Journal of Research in Childhood Education Volume 26, No. 3

By Casbergue, Renee; Bedford, April | Childhood Education, January-February 2013 | Go to article overview

Journal of Research in Childhood Education Volume 26, No. 3


Casbergue, Renee, Bedford, April, Childhood Education


CE readers arc encouraged to read the full articles in the Journal of Research in Childhood Education (go to www.tandfonline.com/toc/ujrc20/26/3 for more information).

Why Should Pre-K Be More Like Elementary School? A Case Study of Pre-K Reform--Brown & Gasko Across the United States, policymakers and early childhood educators advocate for the expansion of early childhood education as a necessity to prepare children for success in elementary school, often leading to the creation of preschool programs housed on elementary school campuses. Many have questioned the extent to which inclusion in elementary schools is likely to change the scope and mission of preschool. Acknowledging that reform movements aimed at improving academic outcomes for children in elementary school and beyond have been demonstrated to shift preschool classrooms to a more heavily academic orientation, these authors sought to understand why early childhood stakeholders were attracted to this reform process and the effects they perceived on their programs of the accompanying alignment of preschool with elementary school curricula.

Using instrumental case study methodology, the researchers examined these questions in the context of a reform process known as the Texas Early Education Model. This program was designed to align pre-K programs horizontally with each other across multiple districts, and vertically with K-12 schools to ensure implementation of a cohesive service delivery model to improve children's early literacy, language, mathematics, and social development. The authors provide detailed information about the specific requirements for those schools and child care providers that volunteered to participate. The study focused on rural school districts that served children from a range of cultural, linguistic, and socioeconomic backgrounds. Data sources included semi-structured interviews with 23 key stakeholders (public and private pre-K teachers, principals, supervisors, Head Start personnel, etc.), and analysis of public documents about pre-K in Texas.

Results suggest that both public and private program providers identified a desire to see children leave their programs ready for kindergarten as a major impetus for their participation. Underlying this consensus, however, were differences between public and private or Head Start providers. Public school personnel directly cited concern about children's eventual performance on Texas highs-takes assessments as their primary motivation for wanting children to be ready to succeed in kindergarten and beyond. Public school personnel were also attracted to features of the program that served to standardize curriculum and instruction across multiple sites, and in fact expressed the hope that the program would align practices of Head Start and private providers with what they perceived to be necessary for success after preschool. Providers outside of the public school system did not reference the high-stakes tests; instead, they spoke of wanting their children to be developmentally on level when exiting their programs so they could reach their full potential in elementary school. A significant motivator for this group was access to materials and professional development opportunities at no cost to their programs.

Regarding effects of the reform process on their programs, the public school pre-K teachers reported many benefits of participation, including improvements in their teaching based on professional development and materials with very explicit guidelines that lessened the need for planning. These stakeholders also appreciated the alignment of curriculum and expectations across preschool programs, expressing comfort in knowing that everyone would be held accountable for meeting the same goals. This view was shared by Head Start teachers outside of the public school system who, along with their public school counterparts, found that standardizing practices and aligning them with elementary school goals served to "legitimize" preschool in the eyes of elementary school teachers and administrators. …

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