Obama Administration Pushes for Universal Pre-K

Students at table

President Barack Obama's push for expanding pre-kindergarten education in his second term could mean there will soon be more demand for elementary school teachers than ever before, providing an incentive for those pursuing a career in teaching to lend their skills to the younger set. 

"Study after study shows that the earlier a child begins learning, the better he or she does down the road," Obama said in a recent speech about early childhood education.

Although the White House plan for universal pre-K has been touted as a program that would give every American child earlier access to education, it primarily focuses on delivering that service to highly disadvantaged children.

According to The Huffington Post, the federal program would only guarantee states funding to cover the schooling of four-year​-olds from families that earn below 200 percent of the poverty line - approximately 1.85 million kids.

Earlier education has recently been hailed as a potentially effective approach for closing the achievement gap between low-income students and those that come from middle- and upper-class families.

Because low-income students tend to enter school later in life than other children, there has been speculation that this may be a factor causing the massive academic achievement gap in America.

According to Education News, children from families on welfare know on average just 525 words by age 3, while their middle- and upper-class counterparts know more than 1,100.

Research from the Center for American Progress also found that children who are not exposed to "high-quality early childhood intervention" are 25 percent more likely to drop out of school and 70 percent more likely to be arrested for a violent crime than students who had.

But would the introduction of universal pre-kindergarten have any lasting effect on the American education system? It may be difficult to implement any sort of national pre-K plan, because education is traditionally the domain of each individual state.

However, the introduction of the Common Core standards, and their subsequent adoption by 45 states and the District of Columbia over the past few years, provides an example of how states may be willing to adhere to the president's goals.

The Common Core standards lay out specific academic expectations for K-12 students by grade level, contributing to consistency in the level of instruction across state lines and attempting to better prepare students for college and their careers.

Evidently, anyone pursuing a career in teaching must be ready to confront what will undoubtedly be far-reaching changes to America's educational landscape in the years to come.

This article is sponsored by Western Governors University, a non-profit, accredited, online university. WGU's Teachers College offers multiple online degree programs for current teachers or those looking to become teachers. To find out more, please visit our website at www.wgu.edu.

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