The Mary Black Foundation and many of our partners through Spartanburg’s Way to Wellville have been advocating for increased investment in early childhood education birth through kindergarten. A new study evaluating the state of Tennessee’s investment in 4-year old kindergarten shows that their investment has not generated the long lasting educational effects for those children that were desired. While some will use the disappointing results in Tennessee to argue against investing in early education, a recent opinion article in The New York Times reminds us to read the fine print.
Not all investments in early learning are created equal. As Spartanburg considers how it will invest in the education and future success of our youngest residents, we must keep the following in mind:
Quality: High quality early learning involves highly trained and qualified classroom teachers, an intentional curriculum that engages both student and teacher, and a classroom environment that values play and academic learning. In communities that have invested in high quality early learning, positive outcomes are seen.
Dosage: Communities that are solely focused on 4-year old kindergarten as the answer to closing the gaps in academic achievement are missing a huge opportunity. Children do not begin learning at age 4 and we can’t expect to have lasting changes on the trajectory of their lives by investing in one year of their lives, even if it is the highest quality intervention. As a community, we must invest in evidence-based parenting programs and high quality child care that supports the learning of children birth through school.
Pipeline: Early learning is the foundation for all learning and it is vitally important, but we can’t stop at kindergarten. For children to be proficient readers by grade three and excelling in math by grade eight, the entire system of education in our community needs to be aligned and working together for a seamless transition through to graduation and career readiness.
Fortunately, in Spartanburg, there are two initiatives, Spartanburg Academic Movement and Spartanburg Quality Counts that are working to make sure that an investment in early learning in Spartanburg will be in high quality and sustainable programs to ensure children succeed.