Education in Public Schools for Three and Four-Year-Olds
The domains of early childhood education and the public schools have been intertwined in several important ways. One of the purposes of many early childhood programs has been to help the children learn skills that enable them to succeed in school. This same expectation has been shared by policy makers determining the best expenditure for education dollars. At both the state level and federal level, determinations are being made about the best "earmarking" of funds for the public schools (Stegelin, 1992, p. 137). It is the purpose of this paper to provide a philosophical and practical overview of education in the public schools for three and four-year-old children.
Leaders in the field of early childhood education often find themselves in complex and contradictory roles as they work out a relationship between what seems best for these youngest students and their relationship with the public schools. Early childhood professionals try to cooperate with the public school system, but they often take issue with the practices that are not in keeping with what is known about childhood development. At times, various programs even find themselves in a competitive relationship, trying to gain access to public funding for the children who need it (Stegelin, 1992, p. 138).
Historically, programs such as Head Start have been aimed towards decreasing the gap between at-risk populations and middle- and upper-class students. Early childhood education has been seen as a solution to the dropout rate of high school students and those who do graduate but with a minimal level of skill that is usable in the workforce. The assumption behind this aim for early childhood education is that low income and minority students can catch up and become functioning, successful adults without falling by the wayside (Stegelin, 1992, p. 139).
Other arguments for school-based programs include e...