Wherever children are during those critical early years – home with a parent or babysitter, in a childcare center, or a combination of both – they require and should receive – appropriate care and education. The problem is that many – way too many – children are not getting what they need, regardless of setting, because the adults caring for them do not know the crucial role they play in helping children build that strong foundation. They do not truly talk with children, do not ask open-ended questions, do not nurture them physically, emotionally, and cognitively. The inevitable result is that children arrive at kindergarten with enormous developmental deficits in nearly all domains of development – and the situation worsens over time. These children are the ones most likely to require the scarce resources for remedial help and, as they get older, they mostly likely will drop out of school, require government support and, even more likely, engage in criminal behavior. Compounding this problem is the impact on those children who arrive at kindergarten ready and prepared to progress. Sadly, they get too little engagement and support from a teacher who is managing those who need extra help.
The President’s proposal is not a demand that all children must attend preschool. Rather, it is a demand that all children must have the opportunity to arrive at school with a solid foundation on which to grow and thrive. For many children, good quality pre-school can compensate for other high-risk circumstances. Often, it is a means for helping parents do better as well.
The math is compelling: investing in early childhood education saves 7- 16 times the costs down the road. Savings are in special education, remedial education, welfare, and incarceration.
Assuring High Quality
Assuring a high quality education is a critical element of this proposal. Two excellent tools for such assurance are Middle States’ Early Childhood Education (ECE) accreditation and the ECE credential. Focusing on variables that affect child outcomes, the indicators for both of these tools enable programs to identify strengths and areas for improvement. External validation of a school’s accomplishments and MSA’s expectation of continuous quality improvement not only serves schools well, but it means consumers have found a place where their child can build the foundation for a bright future.