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Preschool may have a lesson for K-12
TUESDAY, DECEMBER 02, 2014 10:35 AM

Numerous studies have touted the benefits of attending preschool: A study published in the journal Science found that kids who attend preschool are less likely to develop drug or alcohol problems and go to jail. What's more, other research has linked preschool to academic success. While many K-12 schools follow the Common Core State Standards and emphasize the teaching of math and English, preschool instead focuses on the development of "skills for success." These abilities include things like emotional intelligence, perseverance, following directions and processing emotions. Although such skills may not seem like they directly impact academic success, they do help children develop the grit it takes to work hard and do well in school.

Targeting skills for success
According to a report by the New America Foundation, the skills for success taught in preschool help students perform well both in K-12 and later in life. However, researchers believe that such skills shouldn't be reserved for early childhood education. Rather, elementary, middle and high schools could all teach students the soft skills necessary to do well academically. By extending instruction on SFS into later grades, schools may help students become even more perseverant, emotionally intelligent, etc.

Incorporating skills
SFS wouldn't replace the Common Core topics (far from it). Rather, the report writers noted that schools should create an atmosphere that naturally promotes the use and development of such abilities and habits.

"Our goal is to get state and federal policymakers thinking about how to encourage more emphasis on these skills," Melissa Tooley, one of the report's authors, told NPR. 

The report lays out ways in which K-12 schools can adopt the teaching of SFS from preschool curricula. The suggestions are aimed at federal and state governments, districts, schools and researchers, and include:

  • Fund more research on SFS
  • Create a set of SFS educational standards that fit in with the Common Core and other benchmark systems
  • Encourage a shift in educational strategies that focuses on supporting students
  • Administer school climate surveys to gauge environment and culture
  • Defer to students to see how SFS training is going and how it can improve
  • Analyze existing SFS programs and create new ones that are effective

These and other strategies are geared toward helping students become as ready as possible to tackle new challenges. That, paired with strong academic abilities, should produce well-rounded students. Many educators, administrators and researchers (Tooley included) believe schools can and should provide a balance of academically rigorous work and SFS training.