Education Expert Cites Need for Preschool Access, Higher Teacher Pay Education
Education research continues to show that early intervention sets the foundation for students’ future academic success. On Friday, Memphis’ Hutchison School hosted nationally acclaimed education researcher Dr. Amanda VanDerHeyden for a talk titled “How Critical Is a Strong Early Childhood Education.”
“The target audience was parents, who are always worrying about whether they’ve made the right decision for the educational setting of their children,” said Dr. Kristen Ring, head of school at Hutchison, a private all-girls college preparatory school at 1740 Ridgeway Road that serves about 900 girls in preschool through high school.
“Amanda’s expertise, knowledge and understanding in the field is profound,” Ring said. “When we have opportunities to hear from thought leaders like her, we certainly want to seize them and make sure we’re educating parents on helping them make the best decision.”
VanDerHeyden is president of Education Research & Consulting Inc. based in Fairhope, Alabama, and serves as scientific adviser to Technology and Information Educational Services and the Center on Innovations in Learning.
Most recently, she completed a web-based mathematics intervention system called Spring Math (www.springmath.com).
“We know more about how to teach math than we did 20 years ago – things have changed,” VanDerHeyden said.
Legislation, she said, has influenced the evolution of teaching methods, especially pertaining to kindergarten preparation and early intervention at the first sign a student is struggling.
“The great news in public school is that, once children arrive at kindergarten, school systems are equipped and prepared to screen to see if children are on track or not,” she said. “That’s a newer trend, since 2001, with No Child Left Behind and Reading First and the reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
“Those legislative events had mutually referential language that said we should be engaged in prevention, use scientific-based methods of instruction, and conduct screening to identify where children are potentially losing ground or not meeting important benchmarks,” she said. “Then we should have layers of increasingly intensive support that we’re able to deliver to the classroom – to the child – to make sure that child not only does not fall further behind, which is what would’ve happened in the past, but that that child closes the gap and catches up.”
VanDerHeyden is a strong believer in the power of Head Start, the federally administered program that promotes school readiness for children under age 5 from low-income families through education, health and social services.
She said it’s imperative that high-quality preschool be available to all families, offering the same prevention efforts across the board and preparing children for kindergarten.
“That means giving them a rich social environment with lots of language and responsive interaction with supportive caregivers – then you can even prevent having to deal with intervention from ages 5 to 8,” VanDerHeyden said.
She said preschool teachers need to be incentivized with higher pay, justified by better education requirements and excellent personal development opportunities to help build their skills, which will help them more readily identify when children need intervention.
“We know how to provide support for teachers to be the best they can be to maximize the prevention effect they’re having for children, then to identify when it’s not enough,” VanDerHeyden said. “And when it’s not enough, we know how to fix that. It’s not hard to do, it’s just a matter of scaling and money.”
She said data has shown that as many as 40 percent of students could leave special education with effective intervention in elementary school, and later studies have shown that those treatment effects were even stronger for children who are younger.
“You have the most powerful prevention effect the earlier in life that you initiate intervention,” she said. “My area of interest is preventing learning disabilities and raising student achievement in school systems. And the earlier you initiate intervention, especially between the ages of 5 and 8, we now know that most occurrences of learning disabilities are preventable, which is amazing.”
Courtesy: By Aisling Maki, Source link