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Education Opinion

Effective Pre-k Policies Must Include Systematic Attention to Content and Language Development

By Sara Mead — November 01, 2013 1 min read

Great blog post from the Albert Shanker Institute’s Esther Quintero pegs off of recent news coverage of the “word gap” in young children’s early language exposure and vocabulary to highlight the need to strategically support young children in developing both a broad vocabulary and background knowledge. In other words--it’s not enough for adults to simply talk more to kids; how they talk matters!

I highly recommend reading the whole post, which gets into nuances of supporting young children’s learning that are really critical but largely lacking from our current public and policy dialogue about supporting young children’s learning. I’m particularly concerned about this from a policy perspective: While policy discussions about pre-k “quality” tend to focus on input issues like, class sizes and teacher credentials, they rarely engage the crucial issues Quintero raises here--which are the fundamental core of what it means to provide a quality early learning experience to children. To be sure, class sizes and teacher credentials help create the conditions that allow for quality learning experiences for young children. But these factors are not synonymous pre-k quality in and of themselves, and too often our policies treat them as if they were. Even the recent emphasis on quality of adult-child interactions in pre-k--though very welcome and more closely connected to children’s learning than most input measures--doesn’t get at the content of children’s learning experiences, which is critical to ensuring children have the background knowledge and oral language they need to succeed in school. As policymakers think about expanding access to quality early learning for young children, ensuring the success of those efforts requires thinking creatively and systematically about how to ensure publicly funded preschool programs deliver the kind of rich language and content experience that support children’s acquisition of knoweldge and vocabulary.

The opinions expressed in Sara Mead’s Policy Notebook are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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