Early education: Two sides of the same coin

In the wake of a new statement from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) calling for a “broader, bolder” approach to education, the educational blogosphere lit up with responses.

Early Ed Watch gives subtly short shrift to degreed teachers, small class sizes, sufficient funding, etc., arguing that:

Educational quality lies, first, in the quality of the emotional and instructional interactions between adults and children in the classroom, and also in the quality of the curricular content conveyed through those interactions.

It turns out that researchers in Washington State have demonstrated a statistically significant connection between quality of care and teacher education, staff retention, wages, and other factors.

So let’s not quibble.

“Qualified teachers, managable class sizes, adequate resources, and so forth” don’t just “help create the conditions that allow those interactions to occur, and increase the probability that they will occur”. They are a pre-requisite for them to occur.

The post’s closing call for “accountability, opportunities for parent choice and customization, proven curricula, research-based instructional strategies, and the right incentives and supports for educators” sounds good on paper – but leaves big questions unanswered. For example:

  • Is it reasonable to call for “accountability” without also calling for giving schools and teachers the financial support, education and training resources needed to perform?
  • Do parents have a real “choice” if public funding for education is so low that high-quality programs aren’t available except to those few families who earn enough to afford a private option?
  • How are educational programs to be “customized” for individual children if low pay means districts can’t afford to attract enough teachers to reduce class sizes?

It’s two sides of the same coin, that’s all.

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