12 are linking that data to state health data. The report also finds that 36 states collect state-level childhood development data across early childhood programs and 29 are collecting kindergarten readiness data. If a bipartisan congressional preschool expansion titled the Strong Start for America’s Children Act were to become a reality, states would have to tie early childhood data to their state’s K-12 systems.

From an article in the Washington Post by Alfie Kohn:

But here’s the catch: Very few people are talking about the kind of education that would be offered — other than declaring it should be “high quality.” And that phrase is often interpreted to mean “high intensity”: an accelerated version of skills-based teaching that most early-childhood experts regard as terrible. Poor children, as usual, tend to get the worst of this.

It doesn’t bode well that many supporters of universal pre-K seem to be more concerned about economic imperatives than about what’s good for kids. In his speech last year, for example, the president introduced the topic by emphasizing the need to “start at the earliest possible age” to “equip our citizens with the skills and training” they’ll need in the workplace.[1] The New York Times, meanwhile, editorialized recently about how we must “tightly integrate the [pre-K] program with kindergarten through third grade so that 4-year-olds do not lose their momentum. It will have to prepare children well for the rigorous Common Core learning standards that promise to bring their math, science and literacy skills up to international norms.”[2]

That doesn’t leave much time for play.[4] But even to the extent we want to promote meaningful learning in young children, the methods are likely to be counterproductive, featuring an emphasis on the direct instruction of skills and rote rehearsal of facts. 

This is the legacy of behaviorism: Children are treated as passive receptacles of knowledge, with few opportunities to investigate topics and pose questions that they find intriguing. In place of discovery and exploration, tots are trained to sit still and listen, to memorize lists of letters, numbers, and colors. Their success or failure is relentlessly monitored and quantified, and they’re “reinforced” with stickers or praise for producing right answers and being compliant.

This dreary version of early-childhood education isn’t just disrespectful of children; decades of research show it simply doesn’t work well — and may even be damaging. The same approach has long been over-represented in schools that serve low-income African-American and Latino children; indeed, it was described by the late Martin Haberman as the “pedagogy of poverty” and it continues to find favor in inner-city charter schools.[6] If we’re not careful, calls to expand access to preschool will result in more of the same for younger children whose families can’t afford an alternative.

30 comments:

David said...

There was an interesting story on KPLU this morning:
http://kplu.org/post/seattle-voters-may-see-more-one-preschool-measure-november-ballot

Apparently Burgess is all fired up about Universal Pre-K but is not down with increasing pay and training for Preschool teachers. His quotes are troubling.

Lynn said...

Increasing the percentage of children who attend quality licensed preschool programs is one of the proposed goals on the district scorecard. Shouldn't our K-12 school district instead set goals based on outcomes they can control? Are they telling us they will be providing quality, licensed preschool programs?

mirmac1 said...

I'm amazed how quickly Murray got on that (lucrative) bandwagon. But not really surprised.

Anonymous said...

How will this labor union initiative increase the quality of preschool care? My wife owns a high-quality preschool and the monthly full-time tuition is $1250 (and they are by no means the most expensive preschool in the city). Under the initiative, any family with a combined income of less than $150,000 would pay less for their full-time child care than they do now --- the initiative states that families would be required to pay no more than 10% of their income on child care. Who is going to track family incomes? Will families have to submit W-2's to enroll their children in preschool? Will a new city bureaucracy need to be established?

My wife employs herself (as a teacher), another teacher, 2 assistant teachers, and 3 support staff plus a couple of part-time contractors to provide Spanish language instruction and music. All three of the support staff make less than $15/hour --- their jobs consist of supervising children on the playground, reading stories, serving and cleaning up lunch and snack, supervising the nap room, and cleaning the facility. All staff receive health benefits regardless of hours.

This initiative would, in the long run, decrease the quality and/or availability of child care in the city. My wife's preschool is a very good school with a beautiful facility; however, they struggle now to make ends meet. With a number of families potentially paying considerably less combined with increased labor costs, the preschool would either close or cut expenses elsewhere. Owners of independent preschools are not getting rich, I can assure you.

--- swk

mirmac1 said...

On that we can agree swk

robyn said...

I was one of the 1200 parents with kids in k-3rd grade that was surveyed. The survey was set-up to get the answers they wanted. She couldn't answer any clarifying questions I had.

Now, based on only being allowed to give yes/no or disagree, strongly agree, or agree for answers, they were probably able to skew my responses how they wanted.

I thought it was poorly done and it took 20 minutes of my evening last winter/early spring. When I see the "survey results" in the news articles, I can't figure out how my answers were interpreted, but I am sure they were skewed to support their mission.

It was like this:

Survey: Should kids be able to attend a high quality pre-school? Yes or No?

Me: Define high quality.

Survey: Yes or No?

Me: I suppose.

Survey: Is that a yes?

Me: Sure.

Survey: Would you be willing to pay increased taxes to fund high quality pre-school for all?

Me: How much?

Survey: Yes or no?

Me: I need more details.

Survey: Is that a no?

Me: No, I said I need more details.

Survey: Is that a yes?

I was also asked very personal questions about how much I earn, how much I paid for pre-school (I called it daycare, but OK), and what I liked and didn't like about my pre-school AKA daycare. I said, I liked the playground a lot and was happy when my kid came home dirty and tired. She asked if high quality teachers were important. I asked her to define high quality. She couldn't. So, I said, high quality pre-school teachers are just people who love my kid and take care of them. That didn't get recorded so I said, no, high quality pre-school teachers were not important since I knew how they would interpret that.

I'm not kidding, this is how it went for 20 minutes.



mirmac1 said...

robyn, I liked it when my daughter came home with blueberries all over her face. WINNING!

Anonymous said...

Is access to a high quality preschool especially important for low-income families? Yes, of course.

But this whole proposal is pie-in-the-sky and completely devoid of implementation details. Where are they going to get facilities? SPS has no spare classrooms to offer. Maintaining the momentum of 4 year olds? What? Like, when they were 3 they were peaking, because while 2, they were merely setting a pace? Huh?

Testing, for 4 year olds? To measure what? Preschool teacher effectiveness? What exactly would be the benefit if testing?

Pay high wages to providing 'certified' 'teachers', charge very little tuition, and be high quality everything... Who exactly is going to foot the bill? And, how can the City make the District implement this new program when the district can't even get it's own existing house in order (eg. SpEd).

Clearly, low cost high quality preschool for kids, especially low income families, is great. But, god is in the details.

-unanswered questions

Anonymous said...

Readiness to learn: The importance of quality early childhood education through playing

In Finland high quality daycare and nursery-kindergarten are considered critical for developing the cooperation and communication skills necessary to prepare young children for lifelong education as well as formal learning of reading and mathematics, which in Finland begins at age seven, so as not to disrupt their childhood.

I can't imagine a city wide pre-school run by the district.
I'm glad my kids are past that.

Spooky testing pre-schoolers!

Oh and by the way, I hope these teachers have a degree and are paid over 65K a year.

Seriously who would leave their child with someone making $10 per hour?

How do we get a new super from Finland?

--Michael

Voting NO said...

I won't vote for Burgess's proposal for the following reasons a) The city retains sole responsibility for decisions. b) The mayor would appoint 4 individuals to oversight committee and rest of committee members serve on F&E Levy. Again, where is the school board in all of this c) I have no faith that the city has calculated expenditures, nor do I have faith that the city will reimburse SPS for embedded costs of data etc. d)I'm not interested in funding KIPP or any other charter company. e) It is possible for a charter pre-school to enter SPS and schmooze teachers and parents into converting a public school to a charter school.

Voting NO said...

I'm also concerned about capacity and displacing special ed. students. As is, I believe the city would have access/control of Head Start dollars and we have classrooms already set-up for these students. Isn't the board voting on a Head Start grant this week?

Melissa Westbrook said...

"Maintaining the momentum of 4 year olds? What? Like, when they were 3 they were peaking, because while 2, they were merely setting a pace? Huh?"

Thank for you for the laugh of the day.

mirmac1 said...

From the KPLU reports, it seems the issue is less about "quality" than Burgess/Murray control.

Voting thumbs down on fiefdoms.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget the Race to the Top grant that resulted in the production of this manual of early learning objectives aligned to the Common Core, partially paid for by the Gates Foundation

http://www.del.wa.gov/development/guidelines/

All kids need consistent caregivers, located near to where parents work, with age appropriate activities from trained professionals. Something like what my inlaws had in Paris would be great, plus they had a great menu for lunch and snacks too.

Ann D

mirmac1 said...

I assume the OSPI Department of Early Learning got the same type of grant that pays for the Seattle Times' propaganda effort.

They must use City Light's same PR consultant, Brands.com.

Samantha said...

unanswered questions,

Melissa reports that SPS has 439 half time preschool slots funded by Head Start. I believe these classrooms would be turned over to the city.

Samantha said...

unanswered questions,

Melissa reports that SPS has 439 half time preschool slots funded by Head Start. I believe these classrooms would be turned over to the city.

Samantha said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

I retract the Gates involvement in the guidelines, it was WAKids they funded, not the other.

http://www.k12.wa.us/WaKIDS/default.aspx

Ann D

Anonymous said...

BTW here is Seattle DPD regs for childcare and preschool facilities. Note they can be located in single family zone as well and mixed-use and commercial zones.

Maybe the city ought to massage some preschool/childcare space into the upzone incentives options.

http://www.seattle.gov/DPD/publications/CAM/cam108.pdf

Ann D

Anonymous said...

As opposed to high quality daycare/preschool/preK, there's this other thing, called "parents", or, sometimes, "family". They have that in Finland. People who give birth to these 'students' or adopt them, stay home with them for up to 2 years. They get employment insurance and health care. Oh yes, but they all also pay 'taxes'. 2 year maternity/paternity leave. I wonder if they could test they kids to measure the effectiveness of those stay at home parents...

Just thinking out loud here.

The district run preschools, head start & sped, the district needs to hold on to. The everything-else preschool universal proposal I would dread pur district being part of, because they rather have their hands full as is: Middle and high school math adoption, language arts curriculum adoption, SpEd, high school capacity crisis, flipping bell times, closing the opportunity gap (which i realize preschool could help with!), a $795M capital program is just starting with a leadership team that's been here 6 seconds, the legendary performance of SPS HR, disproportionate disciplin issues.... that's just off the top of my head. So to divert whatever management capacity might theoretically be available to do preschool when they haven't got k-12 figured out? HELL NO! I would rather them fix SpEd and Bell times first before launching a massive or even a pilot universal preschool program in conjunction with the city.

If the city wants to do this totally on their own, through their community centers, and build a management, faculty, and facility infrastructure to do it, have at it. But, from my viewpoint SPS must NOT be involved, because they are already drowning. Not that I trust the city to do this...

-unanswered questions

mirmac1 said...

robyn, did I say I thought your survey responses were hilarious?

: )

robyn said...

That was only a small part of the 20 minutes, Mirmac! I don't think the poor lady that was asking the questions (in New York) thought I was too funny. :)

robyn said...

I have another idea - maybe this is happening already, though.

My kids go to Boys and Girls club and LOVE IT!!! The young people working at the two locations we are involved with are incredible. The administrators seem to have their acts together!

Many of the folks working there don't get benefits, and I am sure they are not paid well-enough for what they are doing for our kids and communities.

Again, maybe this is happening already, but why not subsidize preschools at Boys and Girls' clubs between the before and after school care? They already have the locations, they already have incredible childcare workers, and it would allow these great people to access benefits and full-time pay.

The number of kids served by the program could be limited to the 200% of federal poverty rate or whatever.

It was tough on my family to pay for daycare, but we managed and it was like getting a ginormous raise when they started school. I don't have any desire whatsoever to supplement preschool for any family making $100k/year. I know, some of you will say, that's not much in Seattle, but you can swing it for a few years like most of us did.

I have a feeling that children of middle class families with a stay-at-home parent/nanny (also not attending preschool) are not the kids that need this service. I am sure they are being well-socialized and exposed to letters and numbers.

robyn said...

I have another idea - maybe this is happening already, though.

My kids go to Boys and Girls club and LOVE IT!!! The young people working at the two locations we are involved with are incredible. The administrators seem to have their acts together!

Many of the folks working there don't get benefits, and I am sure they are not paid well-enough for what they are doing for our kids and communities.

Again, maybe this is happening already, but why not subsidize preschools at Boys and Girls' clubs between the before and after school care? They already have the locations, they already have incredible childcare workers, and it would allow these great people to access benefits and full-time pay.

The number of kids served by the program could be limited to the 200% of federal poverty rate or whatever.

It was tough on my family to pay for daycare, but we managed and it was like getting a ginormous raise when they started school. I don't have any desire whatsoever to supplement preschool for any family making $100k/year. I know, some of you will say, that's not much in Seattle, but you can swing it for a few years like most of us did.

I have a feeling that children of middle class families with a stay-at-home parent/nanny (also not attending preschool) are not the kids that need this service. I am sure they are being well-socialized and exposed to letters and numbers.

Jamie said...

Robyn, that is a brilliant idea, honestly. We had great experiences with the Boys & Girls Club after school care as well.

No Thanks said...

The city plans on funding Universal Pre k with F&E Levy dollars. It is worth noting that charter schools will have access to levy dollars.

Anonymous said...

Woah. The district score card has two new items related to preschool.

Why is any pre-k which on the district score card?

--curiousorandcuriousour

VOTE NO said...


Jackie Bezos is promoting Universal pre K and she serves on Thrive by Five.
http://thrivebyfivewa.org/board-of-directors/

It is also interesting to note that Jackie Bezos funded four pacs to promote charter schools.

http://slog.thestranger.com/slog/archives/2012/08/02/the-bezos-familys-charter-schools-pac-shell-game

frasico022 said...

I want to join up my son in Phoenix preschool. I have heard that they provide good amenities to kid's. These preschools are also not so expensive, and anybody can afford to study there.