Early last month, NPR published an article with the title, “A top researcher says it’s time to rethink our entire approach to preschool”. Maybe you saw it, or like me, maybe you had several people send it to you because they knew you’d find it fascinating.
The article featured developmental psychologist and researcher Dr. Dale Farran and her reflections on the most recent round of startling outcomes from the Tennessee Voluntary PreK cohort, which she and her colleagues at Vanderbilt University have been studying for more than a decade. The article struck a nerve, particularly its last line which said, “We might actually get better results, … from simply letting little children play.”
In this episode, I’ll be diving into some of the context around this article and the study it references. We’ll talk about what we can learn from these results and why these lessons apply far beyond the scope of the popular article.
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Notes from the Show:
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Here’s the popular NPR article referenced in this episode: “A top researcher says it’s time to rethink our entire approach to preschool”
And the NPR article from 2015: “The Tennessee Pre-K Debate: Spinach vs Easter Grass”
Must-Read article by Dr. Farran for DEY: “Early Developmental Competencies: Or Why Pre-K Does Not Have Lasting Effects”
Tennessee PreK study as fodder for opinion articles against and for government funding for preschools found in the Wall Street Journal.
Does quality early childhood education lead to more successful lives as adults? (National Academy of Sciences)
A look at the PreK program in Boston, along with the argument that program outcomes should be measured by more than just test scores. (National Bureau of Economic Research). (Commentary from Ellen Galinsky on this study found in the Wall Street Journal here.)
Dr. Heckman’s argument for strengthening the economy by strengthening early childhood programs (The Heckman Equation)
Sometimes something isn’t better than nothing— The Hechinger Report covers the Tennessee PreK results.
Brookings Institution Consensus Statement : What factors contribute to high-quality PreK?
Defending the Early Years: This position statement lays out what we miss by overemphasizing academic gains in early childhood.
Crisis in the Kindergarten makes a similar argument related to the misalignment of early chiodhood goals. (Alliance for Childhood)
The High-Scope Preschool Curriculum Comparison as well as this study from the University of Florida examined the long-term impact of emphasizing direct instruction and an academic perspective in early childhood.
Previous Posts from Not Just Cute:
The High Cost of Pervasive Passivity and Why Play Matters
The Danger of Performance Hang Ups in Early Education
Why We Play
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