Ready, set, don't go: pre-school retention practices that restrict children's access to school

Anderson, Robyn (2008) Ready, set, don't go: pre-school retention practices that restrict children's access to school. PhD thesis, James Cook University.

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Abstract

Repeating the Pre-school year has become common practice in Queensland schools. Other increasingly used practices with similar intent and outcomes include returning children to Pre-school from Year 1, Transition programs and delayed school entry. Although Pre-school retention has been a long accepted remedy for children‘s underachievement and low levels of readiness for school, research from the United States warns that such practices offer few benefits for children (Hong & Raudenbush, 2005; Hong & Yu, 2006; Jimerson, 2001a, 2001b) and may be harmful (Jimerson, 2001a; Shepard & Smith, 1989; Walberg et al., 2004). In addition, data collected from Queensland in Australia and North Carolina in the United States revealed a substantial increase in Pre-school retention rates over the last decade.

In the light of such concerns, case studies employing a constructivist approach were conducted at nine Queensland schools to examine these practices. Unstructured interviews were conducted with fifty-one teachers and parents to examine their explanations for the continued employment of Pre-school retention and other related practices. The study found that although multiple discourses were available, teachers drew on a dominant way of assessing children‘s readiness for school. Children needed to be ‘school-ready‘, that is, they were required to have particular skills and behaviours or cultural resources to successfully participate in schooling. Children who did not have the cultural resources valued at school were positioned ‘unready‘ for school, discouraged from commencing school and were repeated at Pre-school, returned to Preschool from Year 1, placed in Transition classes or their entry to school was delayed.

Boys and younger children were more often repeated at Pre-school, returned to Preschool from Year 1 or had delayed school entry. Mobile children and children with little or no pre-school experience were targeted for Transition classes. Among children targeted for Transition classes were Indigenous children and children from schools whose catchment areas were marked by families of low socio-economic status. Such groups of children have already encountered challenges in education and are among groups of children identified in social justice policies (Department of Education, Queensland, 1994; Department of Education and the Arts, Queensland, 2005a). The study found that practices underpinned by school-ready discourse contradicted social justice policies (Department of Education, Queensland, 1994; Department of Education and the Arts, Queensland, 2005a).

Teachers from two of the nine schools in the study employed practices which valued all children‘s cultural resources with which they commenced school, positioned all children in a positive way and as competent and ‘ready‘ learners. These practices, which were underpinned by the more recent constructivist/interactionist understandings of school readiness, incorporated a shared responsibility of families, schools and communities to prepare children for school (Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth (ARACY), 2007). They are further supported by current research (ARACY, 2007; Pianta & Cox, 1999), early childhood education departments (NAEYC, 1997) and curriculum bodies (QSA, 2007). In conclusion, the study recommends that teachers‘ efforts to prepare children for school be supported with continued professional development incorporating more recent conceptualisations of school readiness.

Item ID: 2134
Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: preschool education, preschool children, preschools, kindergartens, primary schools, Queensland, North Carolina, school readiness, transition classes, retention practices, repeating, preparation, assessment, indigenous children, teachers, parents, social justice
Date Deposited: 25 Mar 2009 06:05
FoR Codes: 13 EDUCATION @ 0%
13 EDUCATION > 1303 Specialist Studies in Education > 130303 Education Assessment and Evaluation @ 0%
13 EDUCATION @ 0%
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