Chicago, IL-When architect Joan Wallace dropped her 3-year-old daughter Hannah off at preschool this morning, she hugged her, handed over her lunchbox, and took one more opportunity to go over a few flash cards.
"A caterpillar!" Hannah exclaimed proudly as her mother held up a card featuring a lepidoptera in its larval form. Her mother sighed. "Caterpillar won't get you into Harvard sweetheart."
"Flowers!" She excitedly yelled out, a frown formed on her mother's face. "It's only partial credit. These are Siam Roses. Come on Hannah, you know these!"
After a quick run through the alphabet and the first 5 prime numbers, Wallace kissed her daughter goodbye and headed off to work with a look of concern on her face. "Hannah just isn't progressing like she should be. If she doesn't excel now, then how can we expect her to rise to the challenges of a competitive kindergarten. And if she drops the ball in kindergarten just forget it. She'll be flipping burgers for sure!"
Wallace may come across as a little high strung, and perhaps she is placing too much emphasis on the academic performance of a 3-year-old, but today's stressful learning environment is leading to more and more encounters such as this. It is becoming increasingly more difficult for children to keep up with the rigorous lesson plans and homework, let alone to stand out as stellar students. It is this pressure to perform that experts believe is behind the increasing numbers of preschool dropouts.
But rising truancy rates are not the only problem that school officials are experiencing. Tina Crabbins, a teacher at the Primrose Academy Preschool where Hannah Wallace is enrolled, has seen sharp increases in cheating as well. "Yesterday I caught a student with the names of the primary colors written on her wrist during a pop quiz. She can't even read. How did she think that was going to help? She's a little slow."
Another disturbing trend is the increasing number of 2 and 3-year-old students being diagnosed with learning disabilities. Crabbins explained that "Since more is being expected of these young scholars, hidden learning disabilities are bound to be exposed in more children than in the past. If something isn't done, the weaker students are at high risk of slipping through the cracks of the system. It is difficult for a 3-year old to make it in the real world without at least a basic understanding of the four seasons."