[Homestead] Education---Catch 'em early

Tvoivozhd tvoivozd at infionline.net
Fri Sep 17 12:23:04 EDT 2004

Cost of early education is less than any alternative.  I don't care how 
the hell it is done, just do it.


The Boston Globe <http://www.boston.com/news/globe/>

  An earlier start

September 17, 2004

/Third in a series /
LUCKY PRESCHOOLERS spend their days playing and learning in classes full 
of books, activities, and talented teachers. Less fortunate children 
show up in kindergarten without the skills they need to thrive in 
school. To turn luck into equal opportunity, state officials plan to 
build a department of early education and care. It will provide 
high-quality, publicly funded programs for preschool children.

Before the state hands out crayons and books, however, leaders have 
pressing work: setting up a board and an advisory commission, choosing a 
commissioner, and consolidating the work of the Office of Child Care 
Services and the Department of Education into the new department.

It is crucial to stick closely to the time line in next year's budget. 
The administrative spine should be in place by July 2005. The new 
department can then offer a prototype of a statewide system and fund 
pilot projects that experiment with curriculum and assessment to put 
down the roots of the system.

What does good early education look like? Classrooms are bright and 
attractive, but behind them is a community effort that can include 
support from parents, pediatricians, nonprofit organizations, and 
businesses. Classrooms should serve 3-, 4-, and 5-year-olds. Appropriate 
programs should also be provided for younger children.

Children learn about words and numbers, but they also develop behavioral 
skills such as sitting still and paying attention. Most important, early 
education should be an exciting experience that makes children eager to 
learn. Too many children enter kindergarten with the heartbreaking 
feeling that they won't be good at learning.

So the state must build bridges between early education and the existing 
public schools to ensure that young children get the academic and social 
skills they need for kindergarten and beyond.

Higher education has to grow to train early-education teachers because 
"education levels of preschool teachers predict teaching quality and 
children's learning and development," according to the National 
Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University. All 
teachers should have education ladders. In the Lowell area, for 
instance, Middlesex Community College offers an associate's degree in 
early education. A bit farther away, Salem State College offers a 
bachelor's degree in early childhood education. And teachers can earn a 
master's degree in education at the University of Massachusetts in Lowell.

Public colleges should also experiment with work site classes that fit 
easily into teachers' schedules. And early-education salaries have to 
increase in order to attract and keep talented teachers.

The costs are high: an estimated $1.2 billion over 10 years to build an 
early-education system, and after that, $1 billion a year to maintain 
it. This prompts concerns that Massachusetts might lack the political 
will and money to build free and universal preschool education -- that 
the best the state can do is target at-risk children, especially since 
research shows that they benefit the most. But Massachusetts should be 
inspired by Georgia, where every 4-year-old can enroll in the state's 
early-education system. Early education should be used not just as a 
social program but as a foundation that makes Massachusetts a superior 
place to learn, whether students are 3 or 63.

One factor that should help is an appreciation for the likely savings 
over the long term. Clive Belfield, an educational economist at Columbia 
University, has calculated the economic effects that universal early 
education would have in New York State. He concluded that New York would 
save money in several areas, including special education, grade 
retention, and remediation. He concludes that these factors would offset 
between 41 percent and 62 percent of the cost of universal early 
education in New York. He is currently working on a similar calculation 
for Massachusetts.

Public funding remains in short supply. But Massachusetts has enough 
money to start planning and laying a foundation for universal preschool. 
As the economy rebounds and public revenues grow, money should be 
invested in pilot programs and permanent improvements. If comprehensive 
planning allows the investment in early-childhood education to grow 
incrementally but steadily, it should not have to compete with other 
education goals. Within 10 years Massachusetts should have an 
early-education system building the state's human capital.*TOMORROW: 
Reaching higher. * 

© Copyright <http://www.boston.com/help/bostoncom_info/copyright> 2004 
The New York Times Company

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