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"Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world." - Nelson Mandela

Texas Education Commission Shows Profound Ignorance About How Children Learn

By Carole Hornsby Haynes, Ph.D. February 13, 2019

Fifty-nine percent of Texas third graders cannot read but the Texas Commission on Public School Finance concludes the reason lies in a child’s lack of preparedness for kindergarten.  The 2018 report of the Commission claims, “testimony reflected that students who were kindergarten ready were more than three times more likely to meet the state standard for third-grade reading vs. those students who weren’t.”

Massive research ranging over more than sixty decades completely refutes the outrageous claim laid out in the Commission’s report. There is much proof that early reading instruction does not ensure that a child will read at grade level by the third grade.

The Commission’s recommendation is that full day pre-K for three- and four-year-olds should be funded. Several bills have been filed in the Texas 2019 legislative session for that purpose. The bills are HB 189, HB 612, SB 287, SB 292, and SB 36.

Texas lawmakers have been pushing for universal pre-K for years and have been given much solid proof about the harm to young children who are forced into government run pre-K. Yet these lawmakers continue to ignore that proof when it fails to support their own ideological agendas.

One fear tactic that pre-K advocates use is that 85 percent of a child’s brain development occurs in the first five years. Therefore, if children do not attend pre-K, all educational intervention after that is more difficult, more expensive, and less effective. Pediatricians disagree, saying that the brain continues to develop, remodel and refine until age 25.

Reading specialists argue that good reading teachers in K-3 can catch children up who have not learned to read. Because early elementary school children are in their major development years, they learn four times as much material during a regular school year as in the preschool years.

Finnish schools do not allow a child to begin formal schooling until age seven. Kindergarten, which is not mandatory, does not begin until age six. Yet Finland’s students are among the highest performing in the world -- U.S. students are near the bottom.

Nearly every study over the past 60 years has reported fade out of pre-K benefit from kindergarten through the third grade. Both Head Start and the federally funded voluntary pre-K study in Tennessee report fade out from kindergarten through the third grade.

Texas lawmakers have been using the Meadows Foundation study for Texas as proof that fade out by third grade can be avoided. The study claims that economically disadvantaged children have a 40% better chance of being on a college-ready pace in third grade if they are enrolled in public full-day pre-K. However, their study used the highly flawed Carolina Abecedarian and Duke University studies as a basis for their claim.

The commission hopes to narrow the gap for low-income children with full day pre-K. In fact, the opposite occurs. Studies by the federal government report that Head Start does not improve the school readiness of low-income children.

The findings of major pre-K studies show students who do not enroll in public pre-K outperform those who attend. Oklahoma universal pre-K program students scored above the 1992 NAEP national average but fell below it in 2015.

Since her founding, America has been a nation of innovators because of our education system. However, since 1990 American creativity scores have been steadily falling. That was when we replaced childhood free play with rigid formal instruction. This loss of personal creativity has profound implications for our nation’s economic growth as well as national and international issues that require creative solutions.

If young children are not engaged in active free play, especially outdoors, they are more likely to exhibit problems with social interactions, paying attention, problem-solving, anxiety, controlling their emotions, and clumsiness. A Harvard Medical School study shows that more children are being diagnosed with ADHD as younger children are being forced into rigid, formal settings that can well be beyond their development capability.

If Texas lawmakers really are concerned about the literacy of our youth, they will stop funding education that has harmful consequences for children.

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