Who would possibly disagree with the statement that “it seems to be a form of insanity for a society to allow the 'gap' to grow between advantaged and disadvantaged students to increase during the 0–5 years and then demand that the schools are responsible for closing the gap" (GCU, 2012, para 7)? Research by Christina and Goodman (2005) indicates that high-quality early education programs can produce substantial long-term benefits for children, families, and society. Armed with this knowledge, many states began mounting ambitious efforts to implement high-qualitypre-kindergarten programs at universal scale. Their Rand Research Brief described some of the progress states have made and identifies significant policy and practice issues.
The first few years of life are critical for a child's cognitive development and learning. Barnett's (1998) evaluations of well-run prekindergarten programs found that children exposed to high-quality early education were less likely to drop out of school, repeat grades, or need special education, compared with similar children who did not have such exposure. Despite good research linking effective pre-K programs with later academic success, Shore (2002) still found early care and education in the United States was essentially a non-system consisting of a "patchwork of programs." After publication of the Rand Education Report (2005) most states began to embrace the value of high-quality early education programs. By 2007, as a candidate for the Presidency of the United States, Barack Obama was expressing his plans to make universal Pre-K programs a national priority. Then came a national and international recession and this plan has not seen the limelight.
Too often our elected officials make short-term decisions that don't result in long-term solutions. As educators, we need to be advocates for the currently unheard voices of our youngest students. Absence of action to advocate on behalf of your future students may easily result in millions of these students twenty years from now hopelessly asking, "why didn't you do something to help?" I encourage all educators to be proactive and advocate for universal pre-K so that day may not ever be realized.
Christina, R., Goodman J.V. (2005) Going to Scale with High-Quality Early Education. The
Rand Corporation. http://www.rand.org/pubs/technical_reports/TR237.html
Grand Canyon University (producer). (2012, January). EDA810 Module 8 Lecture
Slaby, R., Loucks, S., & Stelwagon, P. (2005). Why is preschool essential in closing the
achievement gap? Educational Leadership & Administration, 17, 47-57.