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Our schools are trying every measure that seems feasible to raise the education levels of our students -- new programs, new products, extended school days, extended school years, tutoring, mentoring, pressuring, rewarding, etc. This ignores an obvious measure used by every nation that has left us behind in the achievement race: day care-learning programs for very young children.
Working with children from the age of 18 months would prevent most of them from falling behind.
Many U.S. families enter their youngsters in some program very early, to give them social contact, stimulate their learning, give mom a break in the morning, or enable the family to have both parents at work. As a Montessori school founder, I noticed years ago that because Montessori education begins at age 3, children in this and other day-care programs did better in school from the start. A toddler program works even better.
Children entering school for the first time at age 5 are often at a disadvantage from the start. In fact, many of those who have been in school early are reading by the end of kindergarten and once they get ahead, there is no catching them. (Public pre-kindergarten for 4-year-olds takes only children whose skills -- hearing, speaking, socializing, attending -- are lagging.)
Educational television and public libraries are great tools, but have not solved the problem.
We must begin educating children before they get behind, not just try to rescue them after they do.
Anne C. Pollitzer
St. Helena Island