[Homestead] Education---Catch 'em early
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.
Boston.com THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING
The Boston Globe <http://www.boston.com/news/globe/>
EDUCATION FOR LIFE | GLOBE EDITORIAL
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
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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