Preprimary & Primary Education
Preprimary Schools: The growing number of households headed by one spouse, and the fact that intact families nonetheless often have both spouses working, has driven a boom in the enrollment of young children in various preprimary schools. Department of Education figures report that the enrollment of three-, four-, and five-year-olds in daycare institutes and other preprimary facilities was 30 percent higher in 1998 than it had been in 1988.
In addition, young children are spending more time away from their parents in such schools. Government data shows that while about one-third (34 percent) of all children in daycare facilities spent a full day away from home in 1988, by 1998 more than half (51 percent) of three- to five-year-olds enrolled in daycare were left the full day.
Primary Schools: Massachusetts is responsible for the introduction of primary schools for children four years and older. These were a modification of the British infant schools—an idea that soon found its way into most of the progressive, larger American cities such as New York and Providence as a means of teaching and overseeing the children of working-class men and women. Eventually these primary schools were assimilated into elementary schools. During the latter half of the nineteenth century, American schools also began the formation of kindergartens.
In the United States, educators have attached great importance to the position of kindergarten teacher, the person that determines whether a youngster's first impression of schooling will be favorable or unfavorable. These learning experiences lead to increased self-esteem or contribute to the gradual unmaking of the child. Academically, kindergartens are as highly structured as any other classroom. While games are important, the teacher is conscious of the need to present work on the alphabet, phonics, arithmetic numbers, elementary grammar, and history that is free of stereotypes.
One of the major changes in the twentieth century was the national movement toward the consolidation of elementary schools following World War I, when the costs of owning an automobile had dropped low enough that teachers could drive to work from their homes. In addition, lacking in total education budgets and staffed with teachers often teaching subjects in which they had little or no preparation, rural and small schools faced the public perception after World War I that they were inferior to larger schools. As of 1930, some 7 out of 10 elementary schools—some 149,282 schools according to the Digest of Educational Statistics—were conducted in multigrade, one-room schoolhouses. In 2001 the one-room schools were almost completely part of a nostalgic past, except for a few remaining holdovers in the most rural parts of America.
Elementary School Projections: Between 2000 and 2010, federal projections anticipate a continuation of high enrollments of elementary school children. This then continues the trend of exploding elementary school population experienced in the United States from 1990 to 1999. The number of children in kindergarten through eighth grade in 1990 totaled 34 million. The increase to approximately 38.1 million K-8 students in 2000 was equal to an increase of 12 percent.
The increase will reverse itself by 2001 but only by a small reduction. By 2008, total elementary school enrollment is projected to be 37.3 million students. After that, enrollment will begin to climb once more, and total K-8 figures for 2010 are projected to be 37.5 million students.
Teachers: Elementary teachers in the twenty-first century are expected to be generalists capable of teaching several subjects, with the exception of specialized teachers in subjects such as music, art, or physical education, who work with larger numbers of students than just a single class. Increasingly, team-management skills are expected, as teachers work in tandem with one or more additional teachers to cover subject materials. Coaching of students is expected, since students in any one classroom may and do present varying levels of accomplishment, maturity, and skill levels.
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