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Reframing the Novice ersus Expert Roles of Children, Parents, and Teachers from a Cultural ... - page 7 / 22





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Co-Constructing the Transition to School


appropriate for school preparation (Taylor et al., 2004). There is thus a lack of continuity be- tween home and school values.

According to Mangione and Speth (1998), continuity is an important feature of suc- cessful transitions to formal schooling. This continuity includes links between home, school, and community services—which they term horizontal continuity—as well as service linkages across time (e.g., preschool to school, elementary school to middle school)—which they term vertical continuity. Although both are important, the literature on the transition to school is limited when it comes to evidence of horizontal continuity. Much more work exists at the the- oretical and conceptual level (Brown, Amwake, Speth, & Scott-Little, 2002; Decker, 2001; Decker & Decker, 2002; Early Childhood Laboratory Network Program, 1995) than in real- life examples of successful models, particularly for early childhood education. One outstand- ing exception is the well-known School Development Program created by Comer in the 1970s (Comer, 1993; Comer, Haynes, Joyner, & Ben-Avie, 1996, 1999; Haynes & Comer, 1996; Haynes, Comer, & Hamilton-Lee, 1988). As Haynes and Comer (1996) explained,

Education, in our view, is a holistic process in which significant adults—parents, school staff, and responsible members of the community—work together to help children develop well along multiple pathways. We have established mechanisms and procedures through which school staff, parents, and members of the wider community participate in a collaborative process of making critically important decisions that impact children’s lives. (p. 501)

Another twist on the school–community partnership links schools with a local uni- versity that collaborates with schools to meet mutually constructed goals, such as Chicago’s Erikson Institute School Project (Chen & Horsch, 2003). The project involved teaming up with nine public elementary schools, focusing on enacting change in the early years of schooling (prekindergarten through third grade).

With respect to vertical continuity (Mangione & Speth, 1998), the issue that has re- ceived by far the most attention is that of children’s readiness for school. In 1989, United States President George H.W. Bush, along with the state governors at the time, instituted six goals for American education, the first of which declared that “by the year 2000, all chil- dren in America will start school ready to learn” (Action Team on School Readiness, 1992, cited in Shepard, Kagan, & Wurtz, 1998, p. 128). As Meisels (1999) pointed out, much has been made about the meaning of school readiness since that time. Numerous scholars have questioned the validity of the readiness concept because it has very definite political over- tones and thus provokes questions about whose interests are met by such a concept. An ob- vious problem with the readiness concept is that it is not concrete or easily defined (Hitz & Richter, 1993; Lewit & Baker, 1995). This is problematic in general, but it becomes espe- cially troublesome when considering the multiple variations in children’s contexts. In a study of elementary schools in the Rocky Mountain region of the United States, Cooney (1995) found that “the teachers, parents, specialists and principals all tended to reinforce White middle-class values, interest, and concerns” (p. 164) despite the multiethnic compo- sition of the area. Thus, the rhetoric of school readiness fails to acknowledge that schools and teachers, first and foremost, want children to be ready for school culture (Cooney, 1995). By not acknowledging this overarching goal, practitioners make invisible a process that clearly prioritizes the goals and values of one very specific cultural group (i.e., both White and middle class). As a consequence, the strengths that children from varying back- grounds bring to the educational table cannot be recognized.

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