The not-so surprising, but disturbing results of a survey reported by the Detroit Free Press quantified an argument that advocates for pre-kindergarten often use: Turns out many kindergarten teachers in the state of Michigan are finding that the littlest learners aren’t ready for school.
In some ways, it’s hard to imagine not being ready for kindergarten — after all, isn’t kindergarten a time for lots of play and socialization? Just how challenging is it to be ready for ring around the rosy and block building? But wait — kindergarten these days, it turns out, is much more academic and teachers want their students to already know letters and numbers.
The Free Press based its story on a survey released by the Early Childhood Investment Corporation, which found that only 65% of children entering kindergarten classrooms were ready to learn the curriculum. The survey comes at a time when Michigan, like many states, is under enormous economic pressure and is bracing for major cuts to pre-kindergarten programs.
It’s important to report the results of such surveys, but even more important for journalists to get into kindergarten classrooms and speak to teachers and observe children. What kind of advantage do those who have attended pre-kindergarten have? Can they catch up? What concerns do teachers have and are they about behavior, academics or both? What is the curriculum that these students aren’t ready for? What does it ask children to do and how can they get ready?
As the budget battles and political fights over pre-kindergarten continue in economically depressed states like Michigan and elsewhere, it’s more important than ever for journalists to get inside the classroom, observe and ask deeper questions so the public gains an understanding of why early education matters.