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Education Reporter

No Child Left at Home?
Feds give states pre-K 'guidelines'

WASHINGTON, DC - At the annual conference of the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) in November, federal officials announced that states will be required to establish learning guidelines for preschool children. An article in Education Week (12-4-02) quoted associate commissioner Shannon Christian of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Child Care Bureau as stating that, while local daycare centers "will not be under a mandate to adopt the guidelines, states will be required to have them in place."

This announcement is part and parcel of the Bush Administration's early childhood initiative, Good Start Grow Smart, which is based on the flawed pre-mise that early childhood education programs can make a significant long-term difference in how children perform in school. Good Start Grow Smart promises to improve Head Start and promote other early childhood education efforts.

Good Start's executive summary laments: (1) "Most states have a limited alignment between what children are doing before they enter school and what is expected of them once they are in school"; (2) "Early childhood programs are seldom evaluated based on how they prepare children to succeed in school"; and (3) "There is not enough information for early childhood teachers, parents, grandparents, and child care providers on ways to prepare children to be successful in school."

'Bright' Beginnings? 
When preschool programs are evaluated, however, results consistently show that there is no difference in achievement by the 3rd grade among children who participate compared to those who do not. (See Education Reporter, November 2002 and April 2002.) Last summer, the results of a study of children who took part in a preschool program called Bright Beginnings in the Charlotte Mecklenburg School District in North Carolina, showed that participating students scored no higher on tests by the end of the 3rd grade than children who did not participate. These students were enrolled in Bright Beginnings in 1997, and were the first to be evaluated by 3rd-grade end-of-year tests.

After the study findings were made public, North Carolina newspaper publisher Warren Smith pointed out that, in some cases, the scores of the Bright Beginnings students were actually lower than those of "the 200 or so kids who were eligible for the program but did not participate." Smith estimates the cost of Bright Beginnings to be approximately $10,000 per child per year, noting that "we should be seeing exponential gains in performance for this kind of expenditure."

Although Bright Beginnings is limited to "at risk" children, such programs are becoming more common and efforts to make preschool "universal" continue to increase. Alabama's "Kidstuff" and Arkansas's "Better Chance (ABC)" programs are also geared to "at-risk" toddlers but have the potential to become more inclusive.

NAEYC Certification 
Hand-in-hand with the nationwide pre-school push is the effort to expand teacher certification. According to Education Week (12-4-02), "earning a national teaching certificate is now the ultimate credential quest for a small but growing number of early-childhood educators."

These educators perceive that certification will make them better teachers and pave the way for higher wages. In North Carolina, Bright Beginnings has spurred more preschool teachers to obtain national certification because state certification is already required to work in the program.

The NAEYC is one of two major organizations providing national certification, and NAEYC also provides curricula for early childhood "education" programs. Readers of Education Reporter (April 2002) are familiar with the organization's "Anti-Bias Curriculum," which promotes "diversity" and teaches sex education to preschool children.

In the January 2003 issue of Georgia Insight, Sue Ella Deadwyler describes how "diaper-changers take it upon themselves to explain to toddlers the genital differences between boys and girls." She explains that "NAEYC instruction trains children to use gender-neutral vocabularies," replacing words like man, woman, boy and girl with non-gender-identifying terms. "NAEYC, the accrediting agency for preschool and kindergarten programs in Georgia, wants children to change their vocabularies by using terms such as 'firepeople' instead of 'firemen.' "

"NAEYC-approved teachers alternate using male and female pronouns when reading to children," Mrs. Deadwyler explains. "NAEYC admits that '[These are] small changes, but it is the numerous, repeated small steps that provide two-year-olds with the data they need to begin to construct non-sexist gender identity.' "

"NAEYC leaves nothing to chance," she concludes. "The curricula overtly teach acceptance of alternative lifestyles. Four-year-olds are taught about children with two mommies or two daddies from books their teachers read to them in preschool. The primary goal of the Anti-Bias Curriculum is to destroy traditional values in very young children."

At the NAEYC's November conference, U.S. Department of Education assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education, Susan Neuman, challenged the organization to devote more energy toward defining what young children should know and be able to do. She added that states are not taking full advantage of the "freedom" they have to divert funds to early childhood programs under No Child Left Behind.

But many observers, including North Carolina's Warren Smith, believe that there is too much taxpayer money already being poured into preschool programs, with little or no accountability. Referring to North Carolina's Bright Beginnings program test results, Smith wrote: "The expectations of the program have been cleverly managed. We were told not to expect to see results for years. Now, years have gone by and still no results. In the meantime, $62 million has been poured down the drain."

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