Do Pre-Kindergarten Curricula Matter? JA!
(Kritiek op eenzijdig 'whole-child curriculum ' à la Ervaringsgericht Kleuteronderwijs van CEGO en prof. Laevers).
JADE MARCUS JENKINS AND GREG J. DUNCAN
(In: The Current State of Scientific Knowledge on Pre-Kindergarten Effects, The Brookings Institute in the U.S.)
Given the large, persistent and consequential gaps in literacy and numeracy between high- and low-income children when they enter kindergarten, perhaps the most important policy goal of pre-k and other publicly supported early childhood education programs should be to boost early achievement skills and promote the socioemotional behaviors that support these skills.
Federal, state and local policy can influence the effectiveness of preschool programs by prescribing curricula, as well as by regulating and monitoring early care settings. We have concentrated on curriculum policies.
Our review of the evidence highlights that curricular supplements focused on specific school readiness skills are more successful at boosting these skills than are widely used whole-child curricula.
Recent data show no advantages in improving academic skills from popular whole-child curricula such as Creative Curriculum, compared with a usual practice curricular approach developed by the teacher or district themselves.
These results lead us to question the policy wisdom of prioritizing whole-child curricula. While it is conceivable that some kind of effective global, whole-child curriculum will be developed, there is currently no strong evidence to support these curricula as they currently exist.
In the absence of such evidence, it may be best to focus more attention on assessing and implementing proven skill-focused curricula and move away from the comparatively ineffective whole-child approach.
The report groups preschool curricula into three classes; whole-child, skill specific and locally developed / no curriculum. The skill specific curricula allow lots of time for play but they also include sessions in mathematics, literacy or both. These sessions feature sequenced, explicit instruction but should not be pictured as whole classes completing worksheets. Instead, the academic work takes place in small or large groups and includes elements such as storybook reading, games, art and discovery activities.
Whole-child (sometimes termed global or developmental constructivist) curricula emphasize child-centered active learning that is cultivated by strategically arranging the classroom environment. Rather than explicitly targeting developmental domains such as early math skills, whole-child approaches seek to promote learning by encouraging children to interact independently with the equipment, materials and other children in the classroom environment.
The authors of the report note that children from disadvantaged backgrounds tend to start school just over one standard deviation behind their more advantaged peers in literacy and numeracy (a standard deviation is simply a standardised way of measuring the difference between two groups).
By devoting time and attention to academic skills, it might be feared that skill-focused curricula would preclude full development of childrens socioemotional capacities. But for the most part, such curricula generate impacts only in the developmental domain they target, such as math curricula affecting math skills, but not literacy or socioemotional skills. Importantly, developmentally appropriate skills-focused curricula do not appear to generate negative impacts on childrens development in socioemotional domains.