If you’re pushing preschoolers to read and write, you might want to reconsider and rewind back to basics, experts said Thursday.
In a nation “consumed with sooner and faster,” including in education, young students are being pushed academically at the expense of developing crucial social and problem-solving skills, Gesell Institute of Human Development Executive Director Marcy Guddemi said Thursday, in announcing results of a three-year study.
Guddemi, who highlighted the study at a press conference as the institute prepares for its 60th anniversary year, said children are developing at the same rate neurologically as they did when Dr. Arnold Gesell did his pioneering work in the 1940s, yet, they’re being pushed to do everything sooner.
A statement from the institute also announced the honorary award they were to give to Edward Zigler, founder of Head Start, Thursday night.
Guddemi said children who learn to read by age 4 have no advantage by third grade over children who master reading at 5 or 6 years old. Instead, they miss out on developing other strengths, she said.
“You can’t push developmental milestones,” she said. “Children have sets of abilities that are definitively bound by their developmental level. Those developmental abilities of a child are directly related to their success at processing the information given to them and to perform the tasks asked of them.”
The results of the fast track approach haven’t brought better test scores, she said. Rather, studies show children feel like failures now by pre-K age, are being expelled at four times the rate of children in kindergarten through 12th grade and have not fully developed qualities such as persistence, creativity, cooperation and communication, “that are necessary in the adult job market,” Guddemi said.
Gesell Institute’s national study on children’s development drew on a nationwide sample of about 1,300 3- to 6-year-olds from 53 schools in 23 states, from a variety of demographic and economic backgrounds.
Guddemi said quality early education programs for ages 3 to third grade, the years defined as early education, are essential in providing proper experiences and exploration, rather than to learn more letters earlier.
Guddemi said “Unfortunately, in an effort to close achievement gaps,” parents and schools have embraced a philosophy that earlier is better.
In response to the study, the institute is encouraging schools to reshape their curricula to incorporate more age appropriate activities and asking that school administrators become better educated in early childhood fundamentals through Gesell professional development programs.
Mayor John Destefano Jr., who proclaimed Thursday as “Gesell Institute Leadership and Discovery Day,” said New Haven prides itself on providing good early childhood education—noting a renewed focus on pre-K here 10 years ago—and said the city school system looks forward to “continued collaboration” with Gesell Institute.
He said education is key to violence reduction.
Gesell Institute of Human Development, founded in 1950, is an independent, non-profit organization that is based on the work of Gesell documenting infant and child growth and development during the 1900s. Gesell was founding director of the Yale Child Study Center in 1911.