November 15, 2013
Dr. Leonard Golubchick, Adjunct Professor St. Johns University, Metropolitan College of New York , Metropolitan College of New York, Principal PS 20 Man. Ret.,
A realistic approach to school reform is needed so that a solid foundation is built for our children in order to enhance learning opportunities and to provide a coordinated approach from Prekindergarten to grade 3 in order to prevent the Fourth Grade slump and to raise achievement. The concentration on trying to “fix” middle school and secondary school will have little impact in the long term.
The investment, particularly by the Melinda and Bill Gates Foundation, focused on High school. A focus on Middle School and High school is crucial but does not respond to the major issue that a strong focused Prek-grade three initiative is necessary in order to prevent academic failure, dropout and to close the achievement gap. Refocusing our reform lens on Prek-Grade 3 is an imperative since this a time period where children develop and acquire the emotional, social and cognitive and academic skills needed for the foundation of learning in grades 4-12.
A concerted effort was implemented in New York City Schools in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s was such an effort. This was the primary summer program for children k-grade 3 children and it worked but was disbanded due to budget. Such a primary program is necessary along with coordinated programming for grades Prek-grades 3 which also provide supports and small class size. This also includes quality Professional Development. We must lay the groundwork for academic success by concentrating on the formative years.
Research supports the implementation of high-quality Prekindergarten programs as a definitive method for raising achievement and closing the achievement gap. We cannot stop at Prek but must continue rigorous early childhood programming up to grade 3. By linking Prek to the elementary grades we are establishing a coherent organizational structure which institutionalizes clear expectations creditable assessments as well as clear social and academic goals. This also includes quality Professional Development and smaller class size. A reform movement which contains a strong philosophical foundation will enable the implementation of an enrichment approach which concentrates on building on what children know and with educators concentrating on the social, emotional and intellectual development of young children. This sustained effort will enable an instructional initiative which coordinates learning between grades and should be aligned with the common core. Such alignment must include the arts and physical education along with math, science and literacy and technology. Regular planning and shared professional development is another critical component in the implementation of a Prek -grade 3 seamless instructional program. Our policy makers should pay attention of the value-added approach of a comprehensive Prek-grade 3 educational initiative.