Columbia educators skeptical of study disproving early learning

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COLUMBIA - A new study conducted by Vanderbilt University is sparking questions about the effectiveness of early childhood education. The study is based of a sample of more than 3000 4-year-old students, some of which were and some which were not participants in Tennessee’s state-wide pre-kindergarten educational program. Results of the study indicate that students who received early education may have experienced a spurt of academic benefit before entering kindergarten but that by the third grade students without pre-k education where doing just as well and sometimes out performed kids that were educated early on.

The featured educational program is regulated through standards set by the state board of education. Those requirements include that teachers are licensed in early childhood development and education, classrooms maintain an adult-student rations of no less than 1:10 with class size maximums at 20 students, and that teachers instruct an approved age-appropriate curriculum.

Similar to the program in the study, the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education outlines guidelines for parents, parent educators, childcare providers, Head Start and public/private school teachers to prepare children for the various stages of their education. While this study may suggest otherwise, child education advocates such as Paul Prevo says that his faith in early education programs is not wavering. As the owner of Tiger Tots Child Development Center, he uses lesson plans every day with the children enrolled in his preschool.

“I am 100 percent behind early education, but it has to be quality with the appropriate curriculum,” Prevo said. “We start with lesson planning even on our infants, we start with sign language and basic concepts and that goes all the way through getting kids prepared for kindergarten.” Prevo said that he’s seen through his own programming that kids can write simple sentences and count to a hundred before entering their first year of schooling.

Prevo is also Vice Chair of Bright Futures, a program implemented in Columbia Public Schools. Prevo disregards the Vanderbilt study on early education saying “as far as long standing achievement there are studies that show both directions." He says that a big factor in young students’ success is the student’s desire to learn and that getting them into healthy learning habits has a lasting benefit. "Our hope is that children will develop a love for learning while at Tiger Tots and continue that love of learning on through the rest of their educational career.”