Duncan, et al. have announced a new RTT competition targeting early education. States will be competing to share $500 million in new funds―a significant sum, especially for Pre-K. But, as Bellwether’s Sara Mead has pointed out, the department’s description of the new “Race to the Top―Early Learning Challenge” contains nothing that will make improving the actual content of Pre-K education a factor in the competition. “I’m concerned that, unless the administration designs the competition criteria to also emphasize quality instruction for preschool-aged students,” writes Mead, “they could squander an opportunity to lay a real foundation for improved student achievement.” We’ve repeatedly bemoaned the lack of content in Pre-K education. The lack of exposure to real content―history, quality literature, art history, science, foreign language―is a problem in most Pre-K programs, not just those serving children from low-income families. Mead calls for the new federal competition’s review criteria to:
“[R]equire states to have in place a definition of ‘high-quality early learning programs’ that emphasizes instructional quality for pre-k programs, including use of effective instructional practices and strategies; clearly articulated and content-rich curricula… .”
We agree, and would even recommend, that the department itself issue a definition of “high-quality early learning programs” that makes content-rich instruction in core subjects a priority.