Now that more and more people are talking about high-quality preschool programs, it’s important to make sure that they know what high-quality means.
One way to share that message is to educate journalists who write about preschool programs. If they understand more about preschool, they’ll do a better job of informing their audiences.
So, the next time you talk to a journalist, be sure to talk about what quality is — and what it isn’t — and be sure to share resources that illustrate your point.
Another resource is “The Most Important Year: Pre-kindergarten and the Future of Our Children,” a book by Massachusetts-based writer Suzanne Bouffard.
Bouffard’s book is featured in another useful resource, an article on the Education Writers Association’s website called, “What Reporters Should Look for in Early Learning Settings: Lectures don’t work well for young children. Look instead for child-directed fun.”
The article points to a number of quality indicators, including:
• “Watch how teachers interact with children,” the article says. “Teachers should have conversations with children about what they are doing and ask open-ended questions that encourage students to think.”
• Children’s work should be displayed on the walls.
• “Teachers should be engaging with infants and toddlers, responding to their babbles and motions,” and
• “Classrooms should be happy.”
The article explains that Bouffard recalled seeing the difference between teacher-led and child-inspired activities — and how important children’s participation is. Bouffard visited “one classroom where staff were proud of the play center they created where students were supposed to pretend to produce a TV news show. The teachers made a pretend camera from a cardboard box and nametags reading ‘I am a news anchor’ or ‘I am a weather forecaster’ for students to hang around their necks.
“But the students at the center, who apparently had little involvement with its creation, were at a loss, puzzled about what exactly they were supposed to do with the teacher-created props.
“In another classroom, Bouffard saw a class doing an entire unit on grocery stores. They learned about stores and visited them and then students created their own make-believe grocery store in the classroom. Students in that class eagerly played ‘store,’ taking on the roles of customer and cashier—and learning math, vocabulary and other skills.
“‘Those kids were so into the grocery store,’ Bouffard said.”
As you talk to journalists, emphasize that an important aspect of quality is a teacher’s skill. Bouffard writes about this in her book using Jodi Krous, a pre-K teacher in Boston’s Eliot school as an example:
“Krous seemed to accomplish the impossible task of noticing everything happening in the room at once, providing just the right question or comment to nudge the children to think a little more deeply. When a child proudly approached her with a book he had made using familiar story characters, she shared his enthusiasm and then prodded him to write down the words the characters might say. Watching children mixing and painting with watercolors, she asked them, ‘What happens when you use different-sized paintbrushes?’ When she used the word ‘water’ while talking about painting, she noticed that a nonverbal child used sign language to say ‘drink,’ showing she heard Krous’s words. Another boy came over to show her how he had pasted the letters of his name on cardstock. ‘Wow, you have eight letters in your name!’ Krous exclaimed. ‘Do you have the longest name? Go find Olivia’s name. Find the one that starts with an O. Now count how many. What about Matthew?’ When she asked him how he got his correct answer of seven, he cheerfully replied, ‘I counted already!’
“It was obvious that every moment of the school day was thoughtfully planned to facilitate children’s learning…”
Obvious, of course, to a writer who knows what quality looks like.