Initiative aimed at helping children get a better start in life offers real promise

A strong editorial statement on P-3 by the Lancaster County newspaper, the Lancaster LNP:

“It’s devastating to think that as early as infancy, a child might be deemed to be “at-risk” — that is, at risk of failing in school, of being trapped in poverty, of even facing a diminished life expectancy.

‘The achievement gap exists in kindergarten,’ Andrea Heberlein, a United Way of Lancaster County staffer and P-3 advocate who oversees an education task force for the Coalition to Combat Poverty, told Hawkes.

And that achievement gap opens up very early in a child’s life.

As a National Association of Elementary School Principals publication noted in 2013, ‘Data from a nationally representative sample of children, the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study — Birth Cohort 2001, reveal that gaps in what children know and are able to do appear as early as 9 months of age. Not surprisingly, these gaps only grow over time.’

And sadly, those gaps — if not addressed — can doom a child’s lifelong opportunities before he learns to tie his shoes.

It is a monumental challenge, but it is critical to free children from the life sentence that the ‘at-risk’ designation can be. So we laud those who are working to launch prenatal-to-third-grade, or P-3, programs in Lancaster County.

We’ve repeatedly advocated for quality prekindergarten education, which also is championed by everyone from district attorneys to academics to military leaders because it benefits all of us when children are prepared for school and lifelong learning. It benefits employers (who need skilled workers), the armed forces (which need educated recruits) and taxpayers (prekindergarten education is far cheaper than building prisons).

Now, we are excited by the prospects for P-3 education in Lancaster County. We hope state lawmakers and county officials are excited, too, by this promising new front in the quest to stem intergenerational poverty.”

Why focus on Lancaster County’s youngest kids could break cycle of poverty

lancaster article

Last week I posted Thomas Friedman’s article about civic renewal in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. On Sunday Lancaster’s newspaper published an article about the county’s new P-3 initiative (which I’ve been supporting). Reporter Jeff Hawkes does a nice job using local examples to introduce P-3 improvement. See in particular:

  • How Hawkes follows a family receiving home visiting services to discuss the importance of P-3.
  • The important roles played by the United Way and the Community Action Partnership (CAP) as intermediary/backbone organizations.
  • How Jill Koser, a former elementary school principal and the current head of education and child development at the CAP, is able to use her experience to help bridge early childhood and elementary school education.
  • The connection between P-3 and 2 Generation programs as Anna Rodriguez participates in Parents as Teachers and a GED program.

You can find the article here.

Lancaster County’s Purple Agenda

Woohoo, Lancaster County, PA! What Friedman doesn’t say is that Lancaster County is gearing up for a comprehensive P-3 initiative. More to come about the Lancaster County  approach to comprehensive P-3 in the coming months. For the connection between the kind of bi-partisan, place-based collective impact initiative Friedman describes and early childhood/P-3, see A Purple Agenda for (Early) Education.

Survey Finds Majority of K-3 Teachers Feel Unity With Preschool Educators

Marva Hinton of Education Week writes:

“Sometimes there seems to be a disconnect between educators who work with children prior to elementary school and those who teach in the early grades, but new survey results find a strong connection between the two groups.

The National Association for the Education of Young Children, or NAEYC, recently released results from a survey of more than 530 current or recent K-3 teachers. The group also conducted online, in-depth qualitative interviews with 14 K-3 teachers.

On average, two-thirds of the teachers who were surveyed viewed themselves as “early-childhood educators.” The numbers were highest among kindergarten teachers with 93 percent agreeing with that statement, while it dropped to 52 percent among 3rd grade teachers …

The survey also found that 76 percent of K-3 teachers supported the creation of a unified and aligned system of early-childhood education from birth to age 8

Those surveyed indicated that a unified and aligned system has several potentially important outcomes such as more developmentally appropriate standards for students (92 percent) and higher wages for teachers (88 percent).”

Pre-K isn’t an inoculation: What comes next matters

Important new research out of the University of Virginia. Provides additional support for P-3 approaches. The New America Foundation has a nice summary blog post. A few excerpts:

“In a new study out of the University of Virginia, The role of elementary school quality in the persistence of preschool effects, the authors find that the quality of the elementary school students matriculate into matters for whether pre-K gains persist. Which makes sense, right? It is unrealistic to expect the benefits gained in any one year of schooling to be maintained in a low-quality setting. In fact, the authors suggest that to believe so would be ‘to believe in magic.'”

This study is a welcome reminder that as it states, ‘preschool programs do prepare children academically for kindergarten, validating contemporary policy initiatives that focus on investing early,’  but that ‘we must pay careful attention to what is realistic to expect from one year of preschool education and the conditions under which its benefits persist or diminish.'”

When we talked to Rolf Grafwallner, program director for Early Childhood Initiatives at the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), he explained that ‘you have to look at this period [PreK-3rd] as a block. You can’t piecemeal it.'”