Jennifer Daniels,* a stay-at-home mom in an affluent Southern California community, will not rest until her three-year-old daughter Kayleigh is accepted into a highly-regarded local preschool. Anthony's childless-by-choice friends find her tribulations fodder for a good laugh over a glass of wine at the women's biweekly gatherings.
But it seems Daniels may be on to something. A study published June 9 in the online version of the journal Science tracked nearly 1,500 Chicago children for up to 25 years. Researchers found that the children who attended preschool were more inclined to finish high school than their peers with no pre-kindergarten schooling. In addition, the researchers noted that nearly 15 percent of the 900 children who were enrolled in preschool eventually attended a four-year college, while only 11 percent of their counterparts who did not go to preschool went to college.
As noted in previous posts, the results of two reports we have been analyzing point to a burning need for better preparation at the primary and secondary education levels in order for students to be college-ready. Today we will spend some time on the apparent disconnect between K-12 learning and the modern college student's readiness for postsecondary education. Our goal is not to point fingers at any particular institution or group, but rather to propose possible steps toward closing the gap.
Let's go back to the report entitled "Postsecondary Education in the 21st Century: Students and Institutions." You may recall that insufficient secondary preparation was identified as the second-greatest obstacle facing 21st century college students. While the scope of this blog post is too small to begin dissecting the reasons our high school system seems to be falling short, it bears noting that a growing number of private and public agencies are touting the benefits of a preschool education.
Take for instance the nonprofit Los Angeles Universal Preschool, whose mission is to provide access to preschool as a means of ensuring that children are ready for kindergarten and beyond. On the other side of the country, the Aristotle Circle in New York City offers test preparation services for pre-kindergarten admissions. Years of research led to the establishment of the Los Angeles Universal Preschool, and it would appear that companies like the Aristotle Circle are not lacking for parents like Daniels who want to fast-track their children to a four-year college and beyond.
Perhaps a logical first step toward addressing the apparent shortcomings of the secondary education system would be to conduct more research into why the 135 Chicago preschoolers in the Science study attended college. Does preschool provide a more solid foundation for future learning than kindergarten? What effect does the home environment have on a 3- to 5-year-old's academic potential? Does early learning stimulate certain neural pathways that may enhance lifelong learning?
There are no easy answers, and only time will tell if Daniels's efforts will pay off for Kayleigh. However, policymakers and educators may wish to take a closer look at the growing trend - and mounting research - in the idea of preschool as a path to a college education.
*Name changed for privacy
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