Written By: Ginny Norton
Publish Date: Aug 17, 2015
This year marks the 50th anniversary of when President Lyndon Johnson signed the Head Start Bill into law. The initial program was started in the summer of 1965 and it served over 560,000 children across the United States of America. The program provided preschool classes, medical care, dental care, and mental health services. Fifty years later, more than 31 million American children have gone through Head Start - including 903,000 in the last year. It remains one of the most visible and expensive programs born out of the War on Poverty costing taxpayers more than $7 billion in 2014.
The achievements of Head Start are undeniable and the intervention in young lives has given many young children the opportunity to rise above poverty and take full part in the American Dream. But, there is growing consensus that these achievements have been uneven - and increasingly unfocused. The commitment to Head Start and growing investment in the ages of birth to 3 or Early Head Start is a positive sign that our nation understands the fundamental need for a more aggressive approach to early childhood education (ECE). Still, our commitment to ECE falls far short of what's needed and lacks the urgency to reverse alarming trends in Kindergarten readiness. These achievement gaps remain an anchor on learning and success for millions of children throughout their school years.
I believe that there are three pre-cursors to long term success in early childhood education:
1) Quality of Teachers
2) Engagement at Home and
3) Measurement of Outcomes and Necessary Technology to assess Kindergarten Readiness.
Our current ECE system - including Head Start - is a dysfunctional patchwork of programs and services. We have policy without appropriate accountability. It is time that this changes.
It is time that we ask ourselves "Have we done enough to advance the success and capabilities of Head Start and other Pre-K programs who support low income children and families? Have we explored ways to broaden and deepen access to quality early childhood education for everyone?"
It is no longer time to talk about the issues facing our early childhood education system; it is time to ACT. I urge you to join me on this journey as I explore the root of our ECE problem and discuss innovative solutions that will shift the dynamics of early childhood education as we now see it.