Editorial: Streamlining for the Future

Publication: The Register-Guard

10/03/2011 - The Pew Charitable Trusts has spent 10 years and $100 million studying preschool education and is spearheading a campaign to get more states to offer it — as Time magazine says in its Sept. 26 issue — “in smarter ways.” The initiative, dubbed “Pre-K Now,” has helped double preschool spending in the past decade and increase enrollment of 4-year-olds to more than a million children, from 700,000 when the campaign started.

In writing about Pew’s report on its campaign, “Rethinking Pre-K: 5 Ways to Fix Preschool,” released this month, the magazine begins its article with an arresting assertion: Research shows, it says, that children from low-income households will be as much as 18 months behind their grade level in language, “prereading” and “premath” skills when they enter kindergarten, whereas children from middle-class families may be as much as 18 months ahead of their grade level. That means, Time says, that the “achievement gap” between the two groups of 5-year-olds can be as much as three years. And, the writer continues, recent studies have shown that if students from low-income families haven’t caught up to their grade level by the third grade, “they may never catch up.”

The 32-page report talks about “envisioning the future of “pre-K” (pre-kindergarten) education and offers “pathways” to get there, but its basic conclusion is this: America’s education system has to start educating the nation’s children at an earlier age in a thoughtful, coordinated way.

One way to do that is described in an earlier Pew report that is linked to the new report and bears the unfortunately cumbersome title, “Lessons in Early Learning: Building an Integrated Pre-K-12 System in Montgomery County Public Schools.” That 24-page report, released in August 2010, is a revelation — a detailed “road map,” as one person described it — for overhauling, refocusing and kick-starting America’s ailing public school system into the 21st century.

Read the full editorial, Streamlining for the Future, on The Register-Guard's Web site. 

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