When students arrive for the first day of kindergarten, too often it’s like they are getting onto a moving train a few stops too late.
They should have jumped on the train in pre-kindergarten, if not at birth, and traveled on an integrated track to kindergarten.
Today, the New America Foundation laid out a new vision of early education that would create a track spanning birth through third grade. It would be a streamlined system of models shared across states and the nation, funded with creative new financing, and focused on more parental engagement and groups who lack access to high-quality early learning.
At its core, the new vision aspires to build an educational staircase from infancy through third grade, where each year is built upon the last.
Each year of their lives, children and their families should have the benefit of ascending a sturdy, well-lit staircase of development and learning rather than navigating disconnected and uneven platforms where they can easily fall through the cracks.
—“Beyond Subprime Learning: Accelerating Progress in Early Education.” New America Foundation, 7/16/14.
The idea, according to the report released today, is driven by two basic approaches:
- Streamlining programs, standards, and eligibility requirements
- Using predictable, sustainable, and wider streams of public funding
Perhaps the most intriguing ideas focus on common tools, such as kindergarten-entry assessments, which can be shared among states. Creating tools and systems that can be shared among states, and perhaps across the country, will make it easier to create comprehensive and high-quality early education systems. But, these common approaches could easily run into opposition from those who support local control of educational decisions.
There is plenty of this shared work and New America’s vision happening around Washington state.
The state has been developing its Washington Kindergarten Inventory of Developing Skills (WaKIDS), a kindergarten entry and transition program that covered 47 percent of kindergarteners in the recently concluded school year.
Three of the largest public school districts in western Washington, in Seattle, Everett and Edmonds, have been working together to create P-3 systems. Part of that work focuses on building support and understanding of P-3 among school principals, another element of New America’s vision.
Not all of the report’s goals are within easy reach and many of these goals will cost money, likely a lot. But, this is not another idealistic plan. Instead, there is a lot to debate and hopefully implement.
Check it out.