Early learning programs enrolling children as young as 3 years old are considered critical to closing achievement gaps, evident as early as kindergarten, and an important first step in a student’s cradle-to-career trajectory.
But along with more formal integration of early learning into K–12 education comes a narrow focus on tested content and skills. Time for play-based activities is increasingly taken up with math and reading instruction. The Alliance for Childhood found that full-day kindergartners in New York and Los Angeles spend less than 30 minutes playing and four to six times more time on literacy, math, and test-taking.
Several studies show the benefits of play: it allows students to develop social skills like empathy, reduces tendencies toward delinquency and emotional disturbances, and helps students practice impulse control.
As more states put funding toward early learning, play advocates worry that politicians will trade long-term social development gains for bumps in test scores, the Washington Post reports in this week’s most-clicked SmartBrief story.
Arlington, Va., public preschools offer a model for developing programs—full-day preschool anchored to a play-based curriculum that integrates vocabulary and numeracy learning. Through 5th grade, students in these programs show test score gains more than those without.
What’s the state of play in your school?