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.

Innovative Communities Support Young Children and their Families

Powerful Convergence

Just out in Kappan magazine:

“In many cities and towns across the United States, elementary schools are forging deeper partnerships with families and community organizations well before children arrive at kindergarten. The aim of this work is to improve children’s experiences and family engagement and support along the entire continuum from prenatal care through grade 3 and beyond.

This potent combination of educational supports and family services is the single best strategy we have to address pernicious opportunity gaps and raise achievement for low-income children. Communities such as Cincinnati, Ohio; Omaha, Neb., and Multnomah County, Ore., are embracing this approach to tackle persistent poverty, family instability, the hollowing out of the middle class, and the demand for a more highly skilled workforce.”

You can find the full article here.

Former Lawmakers Set Aside Policy Differences for Early-Childhood Initiative

Another example of the potential for bi-partisan support of early childhood programs (in line with A Purple Agenda for (Early) Education).

From Education Week’s Early Years blog:

“Proving that leaving Congress sometimes makes it easier to find bipartisan accord, former Democratic Rep. George Miller, of California, and former Republican Sen. Rick Santorum, of Pennsylvania, have come together to back a dozen child-related policies they say can be supported on both sides of the aisle.

Among the policy recommendations:

  • Increase the value of, and access to, the federal Child Care Tax Credit.
  • Reauthorize the federally-funded home-visiting program. (Funding for that program expired at the end of September.)
  • Create a competitive-grant program to encourage states to design state-level tax programs that increase access to high-quality early-childhood programs.
  • Encourage states to establish minimum levels of training and competencies for their child-care workforce and to improve professional development systems for the child-care workforce in ways that have been shown to impact child outcomes.

The full report offers more recommendations and rationales on why these particular recommendations should be adopted quickly.”

Why DeVos Should Embrace Early Childhood Education (Brookings)

See this strong statement with a helpful review of the evidence from the Brookings Institution.

“As Betsy DeVos ascends to the role of secretary of education amidst partisan rancor, she would do well to embrace early childhood education, an issue offering an oasis of bipartisan support. Ninety percent of voters, regardless of party affiliation, endorse quality early childhood education with expanded access and affordability for children from low- and middle-income backgrounds, according to a 2016 national poll by the First Five Years Fund. Early childhood education is a strong investment in our nation’s future, as cost-benefit estimates report societal savings of up to $13 for every dollar spent on quality early childhood programs. But how can we convince policymakers to increase investment in early care and education and improve life outcomes for at-risk children?

The scientific evidence offers clear direction about what works for long-term payoffs in school readiness and life beyond the classroom. Three areas are pivotal to achieving that end:  (i) early access to programs that serve children age 0-3; (ii) working with parents (direct practice of skills and intensive home visiting); and (iii) high quality programs entailing teacher-child interactions that promote higher-order thinking skills, low teacher to child ratios, and ongoing job-embedded professional development.

See the article here: https://go.edc.org/kbkq

 

The Way to Beat Poverty (Kristof and WuDunn)

Commentary from the Sunday New York Times:

One reason the United States has not made more progress against poverty is that our interventions come too late. If there’s one overarching lesson from the past few decades of research about how to break the cycles of poverty in the United States, it’s the power of parenting — and of intervening early, ideally in the first year or two of life or even before a child is born.

Parent-Child Home Program in the Wall Street Journal

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.