Monday Education Secretary Arne Duncan was hanging out in a bilingual pre-school in Maryland and Lydsey Layton of the Washington Post was covering it because, reasons?
Duncan is unhappy with the speed of adoption of Pre-K. He has a whole shelf of the stuff, and people just aren't buying. He "unveiled" a new report (was he carrying it around prior to that all draped in a veil? what color was the veil? sorry, but sometimes I get to looking at words thinking, "What the heck." anyway, I guess that's why he was there and being covered-- so he could use children as a presser backdrop) from the National Institute for Early Education Research, a group attached to Rutgers that is not so much a research institute as an advocacy that uses research to support their position. Does anybody do research without deciding what they want the answer to be ahead of time?
Anyway, the report said only 29% of four year olds and 4% of three year olds are in pre-school.
Somehow, this is a surprise to Duncan. It has been many, many years since my children were three years old, but that's not long enough to make me imagine that I would have considered pre-school a worthwhile choice back then. Of course, as always, I am troubled by the nagging gut feeling that Arne really thinks that Those Poor Folks are the ones who need to get their children out of the home and into a pre-school ASAP.
Layton reminds us that the feds have been trying hard to get pre-K promoted to headline status in the ESEA rewrite. Duncan asked for full-out grants and got competitive grants instead (which, given the administrations previous deep wet-kissing-with-tongue love for competitive grants is some kind of poetic justice). But anyway...
And whether that bill eventually will be passed by the full Senate and
the House and become law is unclear. And it is likely to make a small
dent in a “tremendous, unmet need,” Duncan said.
See, here's one of my questions-- what unmet need? What exactly is the need that school for three year olds must meet? Because I'm deathly afraid that the "unmet" need is the need for three-year-olds to open their books and start studying calculus so they can take a Pearson-manufactured standardized test to measure their sentence-writing skills. In which case, there is no unmet need.
Duncan notes that it would take 75 years at this rate to kid all the children into pre-school. Arne's explanation for why things are moving slowly is, well, not a good one. “We need more resources. We need Congress to invest, to partner with states to expand access," he says. Yes, and the Edsel wasn't sold in enough car lots. And New Coke didn't have enough marketing support.
When people aren't buying what you're selling (or in this case, trying to essentially give away), doesn't that mean you need to look at your product and the market and ask yourself if you're not trying to sell something that nobody wants?
I'll admit to mixed feelings about pre-school. I am sure that there are many ways that it could be handled that would really enrich life for children and their families, but at this point, I feel in my bones that the USED would like to do pre-school in the wrongest ways possible, for all the wrong reasons, and do it badly.
But in the meantime, what Arne is complaining about is simply all those delightful and beloved market forces doing their thing.
The piece was not a total waste, however. Layton totally got a picture of Arne roaring like a lion. I'm pretty sure that was worth the trip to Maryland all by itself.