For those who believe we have survived the economic downturn of 2008 and have righted the ship, today’s New York Times offers a very different perspective. Sam Dillon reports on the increase in the number of students now receiving free lunches from our public schools, noting a whopping 17-percent increase in the numbers over the last five years. According to the NYT, thanks to U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics, 21 million kids received free school lunches last year through a program that was once seen as a safety net for the poorest of the poor.
Frequent readers of this blog know that Eduflack can best be described as a pessimist. My pop icon hero is Eeyore. And as I’ve often said, it isn’t even a glass half full/empty issue for me, I want to know who stole my damned water.
You look before you and what do you see?A bright scholar shining beautifully.I see myself reflected.My voice in society projected.I see myself getting a degree
Yesterday, I was on the road, driving back from edu-Grandma’s 94th birthday party. Such drives are usually the ideal time for Eduflack to reflect, plan, and think through those “big ideas.” It also gives me the time listen to some of those personal theme songs that litter my iPod.
Folks call me a maverick
Guess I ain’t too diplomatic
I just never been the kind to go along
Just avoidin’ confrontation
For the sake of conformation
And I’ll admit I tend to sing a different song
But sometimes you just can’t be afraid
To wear a different hat
If Columbus had complied
This old world might still be flat
Nothin’ ventured, nothin’ gained
Sometimes you’ve got to go against the grain
Well, I have been accused
Of makin’ my own rules
There must be rebel blood
Just a-runnin’ through my veins
But I ain’t no hypocrite
What you see is what you get
And that’s the only way I know
To play the game
Old Noah took much ridicule
For building his great ark
But after forty days and forty nights
He was lookin’ pretty smart
Sometimes it’s best to brave the wind and rain
By havin’ strength to go against the grain
Well, there’s more folks than a few
Who share my point of view
But they’re worried
If they’re gonna sink or swiim
They’d like to buck the system
But the deck is stacked against ’em
And they’re a little scared
To go out on a limb
But if you’re gonna make a difference
If you’re gonna leave your mark
You can’t follow like a bunch of sheep
You got to listen to your heart
Go bustin’ in like old John Wayne
Sometimes you got to go against the grain
Nothin’ ventured, nothin’ gained
There is no question we are asking our states, school districts, and schools to do far more with fewer resources. The boom years for public education are over, perhaps best emphasized by the end of the multi-billion-dollar Reading First program years ago. The economic downturn of 2008 and 2009, now coupled with the end of ARRA money for the states means school districts are already pinching the skinniest of pennies.
Last week, the U.S. Department of Education released the latest round of NAEP scores, offering the most recent snapshot on how our nation’s students are doing when it comes to reading and math. The results were downright depressing, with the majority of kids still failing to post proficient scores and the achievement gaps growing in far too many areas.
For those looking to strap on the pom-poms for number one rankings, Connecticut did score first in seven of the 16 disaggregated categories. Of course, that’s a first place for largest gaps. And we’re in the top 10 for every single one of those 16.
While Eduflack has spent a great part of the last half decade focused on high school redesign, the horrid state of drop-out factories, and the general college and career readiness pipeline, I’ve also called out for greater investment in early childhood education. Like many others, I have recommended that we pay greater attention to high-quality ECE, particularly as it relates to pre-reading programs and a general embrace of evidence-based instruction for our youngest learners.
Effective early learning programs are essential to prepare our children for success in school and beyond. A dedicated early learning office will institutionalize, elevate and coordinate federal support for high-quality early learning, while enhancing support for state efforts to build high-performing early education systems.
learning programs for children birth through third grade is critical work and
plays a fundamental role in building a cradle to college and career education
system for our children. Research consistently shows that high-quality early
learning programs benefit children, our society, and our national prosperity.
It is simply one of the most cost-effective investments America can make in its
In this year’s State
of the Union address, the President posited that “if we raise expectations for
every child, and give them the best possible chance at an education, from the
day they are born until the last job they take – we will reach the goal that I
set two years ago: By the end of the decade, America will once again have
the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.”
Our children deserve nothing
less than a strong start to a life filled with opportunity, and it all starts
with successful early learning programs. Through the courage, skill, and
commitment of states across the country, early learning has already begun its
transformation. An Office of Early Learning will allow our Department to better
support their efforts, deepen public awareness of the impact of this work, and
leverage early learning investments in ways that raise quality and expand
access for more children.
/* Style Definitions */
mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt;
First order of business, the new Office will focus on the administration of those Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge Grants. Beyond that, the charge of the office is anyone’s guess. But let there be no mistake. This is an important step forward for both ECE and the P-20 learning continuum. It is no secret that the percentage of students failing to read at at least grade level by third grade is remarkably similar to the high school drop-out rate. And there is little question that those with a strong, evidence-based preK experience are far better prepared for hitting that early reading proficiency rates.