Information-Sharing on Early Education Urged
Atlanta--Educators from 13 Southern states and a number of regional associations met here last week to share information about legislative initiatives in the field of early-childhood education.
The two-day invitational conference, sponsored by the High/Scope Educational Research Foundation, was the first of four regional seminars designed to encourage the sharing of information, ideas, and resources. The second conference will be held within the next six months in a Western state, according to foundation officials.
Lawrence J. Schweinhart, director of High/Scope's Voices for Children Project, praised the "broad-scale effort" among states represented at the conference "to put money into" early-childhood-education programs.
"It looks to me like there's been a Southern education revolution," he said.
But he urged continued communication among groups in the field. "It's very important that we recognize we're not individuals working individually," he said. "Together, we can be very strong for children."
Mr. Schweinhart also stressed the importance of knowing how to use research that shows the benefits of early intervention. "Research is not the information itself," he said, "it's the movement of that information to the best sources."
Those attending the meeting included state education department officials, gubernatorial staff members, children's advocates, and state legislators from Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia.
Throughout the conference, state officials who had successfully enacted programs for 4- and 5-year-olds shared what they had learned with those who were just beginning to work toward such initiatives.
A common theme, sounded by officials from Kentucky, Missouri, and South Carolina, was the importance of working with a number of state agencies, including the departments of education and health, in the development of preschool initiatives.
Representatives from education associations, higher-education groups, and foundations also called for increased cooperation.
Said James Siebert, director of the National Education Association's Southeastern regional office: "The nea can be an ally to you in going for these programs. Give us the opportunity, see where we are on these issues. We represent a large number of people and we want to work with you."
Willis Hawley, dean of the Peabody College for Teachers at Vanderbilt University, told participants that efforts to enact programs for 3- and 4-year-old children must involve the public schools.
"We don't fix kids by intervention," he said. "All we do is provide them with new capabilities--but they have to exercise them. And I don't think we can do that without the schools."
And Sarah Greene, president of the National Head Start Association, said her association was interested in being involved "from the planning stages on" in the development of preschool initiatives in the states. The association's annual meeting in April, she said, will focus on such efforts.
Ms. Greene also announced that the Head Start Bureau of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is working on a program aimed at facilitating the link between Head Start programs and the public schools.