Newspaper article MinnPost.com

Heed the President's Call for Early Childhood Education

Newspaper article MinnPost.com

Heed the President's Call for Early Childhood Education

Article excerpt

Once again, President Barack Obama used his State of the Union address to ask Congress to help states fund early childhood education. The fact that he needed to raise the issue again is a signal that our nation is not yet taking seriously the opportunity to truly improve educational results by assuring that our youngest children have access to high quality early education.

Every year we wait, another cohort of children starts their education too late. If we are serious about preparing our young people to succeed in an increasingly technical economy, we cannot let this continue.

There is abundant research supporting the value of high quality early childhood care and education. Truly, it consistently proves to be a strong predictor of a child's later success in school and in life. Children who enter kindergarten with a history of exposure to science- and math-related words and experiences are much more likely to succeed throughout their entire academic careers. Children who are supported in asking questions, making observations, testing their ideas, and articulating their experiences are children who are developing the thinking skills that are so important in school and life.

Nearly half aren't kindergarten-ready

Currently almost 50 percent of Minnesota's children enter kindergarten before they are ready. And most of us don't need to be reminded that the achievement gaps between white children and children of color are the highest in the nation when measured at fourth grade.

Research indicates that quality early childhood education programs can help prepare children for school. Yet many families don't have access to high-quality preschool due to its cost, varying quality, and accessibility. Because our state lacks academic standards for pre-K, there are widespread disparities in the content, approaches, and opportunities for early learning. But all children deserve to have an education that is grounded in basic skills and that will set them up for success once they are of elementary school age.

And among those skills, even at an early age, are the skills of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

Setting children up for success

Why STEM? The thinking skills fostered by deep engagement in these disciplines -- for example the ability to ask questions, make observations, test ideas, describe patterns, and manipulate their environment -- are thinking skills that are natural to young children. …

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