Weekly Readings (Oklahoma Early Childhood Research Symposium)
- Klein, S., (2016). Benefits of Early Care and Education for Children in the Child Welfare System, OPRE Report # 2016-68
- Phillips, D., Gormley, W., & Anderson, S. (2016). The Effects of Tulsa's CAP Head Start Program on Middle-School Academic Outcomes and Progress. Developmental Psychology, 56(8), 1247-1261.
- Paciorek 1.1, 1.4, 2.2, 2.3
Reading Reflection and Question:
What have been on my mind after this week’s readings are the Head Start program and its role in early childhood education. I am “recklessly” merging Early Care and Education (ECE) in Klein’s article into the same concept with Head Start program, since Head Start was created in 1965 as part of President Johnson’s Great Society programs, to give low-income children “a boost” to help the children get ready for school (Mervis, 2011). What’s more, a good preschool was not the only thing the Head Start program concerned about. Along with providing early childhood education opportunities for low-income children and families, the Head Start program also “provide nutritional, health, and child care assistance” to the families in need. This is very much inline with the one of the main outcomes and purposes of ECE, which is to promote children’s well being (Klein, 2016).
The attention to early childhood education has become a global issue. The Luxembourg President of the Council of the European Union called for giving children a head start “for the sake of Europe’s future” *. The global shift in attention to early childhood education also brought the controversy on the essence of early childhood education. The main debate is between those who promote early academic training and those who believe in age-appropriate practice. While either side seems to boast of sufficient theoretical and empirical evidence, they seem (to me) have different agenda in mind. By that I mean those who “push” early childhood education, specifically through academic pathways, are usually some parents who are afraid their children will lose the “race” at the starting line, politicians who feel the need to do so in order to get more votes, and people who have “the simplistic notion” that providing low-income children early academic training would give them “an edge” and eventually break out of the cycle of poverty (Elkind, n.d). While on the other hand, those who have insisted on respecting children’s age appropriate development choose to look at the issue from a different perspective. They concern more about the essence of education, the holistic approach from the early stage, and most important, they are less enthusiastic about rushing into an approach without sufficient evidence that the approach does benefit children’s overall well beings and development.
Despite the controversy, Phillips et al. article does bring a positive note on the issue. The success of Tulsa’s CAP Head Start program should be attribute to its “high quality standards”. All of its teachers hold a bachelor’s degree and early childhood certificate. I am not sure if that happened after the 2011 regulation from Obama Administration that proposed to increase accountability (Mervis, 2011), but the impact of quality staff is important. Also they have maintained child staff ratio at 10:1. More important, when the salaries of Head Start teachers are much lower than regular schoolteachers nationwide (Mervis, 2011), Tulsa CAP Head Start pays its teachers on the same wage scale of K-12 public school (Phillips et al., 2016). All these collectively have helped make Tulsa CAP Head Start program a good place where children in need are getting quality education. The positive outcome has been approved (by the study) to extend all the way into middle schools. It seems that what ultimately decides whether an early childhood education program works or not is not concept itself. It’s more how the program is executed. There are so many variables when it comes to education. It is never easy and simple to measure and judge a program based on a few studies, especially when the studies are not carried out in a longitude manner.
Last, I would like to mention one of the “side effects” of early childhood education or Head Start program some have used to oppose the approach. Many have observed the positive outcomes from Head Start fading or totally disappearing by the end of 1st or 2nd grade. Instead of questioning the effectiveness of Head Start program, we should look at what public school should do to help sustain that momentum.
Elkind, D. (n.d.) Much too Early, Retrieved from http://educationnext.org/much-too-early/
Mervis, J. (2011). Giving Children a Head Start Is Possible--But It's Not Easy. Science, 333(6045), 956-957.
* Retrieved from https://ec.europa.eu/commission/node/323219_hu