While reading The Pre-K Debates I have become more aware of many early childhood controversies and issues. Two particular issues that continue to be brought up are at what age children should begin to attend preschool and for how many years they should attend. The research based evidence from this book supports greater, positive affects for children who attend preschool starting at 3 years of age and continue for 2 years up until kindergarten. There is also research evidence that accompanying those 2 years of preschool with home visits is even more beneficial and may impact the child’s growth for the next several years.
I have been an early childhood educator going on 5 years and I have had the experience of being in 3 different school districts. Each district has had different policies for when and how long children attend preschool. The main reason behind this is funding. At one district I taught at 2 childcare centers that didn’t have the “funding” for special education (or so I was told) but accepted 3 year olds into their preschool program. The next preschool I was apart of had infant rooms, 2 year old rooms, and classrooms like mine, which had 3,4,5 year olds that received breakfast, lunch, and nap. However, shortly after I left that program the special education funding was cut and many children were being placed in self contained rooms instead of an integrated program. Now, in that same district 2 year old classrooms are being cut, again because of money and funding. Now in my current classroom I have 3, 4, & 5 year olds. This is a state funded, free program for children who have special needs and who are 4 years old. So, again age limitation because of funding and our situation, space. So, what’s best practice? When and for long should children attend preschool?
My preference over the years has been working with children starting at age 3 and then having those children in preschool for 2 years. I know funding and space is a huge part of why each district I have been a part of has varying opinions on when and how long children attend preschool, but I’m wondering how we change that? How can we begin to provider services that are best supportive of the children? It has been researched and proven that beginning preschool at age 3, continuing for 2 years, and with home visitations is one of the best ways to support early childhood development so why hasn’t it changed? Who can advocate for sending all children starting at age 3 and how do we find that funding? How can we develop a universal system for when and how long children attend preschool? I’m not sure there is an exact answer, but I am interested to find out more!