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A Sampling of Activities Exploring Ways To Meet Goal 1

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In recent months, a number of panels, working groups, and task forces have spent considerable time exploring ways to meet Goal 1.

By the year 2000, the first of six national education goals states, all children will enter school ready to learn.

The National Education Goals Panel, meanwhile, has focused on how to measure children's readiness for school and assess progress toward improving it.

The following is a sampling of the activities related to the readiness goal currently under way at the national level:

  • U.S. Surgeon General Antonia C. Novello's "Healthy Children Ready to Learn" initiative is focusing on working with families and communities across sectors to promote healthy environments for learning.
  • The Maternal and Child Health Bureau of the federal Health Resources and Services Administration last month convened 85 researchers to discuss social, institutional, economic, cultural, and health factors that influence a child's readiness to learn.

The group plans to circulate recommendations from the conference and hopes to launch an interagency task force to implement them.

  • A task force headed by Secretary of Health and Human Services Louis W. Sullivan and cochaired by Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander; Gov. Booth Gardner of Washington; James J. Renier, the chairman and the chief executive of Honeywell Inc.; and David W. Hamburg, the president of the Carnegie Corporation of New York, is working to identify and then to circulate information on model readiness initiatives.
  • John T. MacDonald, the Education Department's assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education, is heading a steering committee that coordinates early-childhood activities related to readiness in and outside the department.

The activities include encouraging states to direct more of their Chapter 1 funds to early-childhood programs and working with the Department of Health and Human Services to promote greater consistency and continuity between Head Start and other preschool programs and the early elementary-school grades.

  • H.H.S. has awarded $20 million to 32 communities to develop programs that provide Head Start-like services through the early grades.
  • A working group set up by Diane S. Ravitch, the Education Department's assistant secretary for research and improvement, is exploring ways to involve parents in activities to promote readiness. The agency last fall issued a pamphlet, '"Preparing Young Children for Success: Guideposts for Achieving Our First National Education Goal."

Other Projects

  • An action team set up by the National Governors' Association is working with nine states to identify barriers and to promote long-term readiness strategies in the areas of health, parental support, and early-childhood-development programs.

State initiatives include new cabinet-level agencies and commissions focused on children, grants to fund family-support services and foster interagency collaboration, school- and community-based centers serving young children and families, expanded health programs, and mandatory kindergarten.

  • Healthy Start, a Presidential initiative administered by the Health Resources and Services Administration, is providing grants to 15 communities with high infant mortality rates to help local and state governments, private agencies, schools, and community groups provide medical, social, and educational services for pregnant women and infants.
  • As part of a major effort focused on children, the United Way of America is helping communities mobilize leadership and services to ensure children's readiness for school. The "Success by Six" project, based on a Minneapolis model, is under way in 25 communities and in development in several others. .
  • The National Health/Education Consortium, a joint project of the National Commission to Prevent Infant Mortality and the Institute for Educational Leadership, is sponsoring federal, state, and local forums to forge collaboration on children's health and educational needs.
  • The Business Roundtable has been supporting increased funding for Head Start at the national level and is working with state coalitions to promote model readiness projects.
  • The Education Commission of the States, which is developing a proposal for a readiness project, issued a report identifying the primary preventable conditions associated with the development of learning problems shortly after Goal 1 was set.

"Every Child a Learner: Reducing Risks of Learning Impairment During Pregnancy and Infancy" synthesizes studies on the effects of low birthweight, prenatal alcohol and drug exposure, maternal smoking, lead poisoning, child abuse and neglect, and malnutrition.

  • The Washington-based Home and School Institute Inc. plans to publish a book next fall expanding on its "MegaSkills" program, which provides activities for parents to use at home to help enhance their children's capacity to learn.
  • The Elementary School Center in New York City sponsored a conference recently on Goal 1 and is recommending an annual "accounting" of the state of the child and a national "child-impact policy" assessing the effects of current and proposed legislation on children.
  • The Children's Defense Fund held an institute last summer to help teams in five states develop plans for coordinating child-care and early-childhood-education programs and is planning another that would also address parenting, family-support, and health issues.

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