On October 10, we joined Defending the Early Years and leading educators and advocates to reject online “preschool” and demand real universal pre-K programs. Will you join us?
Decades of research show the benefits of early education, but millions of low-income and rural families still lack access to high-quality preschool. This unequal access harms kids, families, and communities, but some Ed Tech companies see it as a lucrative opportunity to corner a $70 billion “preschool market.” The result is “online preschool”: algorithm-driven software bundled with the lie that kindergarten readiness can be transmitted through a screen. Despite no evidence of positive long-term outcomes, Utah began funding online pre-K in 2015. Since then, thousands of families have enrolled, and the pilot program has expanded to seven states.
Marketers say their online products will close the early ed gap, but nothing could be further from the truth. Already-marginalized children will be isolated in front of screens and face new threats to their privacy and physical and emotional wellbeing. Meanwhile, their more well-off peers will have access to hands-on, face-to-face pre-K with proven benefits.
That’s why we drafted a statement rejecting online preschools and calling on policymakers to fund real universal pre-K. More than 130 leading experts in education and child development have signed on, and we’re sharing it with lawmakers in all 50 states.
As our statement notes, “Early learning is not a product. It is a process of social and relational interactions that are fundamental to children’s later development. Asserting that this process can take place online, without human contact, falsely implies that the needs of children and families can be met with inexpensive, screen-based alternatives.”