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Professor Tree v Florida’s Pre K

Submitted by on Sunday, 1 June 2008 No Comment

Originally published May 17, 2007, thehive.modbee.com   

Welcome to Professor Tree’s Lemonade 101.

In April, Professor Tree was loaded with fragrant blooms. At least, most of him was. The top was a threadbare, the victim of the winter’s frost.

Big Guy and Little Guy, of course, wanted to rip off the blossoms. And since the tree desperately needs pruned – it’s a metaphor for my life – many blooms were within easy reach.

“Let’s not do that, guys. We need to leave the flowers, so they’ll grow into lemons,” I said.

Big Guy looked at me as if I’d sprouted another head. “No way,” he said.  Tonight everything clicked.

“Mommy, Mommy, Mommy ! I see the little lemons! I see the little lemons! Can we make lemonade?”

I explained the rest of the process: they’d have to water Professor Tree so the little green lemons would get big and yellow, and then we could make lemonade.

Welcome to the state of Florida’s pre-k program, where 5-year-olds are  given one-minute drills in an effort to gauge the program’s success.

The tykes stand in front of a stranger and have 60 seconds to identify as many letters and letter sounds as they can.

Granted, it’s only part of the test. The rest involves classroom observation from teachers, who gauge whether the kids can do things such as turn pages or play with others.

Results went online this weekso parents can practice stressing over college choices by stressing over picking a pre-school.

I suppose when a state sinks as much money into a controversial new program as Florida has – it will cost $400 million to $600 million a year to fully fund it, according to some estimates - officials and voters want a way to “gauge its success.”

Don’t get me wrong: I’m a big supporter of education. It lifted me out of one of the poorest counties in one of the poorest states and brought me where I am today, a quasi-accomplished professional able to take care of her family.

I’m also a big supporter of preschools and the importance of getting children off to good starts.

But to stand 5-year-olds up and drill them, even for a minute, seems wrong.

My kids are textbook examples of the flaws in that system. Big Guy would ace the test – he loves to perform and this would be just another show. Little Guy would fail miserably – he’s never been at ease with strangers and would freeze.

Meanwhile, Professor Tree prefers hands-on over recitation. His syllabus includes botany, meteorology, and patience. Big Guy’s not going to drink any lemonade until around Thanksgiving – the wait will be a great lesson.

They’ll move on to Professor Kitchen, who will teach reading and math through recipes and possibly the importance of following directions. I’m considering deliberately goofing up a batch just to get that lesson in. I’m evil that way

The final result: Lemonade. Which I guess is the same thing Florida pre-school teachers are struggling to make out of this testing program.  

 Copyright 2007 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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