By Greg Landsman
There are a lot of big ideas about how to improve public education in America today. One of the most powerful, and the most promising, is the Obama administration’s focus on quality early learning for all children in America. Years of research confirm that investing during the earliest years of a child’s life – when 90% of the brain is fully developed – is a game changer for education. Getting it right then means more children who learn to read successfully, more youth who graduate from high school, a more employable workforce, and an end to the cycle of poverty.
The Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky region has been tackling the challenge of ensuring children are prepared for school for more than a decade through local United Way Success By 6® efforts. Through years of rigorous data analysis and aligning the region’s funding and leadership capacity to proven efforts, kindergarten readiness rates in Cincinnati have increased 11 points since 2006.
It’s now time for us to take this work to the next level and dream forward to a day when every child has access to high quality preschool. Quickly our region’s leaders are coming together to make this dream a reality. In just the last few weeks, a cohort of funders, school board members, city council members, faith leaders, business people, and other elected officials have collectively stepped up to launch the Cincinnati Preschool Promise – a public/private funding partnership to provide tuition credits for low and moderate income families to send their children to quality-rated preschool. More than 40 community leaders and elected officials have pledged their support to help make this happen.
The work doesn’t stop here, of course. Ensuring students attend school regularly, have access to tutoring and other literacy supports, and enriching learning experiences over the summer are all proven to increase the likelihood that a child will be reading successfully by the end of 3rd grade, and thus be on a track to graduate from high school, complete some form of postsecondary education or training, and enter a meaningful career.
It has never been clearer that the time to act is now. It’s up to all of us to act boldly, make a commitment to our youngest citizens, invest in what we know works, and build a stronger community together. In this case, perhaps more than any other, it pays to start at the beginning.