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Kids Are Ready, Schools Are Not

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Teachers who use classroom methods that are out of sync with how young children learn may be jeopardizing the gains many youngsters make in high-quality preschool programs.

According to a new report from the Southern Regional Education Board, preschools across the South, and the nation, are increasingly incorporating current knowledge on how young children learn into their programs. But many elementary schools, the report says, still use "outmoded'' teaching methods that are "inappropriate for the developmental levels of virtually all children in the 5- to 8-year-old group.''

The study by the SREB, an Atlanta-based policy and research group that promotes school reform across a 15-state region, summarizes research on the ill effects of retaining young children, delaying school entry, relying heavily on standardized tests, and using "lock step'' teaching methods that do not match children's active learning styles. It recommends, among other things, that all schools implement practices for K-3 classrooms that are based on hands-on learning and that recognize differences in how individual children develop.

The report warns that the national education goal to ensure that all children enter school ready to learn will remain out of reach unless more schools change. "The benefits of high-quality preschool programs and other measures to improve children's readiness can be lost very quickly,'' the document says, "when students enter schools that are not ready for them.''

David Denton, director of the SREB's health and human services programs, says schools and districts need to be more flexible in their use of federal Chapter 1 aid. "Much of what we're talking about has to happen at the state and local levels,'' he says.

Teachers, he points out, probably know better than anyone the kinds of teaching methods that work best with young children. But, he warns, "there is still a lot of pressure from parents and the public to do inappropriate things.''

Copies of the report, Getting Schools Ready for Children: The Other Side of the Readiness Goal, are available for $8 each from the SREB, 592 10th St., N.W., Atlanta, GA 30318.

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