In the meantime, I have uncovered some interesting ideas about Dr. Zais in connection with early childhood education:
First, He is skeptical of expanding 4 year old kindergarten (4K). This type of kindergarten is supposedly a synonym for pre kindergarten even though in reality the teaching approach can be drastically different. Pre kindergarten is the public school version of preschools [which are comprehensive private/non-profit/for-profit education programs geared to give children ehanced experiences before they enter formal education in the form of Kindergarten (5K or 5 year old Kindergarten)]. If a pre kindergarten is true to its intent, it is focused squarely on holistic education--social, emotional, and physical education as well as developmentally appropriate academics. Many pre kindegarten programs, though, have morphed to focus almost exclusively on academics at the expensive of nurturing children's other domains. Because of the academic focus, many districts choose to follow their states' leads by creating pre kindergarten "curriculum standards" that are tied directly to the accountability expectations expected in K-12 classrooms. To show this distinct connection, the name 4-year-old kindergarten is used as a replacement for the more generic pre kindergarten. Those districts that wish to preserve the original holistic developmentally focused intent of pre kindergarten have had a tendency to call rename pre-kindergarten as Child Development-Four (CD-4). Zais is opposed to expanding 4 year old kindergartens.
Why am I mentioning all of this? Because I would oppose expanding 4-year old kindergarten, too if it means increasing the number of academic intensive classrooms for four year olds throughout the state. Unfortunately, the original legislative intent (also see here in Subdivision B, Subpart 3, Section 1) for establishing "4 year old programs" (which was an extremely generous term) in South Carolina was to prepare children for Kindergarten. This is come to result in "4-year-old programs" in public schools of various types, preschool special education, and South Carolina First Steps to School Readiness. Even though the legislation allowed for the creation of such an academic-focused system as we see today, research in early chlidhood education education in South Carolina and other places has shed better light on what type of program is most effective for children at this age. A high quality early childhood education at this age should not be just focused on reading, writing, math, and academic subjects. They will have plenty of time to focus on those when they get to Kindergarten and the Primary Grades. Instead, any expanded pre kindergarten (I prefer the generic concept) program needs "whole child" nurturing because many children's minds at this age are not prepared for the type of formal academic learning that is being pushed down each successive year. That's why many children are "flunking" Kindergarten--the expectations are too developmentally inappropriate for a large majority of the children.
Again, this is my first posting on Zais. I'll post more on him as soons as I can uncover it.