Equalizing Preschool Education in the U.S.

By: Emily Keebler

     When I was four, my mother made the decision to home school me for preschool. But it wasn’t just because as a single-income household, and because she was a stay-at-mom it was the only feasible option, it was so I could get ahead. She got workbooks, flashcards, pencils, paper, crayons, all the supplies needed for a quality preschool experience. We would work on something she had planned out ahead of time every week day. My preschool experience might not be a conventional one, but as a result of it, I got the one-on-one attention and quality education I needed to get ahead in Elementary school, and then Middle and High School. As soon as Kindergarten, I realized my classmates had different experiences with preschool, and it didn’t exactly give them an advantage. By making the unpopular decision to educate me at home for preschool, my mom gave me the higher-quality education I believe should be not only available, but required for every child. The United States should open mandatory government preschools because it will give students a head-start on the fundamentals in reading/literacy and math by providing a regulation for the quality of education, and the current system is highly privatized.

Current “preschools” do not have a government regulation in the fundamentals which are essential to a quality education. By making preschool mandatory in the United States instead of leaving it up to the parents, these standards can be established. Putting national standards in place for preschools, both public and private, as it is with the rest of the educational system in the United States, will make the quality of education in preschools more equitable. These standards can stop “many of the country’s existing private preschools…” from being “little more than glorified daycare centers” and turn them into effective institutions of education (Wong par. 21) More national standards for preschools can make it so that kindergarten is no longer just for teaching children how to read, or the fundamentals of reading, because they would learn that in preschool, as a result they could spend more time honing their literacy skills, like comprehension. By having the students learn basic addition and subtraction in preschool, they can focus on a slightly higher level of mathematics in Kindergarten.

While these changes may seem small, they add up. Eventually this could put students in the United States perhaps a half of a year ahead, maybe even a full one, if courses continue to accelerate. Overall, the effect of a standardized preschool program would permanently advance students in the system over a course of several years, all because of a few extra skills picked up in preschool.

While this is a daunting task, we don’t have to start from scratch; we do have a start on public preschool, a Head Start, to be precise, but it is not enough. While Head Start and other tax-funded programs like it are fairly good programs, they are not implemented on nearly a large enough scale. Only 41 percent of four-year old children are enrolled in tax funded preschool programs like Head Start and other preschool services focused on special education (United States). There are, of course, private preschools, but not all families can afford to send their children to private preschool. Despite this, private preschools actually make up a majority of the preschools in the United States, which puts lower-income families at a disadvantage to higher-income families (Karch 201). If the famous quote from education guru Horace Mann is correct, then “education is the great equalizer” and by having private preschool make up the majority of preschools, the true purpose of education is corrupted.

At the end of the day, the benefits of preschool are invaluable to a child. It can give them a much gentler introduction to the educational system, instead of the culture shock they get now. It can also get them thoroughly ready for kindergarten, and, by extension, their academic career. If the United States wants to not only not fall behind other first world countries and the world in general, but to stay/get ahead, it absolutely must implement a mandatory national public preschool program. Even some overarching standards for all preschools in the nation (both public and private) would make a world of difference by making public and private preschools alike required to teach the same basic material, ensuring a valuable, quality preschool experience for all children. But for all this talk of creating an equal educational opportunity, the real goal is to create a higher quality education through high standards. We don’t need education as an equalizer anymore, we need it as an elevator, to raise up our children and, by extension, our society.

Works Cited

Herman, Juliana. “The United States is Far Behind Other Countries on Pre-K.” Center for American Progress. 2 May 2013. Web. 6 Feb. 2017.

Karch, Andrew. Early Start : Preschool Politics in the United States. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigaess, 2013. Print.

United States. Department of Education. A Matter of Equity: Preschool in America. Print.

Wong, Alia. “The Case Against Universal Preschool.” The Atlantic. The Atlantic, 18 Nov. 2014. Web. 6 Feb. 2017.