A Preschool Where Kids Get a Leg Up

Successful Curiosity Corner preschool curriculum drives results and confidence — so much that ESL kids use “deciduous” in a sentence.

Robert Slavin co-founder and chairman of Success For All, sings a song with a student at Langley Park - McCormick Elementary school. Langley Park uses Success For All's highly rated educational program Curiosity Corner in its Head Start and preschool classes. 
National Journal
Stephanie Czekalinsk
Add to Briefcase
See more stories about...
Stephanie Czekalinsk
Dec. 6, 2013, midnight

HY­ATT­S­VILLE, Md. — Two little boys sit col­or­ing at a cluster of desks in the cen­ter of the classroom, ob­li­vi­ous to the tu­mult around them. In one corner of the room, a clutch of 3- and 4-year-olds is pre­tend­ing to host a fall fest­iv­al. An­oth­er group plays house. No one in this class of 20 preschool­ers is in an as­signed seat. The chil­dren are en­grossed in their own con­ver­sa­tions.

And those con­ver­sa­tions are the point. Par­ents, teach­ers, school ad­min­is­trat­ors, and edu­ca­tion­al-policy ex­perts are count­ing on the chat­ter to help stu­dents at Langley Park-Mc­Cormick Ele­ment­ary School in this work­ing-class sub­urb of Wash­ing­ton de­vel­op the lan­guage, cog­nit­ive, and so­cial skills they’ll need to suc­ceed in school.

This cheer­ful classroom is on the front lines of the battle to close the achieve­ment gap between poor stu­dents and their more-af­flu­ent peers. More than four-fifths of Langley Park’s stu­dents are His­pan­ic — many are im­mig­rants or chil­dren of im­mig­rants — and more than 95 per­cent qual­i­fy for fed­er­al fund­ing that tar­gets chil­dren of low-in­come fam­il­ies.

For the past two years, in its preschool and Head Start classes, the school has used a cur­riculum called Curi­os­ity Corner that stresses skills with or­al lan­guage and gives chil­dren time to prac­tice them through songs, stor­ies, and struc­tured play. De­veloped by the Bal­timore-based Suc­cess for All Found­a­tion, which has pro­duced edu­ca­tion­al pro­grams for 30 years, this preschool cur­riculum is used in more than 300 schools na­tion­wide.

The teach­er, vet­er­an Mon­ica Wright, be­lieves the pro­gram works. She has heard stu­dents use words such as “unique” and “de­cidu­ous” — learned in their les­sons — in con­ver­sa­tion.

“The biggest dif­fer­ence we’ve seen is com­mu­nic­a­tion,” said Gerri Toure, a read­ing spe­cial­ist at Langley Park. Be­fore, “kids didn’t par­ti­cip­ate [in classroom dis­cus­sions] be­cause of ap­pre­hen­sion — aca­dem­ic or oth­er­wise.” Now, they do.

She points to the “think, pair, share” tech­nique. When promp­ted by a teach­er’s ques­tion, the stu­dents are en­cour­aged to think about their re­sponse and then find a part­ner to share their an­swer be­fore telling the class. “It gives all the kids a chance to talk — not just the one who an­swers,” Toure said. “It gives them a chance to for­mu­late ques­tions and ad­just the sen­tence be­fore they have to say it in front of every­one.”

This an­ec­dot­al ex­per­i­ence is backed by em­pir­ic­al evid­ence. Chil­dren who at­ten­ded Curi­os­ity Corner preschools tested sig­ni­fic­antly high­er on lit­er­acy by the end of kinder­garten than chil­dren who re­ceived nor­mal in­struc­tion, ac­cord­ing to a 2010 re­view of re­search fun­ded by the Cf­BT Edu­ca­tion Trust, a Brit­ish non­profit that stud­ies edu­ca­tion­al pro­grams world­wide.

These find­ings, the re­view noted, should be taken cau­tiously. When re­search­ers tracked stu­dents who par­ti­cip­ated in preschool in the 1960s and 1970s, they found that the ef­fects wore off after a few years. Still, that doesn’t ne­ces­sar­ily neg­ate the pos­it­ive res­ults, said Nancy A. Mad­den, Suc­cess for All’s pres­id­ent. These pro­grams give chil­dren the chance to per­form at grade level in later years in­stead of start­ing be­hind in kinder­garten and lag­ging fur­ther over the course of their school­ing.

If you want to close the achieve­ment gap, you need to start in preschool, Mad­den said. “Kids who have preschool — they just have a leg up.”

What We're Following See More »
$618 BILLION IN FUNDING
By a Big Margin, House Passes Defense Bill
1 days ago
THE DETAILS

The National Defense Authorization Act passed the House this morning by a 375-34 vote. The bill, which heads to the Senate next week for final consideration, would fund the military to the tune of $618.7 billion, "about $3.2 billion more than the president requested for fiscal 2017. ... The White House has issued a veto threat on both the House and Senate-passed versions of the bill, but has not yet said if it will sign the compromise bill released by the conference committee this week."

Source:
SUCCEEDS UPTON
Walden to Chair Energy and Commerce Committee
1 days ago
THE DETAILS

"Republicans have elected Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR) the next chairman of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee. Walden defeated Reps. John Shimkus (R-IL) and Joe Barton (R-TX), the former committee chairman, in the race for the gavel" to succeed Michgan's Fred Upton.

Source:
BIPARTISAN SUPPORT
Senators Looking to Limit Deportations Under Trump
2 days ago
THE DETAILS

"Democratic and Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee are working on legislation that would limit deportations" under President-elect Donald Trump. Leading the effort are Judiciary Committee members Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC). Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) is also expected to sign on.

Source:
REQUIRES CHANGE IN LAW
Trump Taps Mattis for Defense Secretary
2 days ago
BREAKING

Donald Trump has selected retired Marine Gen. James 'Mad Dog' Mattis as his secretary of defense, according to The Washington Post. Mattis retired from active duty just four years ago, so Congress will have "to pass new legislation to bypass a federal law that states secretaries of defense must not have been on active duty in the previous seven years." The official announcement is likely to come next week.

Source:
MEASURE HEADED TO OBAMA
Senate OKs 10-Year Extension of Iran Sanctions
2 days ago
THE LATEST
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login