Governments and parents have spent billions of dollars on educational materials aimed at newborns and toddlers, believing that research on children’s brains has shown that the first three years of life are the most important time for learning. But a report from Education Sector, a Washington-based policy-analysis and research organization, suggests those efforts might be misguided.
“While neural connections in babies’ brains grow rapidly in the early years, adults can’t make newborns smarter or more successful by having them listen to Beethoven or play with Einstein-inspired blocks,” writes the report’s author, Sara Mead, a senior policy analyst at Education Sector. Ms. Mead argues that overemphasizing development during the first three years has serious implications for K-12 education policy because schools might think they are let “off the accountability hook” if it’s too late for them to narrow gaps in achievement.
A version of this article appeared in the April 11, 2007 edition of Education Week