A Failed Child Equals A Failed Community by Melanie M. Frizzell, Ed.D

Who is to blame for these children leaving pre-kindergarten “behind?

A Failed Child Equals a Failed Community

Often, I reflect on No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and its successor Every Student

Succeeds Act (ESSA) and if they truly mean designed with every child in mind. Some

teachers complain and say that no one supports them and understands what they are

facing in the classroom on a daily basis. Parents and persons within the community

often complain that the failures of students enrolled in P-12 rests solely on the teachers.

The blame is collective. We are a failed community of law makers, educators, parents,

ministers, school board members, superintendents and general persons. We all have

failed and continue to fail our children.

My position permits me to watch the beginning of education as I work with

numerous pre-kindergarten teachers throughout the school year. From the first weeks

to the last weeks of school, I observe children as their academic and social-emotional

skills progress. Whether they begin the year knowing zero alphabets and numbers and

leave knowing 10 or whether they come knowing all 26 letters and sounds and leave

pre-kindergarten reading, it is important to note that children grow at different

developmental levels. Thus, I have seen how children enter their first formal

educational experience “behind” and consequently leave “behind.”

Many teachers who are emotionally vested in the children in their classrooms

often provide snacks to children that are hungry mid-morning, work with lunchroom staff

to put breakfast to the side for a late arrival, purchase classroom supplies, pay for

parents to attend field trips and fill in for those parents that cannot afford to take off from

their jobs. In addition, the teachers display visible concern when they meet children that

are having difficulty grasping concepts. During this past spring semester, I recall

several teachers discussing how broken, at fault and lost they felt when it came to the

numerous children enrolled in their classroom that were unable to recognize alphabets,

recite and retain alphabets and sounds as well as numbers. Statements such as ‘what

else can we do,’ or ‘we have done everything we can think of’ were often heard. Often,

these teachers spoke of the lack of concern, interest, and assistance they were able to

gather from parents. After asking, well have you tried to talk to the parents, one teacher

responded “the parents in this community don’t care and the children don’t care.

In addition, a set of teachers stated “we never know who’s going to pick him up

so we can’t prepare anything to send home.” From being picked up by significant

others, cousins, grandparents and family friends, some children do not have the

consistently needed to make significant gains at home with their education. While

discussing several classroom activities that could be implemented to assist individual

children with learning their alphabets and sounds, we also discussed how to involve the

child’s extended family. As hard as some of the teachers worked, there were still

children that left pre-kindergarten knowing few alphabets.

Still, who is to blame for these children leaving pre-kindergarten “behind.” Every

teacher in the next grade tells the teacher below their grade what the children should

know when they get to her classroom. For example, kindergarten teachers often dictate

to pre-kindergarten teachers that children should know all their letters and sounds,

shapes, colors, sight words, etc... prior to entering their classroom. At the same time,

the kindergarten teachers are receiving the same information from the first grade

teachers and so on. However, where does the undue pressure on teachers begin and

with whom does it begin?

Consequently, is it school leaders seeking to attain the best standardized scores

in their district, parents seeking admission for their child into a top private school or

magnet school, law makers who attest that teachers are to blame for failed test scores

or community persons, including those in the business sector, that believe they know

the answer to failed schools through their creation of charter schools. In actuality, does

anyone really care about the students enrolled in P-12 schools or is everyone in it to win

it? Therefore, if we genuinely want to be a community that supports our children then

we would admit that the problem is all of us and collectively we would put aside our

bragging rights and put the needs of the children first.

Melanie M. Frizzell, Ed.D is an Education Specialist that works with pre-kindergarten

teachers. She has worked with undergraduate Early Childhood Education majors and

continues to be a voice for children and teachers of color serving in our nation’s


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