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We’re Still Waiting

I wanted to share this column which I wrote for the December 2013 issue of African American Point of View news magazine. It's entitled "We're Still Waiting." The title comes from well-respected community activist and volunteer Jean Caldwell, a former reporter for The Boston Globe.

The Davis Foundation's partner in early childhood education policy work is Strategies for Children, a Boston-based organization of child policy advocates. We began working with them more than a dozen years ago and they continue to be our thought partner.

There is now a great deal of momentum across the nation – beginning with President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan – and in Massachusetts with Governor Patrick - for expansion of high quality early childhood education. Nobel Laureate James Heckman continues to make the case for the economic return on investment in early childhood education as a proven way to develop human capital.

I want to encourage you to read a powerful article about Massachusetts' "reading problem" co-authored by the head of Strategies for Children and the former head of the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents. Here is an excerpt:

Over the past decade we have gotten very efficient at squeezing everything we can out of the K-12 system. But expecting schools to be able to solve this problem and catch these kids up on their own isn't realistic or cost effective. We need to start when children are younger, and ensure a consistent and intensive commitment to quality in all settings that children experience during their early years. Kindergarten teachers can tell as early as the first day of school which children have experienced a high-quality early education and which have not.

As outcomes in communities and states across the nation are proving, investing in early education helps close stubborn achievement gaps. New Jersey's high-quality Abbott Preschool program has shown significant effects on children's science and math outcomes through fourth grade and fifth grade, respectively. For children who experienced two years of preschool, 20-40 percent of the achievement gap was closed.

Please type this link into your browser to read the article in its entirety, I think it is well worth your time.

When I sent this article to a local advocate for children, Jean Caldwell, (before her retirement to become a full-time volunteer in our community, she was a reporter for the Boston Globe), I received a powerful response.

"Even the brief quote reminds me of a press conference I attended shortly before the election that made Ronald Reagan our president. The presidents of the Five Colleges - Amherst, Hampshire, Mt. Holyoke, Smith and UMass/Amherst - announced a press conference at which they would spell out what they thought the education plan should be for which ever candidate won.

I drove to Amherst wondering what they might say and decided they would ask for federally funded new science labs for all colleges because science was changing so much.

I was wrong.

They asked for one thing and only one thing: universal pre-school education.

It's--how many years later? - and we're still waiting."