Thursday, November 20, 2014

Preschool or Pre-K; There is a Difference

It's too late for 1A but from The Atlantic comes a great story of this issue of why "pre-k" and what it means.

Background (partial)

"Pre-k" and "preschool" are often used interchangeably in education circles and by the news media.  After all, the two can mean the same thing: schooling that happens prior to kindergarten. But rarely do politicians who’ve declared early education a top priority say they want to expand access to preschool. 

Pre-k is seen as a solution to those problems. Preschool, on the other hand, connotes nursery school. And when people imagine nursery school, they think of daycare. A babysitting arrangement.

 It’s all about the single year that precedes kindergarten: pre-k.  In edu-speak, pre-k typically refers to a specific category of early learning that focuses on ensuring kids are prepared for kindergarten.  

Framing the final year of preschool as pre-k, some say, implies that it’s an essential building block in a child’s educational experience. The benefits of early education aside, critics question the accuracy of that message, particularly because pre-k isn’t considered compulsory. After all, few states even mandate kindergarten.

It also highlights the growing emphasis placed on the quality and accountability of early education programs and the widespread belief that access to early learning should be a basic government function—something to which every child is entitled. And this is deliberate.

But Steven Barnett, director of NIEER, says there’s a societal value to thinking of preschool as pre-k because it promotes equality. Rather than treating early education as a private service to which only wealthy kids have access, thinking of preschool as pre-k makes it a learning experience that is—or should be—available to every child, rich or poor. The preschool-prekindergarten dichotomy, in contrast, creates a two-tiered education system. 

My takeaway from the article:

-  This is a political issue - there is no mistaking that.
- childcare is every bit as much important as preschool so 1A was right on that point
- even with "universal" preschool - "...just a small fraction of 4-year-olds participate in those kinds of programs: 28 percent, according to 2012-13 data from the National Institute for Early Education Research, or NIEER."
We continue to believe that public education will solve the ills of society, in particular for children in poverty. 

The story ends:

Every state, according to Barnett, treats the words differently. "I’ve wondered if we might eventually get to the point of calling everything for 4-year-olds and 5-year-olds kindergarten," he said. Wisconsin for its part calls pre-k "4K," he pointed out—4-year-old kindergarten.

FYI, in the future this blog is only going to refer to the City's plan as pre-k, not preschool (no matter what they call it).  


syd said...

Melissa, I get the impression that you might think that preK implies testing and assessments and drill and kill tactics. That is not my experience.

Good programs are centered on age appropriate learning. Age appropriate learning for 4 and 5 year old's includes story time, art, free play, experiential learning (science in the form of baking soda volcanos and bird watching walks), learning to kick a ball and walk up stairs, field trips. It is joyful. The primary skills gained to be kindergarten ready are socialization and confidence.

I am saying this as a former early childhood educator and as someone who went to preschool as a child, and sent my own children to preschool.

It is not grey uniforms and concrete walls and soul sucking emptiness.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Syd, never said that. Ever.

But pre-K via City of Seattle will have, yes, assessments (they said so) and data gathering (they said so).

You are completely misrepresenting my point.

I sent both my sons to a wonderful, spirit-enriching Montessoir. I don't need a lecture on good preschool. My kids had it.

And again, difference between pre-k and preschool.

Anonymous said...

Interesting piece in Times today on transportation to new Prek program - including this quote from Mayor Murray
But the city is committed to helping Seattle Public Schools with capital costs should the district become a classroom provider for the program, the mayor said.


Anonymous said...


mirmac1 said...

Guess they figure on placing more portables. You want more portables, don't you. Ask them for the fencing and playsets too.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Reader 47, first, they mean capital costs for preschool classrooms. Two, there is some money in the levy for this but I'm sure they want to spend as little as possible.

Anonymous said...

I think you give a nice description of the essence of any preK program, no matter what the school philosophy or "curriculum."

As for “assessment” and “data,” Melissa, all quality programs "assess" their students, including wonderful Montessori programs. Many Montessori programs, for example, assess their students in a variety of ways, including "daily observations of each child by the teacher, " and reporting to parents is "individualised, highly detailed, and focused on the strengths of the child as well as areas where further development is needed." (Quotes from various Montessori program guides)

I thought I read that the assessment instrument to be used in the city preschool program is called Teaching Strategies Gold - According to their materials, ASSESSMENT is an “authentic, ongoing observational system,” which …”helps teachers observe children in the context of everyday experiences, which is an effective way to get to know them well and find out what they know and can do.” Done well, assessment is done by observing kids during the natural course of their preK day, Montessori, Waldorf, Creative Curriculum, etc.

Assessment results USED APPROPRIATELY, give teachers information to inform their practice, gives parents information and may be used for administrators to show that their programs are making a difference for kids and families.

" USED APPROPRIATELY" being the operative words, I believe you may be saying.

Been there

syd said...

Sorry Melissa - not calling you out. It was my impression. That is why I said it that way. I am trying to understand why people are so vociferously against this idea of admittedly-not-really-universal-but-a-first-step-preschool-program.

Back to the story: Two of my children when to a wonderful south end Montessori program (plug for Magic Lantern). We had two yearly conferences where we discussed assessments the teachers had gathered - can the child walk up stairs alternating feet, can the child draw shapes, can the child tell stories. I have to admit I found the whole thing a bit weird the first time (What?! Conferences?! This is preschool!)

My hope for the program is that it will be NAEYC accredited. The age appropriate learning is a big part of that accreditation.

I love that you are keeping this program development in the public eye so that we can have these discussions. I hope we can all assume good intent..even when I am not articulate. :)

syd said...

I also had an idea that I am trying to get out there. I don't think these programs should be in SPS space. Space does not exist. And really, there is not a lot of undeveloped affordable land to build what is really a pilot program.

I would like to see us do what a lot of private preschools do: buy a house and retrofit it. Or rather, buy multiple houses for this purpose. This puts preschools/preK in neighborhoods, and makes the program more easily and quickly established and more efficiently expandable. It is scalable, but does not follow the the industrial model we have for K-12 {which is predicated on Henry Ford's work - so last century. :) }.

Another advantage of this is that if this program fails, we can sell the houses.

Josh Hayes said...

Hee hee. "Montessoir". Is that the French-language version?

(I kid, I kid.)

Melissa Westbrook said...

Been there,I think everyone knows what I mean by assessment in the case of the City's pre-K program.

Again, just as this article lays out what the narrative is between preschool and pre-k, anyone who thinks the City's "assessments" will be like a Montessori assessment will be sadly mistaken.

Anonymous said...

What about the community centers or boys and girls clubs? Aren't they under-utilized during school hours?

Melissa Westbrook said...

SEA Mom, that's a good question.

I had missed this, early on, but the City is not necessarily creating new classrooms. Rather, they want existing entities to convert to their program. If there is already a preschool program in a community center or Boys&Girls club, they may not want to change to the City's program. And, I would think if they have a contract, they could not be compelled to do so even if in a city property.

Anonymous said...

Melissa, I agree with your take on conversions. However, if this is the case, how would it be possible to serve more kids? In order to serve more kids, there are going to have to be new classrooms and/or facilities and/or an expansion of space at existing facilities. And adding more preschool/pre-K space in existing facilities is going to be difficult.

So, the bottom line is that we're going to need new more classrooms and/or facilities to meet the intent of "universal" preschool.

--- swk

Melissa Westbrook said...

Good points, SWK and I don't know the answers.

Again, 1B is riddled with mysteries.

Anonymous said...

Melissa, as you probably surmised, my questions were rhetorical. Maybe we should use a clip of the character Philip Henslowe from Shakespeare in Love stating, "I don't know. It's a mystery." every time someone raises something odd about 1B. That would be hilarious.

--- swk

Melissa Westbrook said...

That or any Pope. I recall from my childhood that "it's a mystery" was the answer to a lot of questions.

Anonymous said...

I can't see any Waldorf preschools signing up. The city's idea of Kindergarten ready is first grade ready in Waldorf. Kindergarten is focused on play, rhythm of the day, socialization and empathy. Also Kindergarten is part of the preschool in Seattle. The last year of preschool is called the Kindergarten year. Assessments are very different too.


Anonymous said...
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frasico022 said...

Yeah! Even I was looking for difference between Preschool and pre-k, and here I got complete information. Thanks for sharing dear! Last month I have enrolled my child in reputed Phoenix pre-k so wanted to know about information on pre-k.