Education: Closing the Achievement Gap
Education is on the front pages, receiving local, state and federal attention at the moment.
President Barack Obama has proposed a number of changes to the No Child Left Behind program with legislation called Race to the Top. In all the discussions, the “achievement gap” is of major concern. Yet, most attention is on the kindergarten through high school years, not the early years where the “achievement gap” begins.
The League of Women Voters of Marin County Education Committee is studying how the experiences in the first five years of a child’s life affect the achievement of the child throughout the school years and beyond.
It is apparent from many studies over the last 30 years that early childhood development or lack thereof can determine a child’s success in school and in life.
Education is a lifetime process beginning at birth.
While the focus is usually on the school years, we must begin to conceive of education as beginning at birth, through the first five years and beyond.
When we fail to invest in early childhood development, the eventual price for us as a nation far exceeds the cost of that development early on.
The organization, Children Now, reports that 85 percent of a child’s brain growth occurs before age four. Children who begin their school careers behind quite often never catch up; they will need ongoing remedial help.
Early childhood experiences in good quality childcare and pre-school are essential to closing the achievementgap. Skill begets skill, learning begets learning, advantages build on advantages, and disadvantages accumulate similarly. Something as simple as parental knowledge of the importance of stimulus in the first five years in a child’s development could change everything.
In Marin, the monthly cost of a full day of child care is $1,300 for an infant and $800 for an older child.
This is beyond the budgets of many families.
It is an additional obstacle to a child’s development.
Currently there are 920 eligible children on a “wait” list for subsidized child care in Marin, with over 200,000 children on wait lists across California.
As budget problems in California continue to grow, there will be less money for this essential service. Children who receive early childhood education are more likely to stay in school, have successful marriages, contribute to society and live better lives.
In Marin, we have to come together to find local solutions because we know that for every $1 invested early in a child’s life, $17 less will be spent later on in educational remediation and/or the juvenile justice system.
A public commitment is needed to continue and to increase the funding that supports the intellectual and social development of children before age five.
Education does not begin in kindergarten.
Quality early education experiences make all the difference in closing the achievement gap, whether in the home, in child care or in pre-school programs.
For more information, or to attend our monthly education committee meeting, contact the league at 507-0824, e-mail us at email@example.com or visit our Web site at www.marinlwv.org.