In this opinion piece from The Atlantic, educator Erika Christakis argues that the U.S. should rethink its traditional approach to early education. School has remained largely unchanged over recent decades. Even during pandemic-era learning, the fundamentals are the same:
- Students are grouped in classes by age.
- Teachers lead short periods of instruction on standalone subjects.
- Few opportunities exist for independent learning.
- Most school time is spent indoors.
- Schools overburden educators by also asking them to guard children’s mental and physical well-being.
The author cites several recent studies suggesting that this model is outdated and is even detrimental to young children.
What would a new model look like?
Christakis believes early education should be more engaging and less test-focused. More time would be spent outside, and mixed-age learning could be curiosity-driven. A shift in community responsibilities would also allow teachers to focus solely on teaching instead of having catchall “custodian functions.”
What would this change mean for publishers?
Publishers would likely need to overhaul existing resources in favor of:
- Cross-curricular units that teachers can customize
- Digital tools that support student inquiry and collaboration
- Performance assessments or portfolio-building support instead of traditional tests
Are U.S. schools ready for this kind of change? What other resources would educators need?