Promoting a nationwide, four-star rating system for child-care
centers, using grant funds to improve the quality of local initiatives,
and working as advocates on such public-policy issues as Head Start are
among the steps the United Way of America plans to take to push for a
stronger preschool education system.
Brian Gallagher, the president and chief executive officer of the Alexandria, Va.-based nonprofit organization, announced the plan last month at a conference in Charlotte, N.C., that involved leaders from business and early- childhood education.
The United States "has the weakest system in place for children when they are at their most vulnerable and critical age," he said in his address. "There's clearly a gap, and together, we can do something about it."
The conference was held to celebrate 15 years of the United Way's "Success by 6" program, a community-based effort to focus on young children's health and educational needs.
Mr. Gallagher said the new "national plan" would build on the accomplishments of the Success by 6 initiative, which is currently in place in 350 cities throughout the United States and Canada.
For example, the Success by 6 program in Oklahoma encouraged gubernatorial candidates to include early-childhood programs in their platforms. And in Richmond, Va., it has worked to increase the child- immunization rate.
Experts often say that children not only need to be ready for school, but that schools need to be ready for children. A new grant program from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation is seeking to help schools do just that.
The Battle Creek, Mich.-based philanthropy recently awarded the High/Scope Educational Research Foundation, in Ypsilanti, Mich., $1.4 million to devise an improvement plan and an assessment program to help schools prepare to teach all children.
The effort is expected to involve more than 30 schools nationwide.
Goals of the project include creating a "ready school assessment" to examine current school practices, providing technical assistance to help schools reach out to children who traditionally have not done well academically, and promoting a wider understanding of what it means for schools to be ready for all children.
—Linda Jacobson [email protected]
Vol. 22, Issue 39, Page 9