Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Redirecting Education Reform Efforts

We recently came across a great article in the New York Times titled "Beyond Education Wars".

Nicholas Kristof talks about how the education reform movement has essentially peaked. Energy has started to run out, and he compares the movement to an exhausted battleground. His suggestion? Turn our energies where they can actually make a difference: Early Childhood Education. 

Kristof gives three reasons for his argument that we turn more education reform efforts towards children aged 0 to 5 rather than K-12 students.

1. Early childhood is a crucial period for brain development. This is the reason for many of our efforts as an early education nonprofit. Intervention for all children, and especially for high-risk children (children at risk of poverty, crime etc.) is the most effective in the earliest years. There are countless studies that show that early intervention produces better life outcomes - less crime, fewer teen pregnancies, higher graduation rates and higher incomes.

2. Kristof's second reason sounds surprising but makes a lot of sense. We, as a country, have been putting so much energy in K-12 education reform, but it seems we've made little progress. So Kristof suggests redirecting those efforts to early education. The idea is to prevent the problem before it starts. It is difficult, Kristof says, to work with teenagers and adults who are already developed. It is difficult to convince them to attend school. It is less of a challenge to provide opportunity for children aged 0 to 5. We need to start small, when it's still manageable.

3. The final reason for redirecting efforts to early education is that there are the greatest chances for progress in this area. Early childhood education is not politically polarized, which is not something we can say about many things in this country. Conservatives and liberals alike have embraced preschool. We need to take advantage of this rare situation.

There will always be battles, as Kristof points out, but our time, passion and energy will be more effectively spent on early education, where we may be able to actually achieve some common ground.

Learn more here about what the Helene Marks Early Start Foundation is doing for early childhood education.

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