Thomas Edsall is an opinion columnist for the New York Times who often writes about the intersection of inequality and politics. His articles typically synthesize research findings and the perspectives of experts, whose commentary he frequently quotes. His latest piece, “What Does It Take to Climb Up the Ladder?” discusses the important role of non-cognitive skills and character strengths in social mobility.
Edsall draws on the work on numerous researchers to show the links between income, maternal education, and family stability, on the one hand, and non-cognitive skills on the other. As he concludes,
“The result is a vicious circle: family disruption perpetuates disadvantage by creating barriers to the development of cognitive and noncognitive skills, which in turn sharply reduces access to college. The lack of higher education decreases life chances, including the likelihood of achieving adequate material resources and a stable family structure for the next generation.”
Edsall highlights Paul Tough’s work on the importance of environments in which children feel a sense of belonging and growth and experience relatedness and competence. He challenges policymakers, and Democrats in particular, to find ways to support family stability and “capitalize on the ample supply of character strengths evident among America’s poor.”
New York Times: “What Does It Take to Climb Up the Ladder?”
From the New York Times: “Loneliness can accelerate cognitive decline in older adults, and isolated individuals are twice as likely to die prematurely as those with more robust social interactions. These effects start early: Socially isolated children have significantly poorer health 20 years later, even after controlling for other factors. All told, loneliness is as important a risk factor for early death as obesity and smoking.”
For articles on how P-3 efforts can support positive social connections, see Mario Small’s, The Ties That Bind: How Childcare Centers Build Social Capital, this post on community networks in Washington State, and principle 4 of the P-3 Theory of Action. More to come.
NYT: “How Social Isolation is Killing Us“
So exclaimed Libby Doggett, the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy and Early Learning at the US Department of Education. Doggett discussed the Birth—3rd movement at the recent District Leadership Summit in Chicago organized by the Ounce of Prevention Fund. She told the audience of district leaders that we are at “unique moment in time” and “can finally realize the promise of early learning” through the broader frame of the Birth—3rd approach. Diana Rauner, the President of the Ounce of Prevention Fund, agreed with Doggett, saying, “We are at the beginning of something big here, a new normal, a new vision for educational attainment, and a new vision for collaboration.” Rauner shared the experience of the Birth-to-College Collaborative, a partnership between the Educare early learning program and the University of Chicago Charter School. Saying it took two years to “put our weapons down,” Rauner emphasized the importance of developing “a shared goal, a shared language, shared identity, and a shared vision for our kids.” Rauner suggested we need to “be able to present an aligned vision of parent engagement throughout the continuum.” In my post on the Birth-to-College Collaborative’s Toolkit, I mentioned how the Collaborative had created a Parent Advisory Committee to help guide their work, and family engagement comes through as a strong priority throughout the Toolkit.
The political dynamic seems to have changed since this Washington Post article was published almost a year ago, but see Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s discussion of preschool quality and wraparound services for parents as he describes his administration’s work on early education in Chicago.
Too many Republicans today ridicule the value of early education. That would come as a shock to their parents, many of whom, no doubt, read to them when they were young and made sure they had many educational experiences. Democrats, on the other hand, want universal early education and are willing to spend whatever is required. But more money for more slots will not automatically achieve the goal of preparing children to learn.
Largely missing from this debate are the essential role that parents play in their children’s education and the importance of the quality of a child’s early learning experience. Parents must be engaged or their children will be shortchanged. In addition, the hours in preschool must provide high-quality learning built around best practices so the time does not become just expensive babysitting.
The renowned Harvard Family Research Project has developed a new resource that is available to the public, The Create Your Case Toolkit. This toolkit builds on the Harvard Family Research Project’s extensive work on Family Engagement Teaching Cases.
Here is how the Family Research Project describes the new tool:
Stories help people form relationships and make sense of the world around them. Business, medicine, and education have long used stories—or cases—as teaching and professional development tools. In the family engagement field, reading cases challenges those who work with families to consider multiple perspectives; think critically about real-world issues; communicate effectively; and identify family strengths. These are all abilities that educators need to work effectively with families.
With this in mind, Harvard Family Research Project and the Community Engagement Team in the Department of Human Services in Cambridge, Massachusetts, have developed the Create Your Own Case Toolkit. The toolkit was inspired by your enthusiastic response to our casebook, Preparing Educators to Engage Families, and the family engagement cases on our website.
The Create Your Own Case Toolkit is a practitioner-driven professional development resource designed to help those who work with families—teachers, librarians, afterschool staff, and camp counselors, to name a few—reflect on experiences with families and recreate stories as cases. The resulting cases that they develop can be used to create conversations among practitioners and families in parent cafés and formal meetings. These conversations will enable practitioners to better serve children and families.
The Wall Street Journal recently ran an article about the Parent-Child Home program, which operates in many communities in Massachusetts.
For all the energy poured into [New York City’s] preschool expansion, some researchers and early-childhood advocates say that the most at-risk children need help with literacy much earlier than pre-K. While skeptics question whether these home-visiting programs are effective enough to warrant the cost, supporters say they pay off in better school readiness and lower public payments for special education later on.
“Everybody is going to benefit from pre-K, but in order to bridge the achievement gap some children are going to need services in addition to pre-K and those are the families we focus on,” said Sarah Walzer, chief executive officer of the Parent-Child Home Program.
For more information, see the Massachusetts Parent-Child Home Program’s Facebook page.
The current issue of the Future of Children is on “Helping Parents, Helping Children: Two-Generation Mechanisms.” As the editors say in the introduction, “The two-generation model is based on the assumption that serving parents and children simultaneously with high-quality intervention programs would be more effective (and perhaps more efficient) than serving them individually.”
See in particular the article by P. Lindsay Chase-Lansdale and Jeanne Brooks-Gunn on “Two-Generation Programs in the Twenty-First Century.” This piece describes a second wave (2.0) of Two-Generation programs that have, “sought to rectify the flaws of earlier efforts, largely by building strong connections between components for children and adults, by ensuring that children and adults receive services of equal duration and intensity, and by incorporating advances in both education and workforce development.”
Two-generation programs are ambitious, but these articles prompt the question of whether there is a role for them in comprehensive Birth-Third efforts.