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Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof offers a lively take on early education in a recent column called, “Beyond Education Wars.”

“For the last dozen years, waves of idealistic Americans have campaigned to reform and improve K-12 education,” Kristoff writes.

“Armies of college graduates joined Teach for America. Zillionaires invested in charter schools. Liberals and conservatives, holding their noses and agreeing on nothing else, cooperated to proclaim education the civil rights issue of our time.”

But Kristof wonders if the education reform movement has “peaked.”

“The zillionaires are bruised. The idealists are dispirited. The number of young people applying for Teach for America, after 15 years of growth, has dropped for the last two years. The Common Core curriculum is now an orphan, with politicians vigorously denying paternity.

“K-12 education is an exhausted, bloodsoaked battlefield. It’s Agincourt, the day after. So a suggestion: Refocus some reformist passions on early childhood.” (The emphasis is ours.) (more…)

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Image Source: U.S. Department of Education

Image Source: U.S. Department of Education

 

Across the country, elected officials are calling for more preschool programs. Mayors, governors, members of Congress, and the president are calling for higher quality and more access.

Despite this rhetoric, what’s missing is a strong financial investment in early education and care.

The result: “too many children enter kindergarten a year or more behind their classmates in academic and social-emotional skills. For some children, starting out school from behind can trap them in a cycle of continuous catch-up in their learning,” according to “A Matter of Equity: Preschool in America,” a new report from the U.S. Department of Education.

To rectify this situation, the report calls on Congress to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) by, in part, creating “real equity of opportunity, starting with our youngest children.”  (more…)

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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Head Start turns 50 this year. It’s time to celebrate, reflect on the past, and invest in an even stronger future.

“In May of 1965, the first Head Start summer programs began,” Ann Linehan, the former acting director of the federal Office of Head Start, wrote in January. “These programs provided the most vulnerable preschool children and their families with comprehensive services to meet their emotional, social, health, nutritional, and mental health needs.”

Now Head Start has a new director, Blanca Estela Enriquez, who writes in a blog post, “Head Start was built by visionaries who sought to open avenues of opportunity for families most in need. We must continue with this endeavor and hold ourselves to the highest of standards so that those we serve become successful.”

Blanca Estela Enriquez. Photo source: Office of Head Start

Blanca Estela Enriquez. Photo source: Office of Head Start

Enriquez’s goal is to “position Head Start as a valuable, highly respected, and accepted program for young children where grantees are high-performing organizations, where every child receives a comprehensive high-quality preschool education, and where their families increase their quality of life.”

Enriquez has been “an administrator and supervisor of Head Start programs since 1987,” according to the federal Head Start website, and she has been “active in early childhood education for more than 40 years.” She has a master’s of education degree from the University of Texas at El Paso and a doctorate of philosophy in education administration from New Mexico State University.  (more…)

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“Shaking hands and kissing babies. It’s the old stereotype of a political campaign. Now that several candidates have thrown their hats in the ring for the 2016 presidential race, we can expect to see a lot more of both in the next 18 months. But this time around, we should expect candidates to do more than kiss the babies…”

“High-quality pre-K programs in Boston, New Jersey and Oklahoma have demonstrated the potential of early interventions to produce lasting changes in children’s outcomes. There is also increasing recognition of the strains that working families are under as they seek to balance work and family obligations and obtain adequate care for their children. These are all potential reasons for candidates to pay attention to early childhood education.”

“Don’t Just Kiss Babies, Promise Them an Education,” a U.S. News and World Report opinion piece by Sara Mead, a principal with Bellwether Education Partners, April 16, 2015

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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

“Robert D. Putnam is technically a Harvard social scientist, but a better description might be poet laureate of civil society,” a book review in the Sunday New York Times says. The review is of Putnam’s latest book, “Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis.”

Putnam’s book examines the inequality gap in the United States, drawing on both Putnam’s personal experiences and his academic research.

Putnam explains his work in an interview with PBS’ NewsHour, touching on a range of topics including poverty, persistent achievement gaps, and early education.

Here’s a selection of quotes from that interview. The bold emphasis is ours.

“America’s best investment ever, in the whole history of our country, was to invest in the public high school and secondary school at the beginning of the 20th century. It dramatically raised the growth rate of America because it was a huge investment in human capital. The best economic analyses now say that investment in the public high schools in 1910 accounted for all of the growth of the American economy between then and about 1970. That huge investment paid off for everybody. Everybody in America had a higher income.”  (more…)

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Photo Source: South Washington County Schools

Governor Dayton at Newport Elementary School. Photo Source: South Washington County Schools

On a recent visit to Newport Elementary School, Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton sat on the floor shaking hands with 4-year-olds.

“You look like you’re 65,” one little boy said, according to the StarTribune.

“Close. I’m 68,” Dayton said.

Dayton wasn’t reaching out to future voters — or running a guess-my-age contest. He was making a bold policy pitch: Offer every 4-year-old in the state universal access to full-day preschool programs.

For free.

It’s an exciting proposal that could reverse a troubling trend.

As a fact sheet from the governor’s office explains, “A new report from EdWeek shows that Minnesota currently ranks 50th in the nation in access to all-day pre-kindergarten programming.”

The good news is, “Minnesota could be among the first states in the country to offer free, full-day early learning programs,” a press release from the governor’s office says, “if a proposal from Governor Mark Dayton and the Minnesota Senate becomes law this session.”  (more…)

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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

We know what to do; we just need to do it.

That’s the conclusion of a new report published by the Institute of Medicine called, “Transforming the Workforce for Children Birth Through Age 8: A Unifying Foundation.” (We’ve blogged about the institute’s work here.)

As a brief on the report explains, “The Institute of Medicine (IOM) and National Research Council (NRC) were commissioned to explore the science of child development, particularly looking at implications for the professionals who work with children birth through age 8.”

“…much is known about how children learn and develop,” as well as about “what professionals who provide care and education for children need to know and be able to do, and what professional learning supports they need.”

And while “much of that knowledge increasingly informs standards for what should be, it is not fully reflected in what is—the current capacities and practices of the workforce, the settings in which they work, the policies and infrastructure that set qualifications and provide professional learning, and the government and other funders who support and oversee these systems.”  (more…)

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