On Tuesday night, President Obama pledged to work with states to make high quality pre-school available to all children. I immediately thought of Tre Thompson, a 4-year old in Oklahoma.
Tre’s mom, Christina Thompson, cannot believe how much her son already learned this year in his full-day, free pre-school class in Oklahoma City. “Since he’s been in school his vocabulary has increased tremendously,” Thompson says. “The other day he came home and said, ‘You know what, mom? You are being ridiculous.'” Thompson chuckles. “And then he asked, ‘Do you know what ‘ridiculous means, mom?'” Tre knows the entire alphabet, his numbers to 100, and he’s starting to read. And letters and numbers aside, Thompson is most struck by how fast Tre is absorbing vocabulary and language.
Of course, not all pre-school is created equal. High quality pre-schools have well-trained, well-educated teachers in the classroom (much like Tre Thompson’s teacher Mrs. Wallace, who uses play-based learning to teach both academics and social skills and can rattle off a battery of data on how well her students are progressing towards their year-end goals). Texas can also offer a model for educator development: its Texas School Ready! campaign has proven to increase the quality of participating pre-schools by providing early childhood teachers with coaching, professional development, research-based curriculum, and progress monitoring. States and districts should also integrate pre-school into the K-12 system, as Oklahoma does, so that children transition seamlessly into kindergarten.