Teleo-Tubbies: Teleological Ethics & Equity In Pre-K Ed

Whose responsibility is it to make sure that every child is afforded every opportunity?  Is it a parent’s responsibility to understand and be able to offer ideal educational experiences to his/her children every step along the way?  Should teachers and district leaders reach out to families in their communities, facilitating processes by which children are matched with individual learning pathways aimed at maximizing potential?  How about local, state, and federal government agencies? What are their roles?  Where is the onus?  What is at stake?

Encyclopedia Britannica online defines the term teleological ethics as a “theory of morality that derives duty or moral obligation from what is good or desirable as an end to be achieved.”  In other words, the thing that produces the most favorable outcomes is the right thing to do.  Agree or disagree, let’s consider it for a moment.  For the sake of examination, let’s also consider that there are certain universal outcomes each member of any given society would agree upon.  Now bear with me, let’s imagine that one of those outcomes is equity in pre-k education.    Let’s take it a step further by pretending that there is a relatively clear-cut route to achieving that outcome.  Finally, let’s simplify the myriad, intense mysteries of human development, the mind-bogglingly complexities of institutional education, and then let’s throw in the assumption that diverse populations of individuals thrive on consensus and collaboration.  Again, under that construct, let’s think about equity in pre-k education thought a lens of teleological ethics.  What is the right thing to do?

W. Steven Barnett (2011), in a National Institute for Early Childhood Education article, contends, “a substantial body of research finds that high-quality preschool can substantively improve the learning and development of young children” (p. 1).  Barnett goes on to indicate, “long-term outcomes include lasting effects on cognitive abilities, school progress (grade repetition, special education placement, and high school graduation), and social behavior” (as cited in Camilli et al., 2010).  Furthermore, he points out that oral language and literacy skills are typically a strong focus of preschool education, and he asserts, “oral language proficiency in English at kindergarten entry is strongly linked to later achievement for language minority children” (as cited in Galindo, 2010).

Based on Barnett’s report, it would seem that equitable pre-k education is significant for all students, and more specifically, has some serious implications for our language minority population.  Students for whom English is a secondary language typically come from homes where little or no English is used.  If this at risk population could notably benefit from effective pre-k programming, it stands to reason that such programming should be made available, and accessible to them.  One critical aspect of access is information.  If information regarding pre-k programming is disseminate in English, parents who do not speak, write, read, or understand English, are arguably at an inherent disadvantage when seeking that information.  How would they find out whether or not services are offered in their communities?  And, if they are not able to, doesn’t that leave their children are at a long-term disadvantage as articulated above?

Communication is key.  First of all, what programming do we offer?  Have we done the research?  Do we know what needs to happen so that our entire population has access to the pre-k social, emotional, and academic resources they need for long-term achievement?  How are we communicating with, and accommodating our language minority population?  What about other groups who would otherwise be unable to access the services we offer for one reason or another?  Are we doing all we can to make sure that every parent in each of our communities is well informed regarding pre-k programming?

In the end, with every child, we are educating a future adult citizen of our world.  It benefits each of us to make sure that they are all accounted for.  Frankly, I don’t know enough to know if we are already doing a decent job of this or not.  I do however, feel strongly that we ought to be.  What programs are available in your community?  How do educational leaders and various other community representatives communicate about those programs?  Is your school district, local and/or state government facilitating a process by which every parent knows how to access every advantage for his/her child?

The recent national dialogue on pre-k education has me just scratching the surface of this subject.  As I dig deeper and continue reflecting on what I learn, I’d love to hear your thoughts on it!  Please comment here with insights, ideas, and/or links to resources…or touch base with my research partners Lisa Rheaume (@Rheauml) and Sara Delgado (@saradelg10), and/or me (@BergsEyeView) on twitter using hashtag #PrekE.  Thanks!  Have a great week!


Dream Big.  Work Hard.  Be Well.



Barnett, W.S. (2011). Preschool Education as an Educational Reform: Issues of Effectiveness and Access. New Brunswick, NJ: National Institute for Early Education Research.

Camilli, G., Vargas, S., Ryan, S., & Barnett, W.S. (2010). Meta-analysis of the effects of early education interventions on cognitive and social development. Teachers College Record, 112(3), 579-620.

Galindo, C. (2010). English language learners’ math and reading achievement trajectories in the elementary grades. In E. Garcia & E. Frede (Eds.), Young English language learners: Current research and emerging directions for practice and policy (pp. 42-58). New York, NY: Teachers College Press.

Teleological Ethics. (n.d.). In Encyclopædia Britannica online. Retrieved from

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