To prepare children for school, states should devise long-range plans for serving the needs of all children from birth through age 5—not just 3- and 4-year-olds—advises a guide designed to assist governors in crafting and implementing early-childhood-education programs.
That guidance is among the recommendations in “Building the Foundation for Bright Futures,” a compilation of research on preparing young children for school, combined with a series of recommendations about designing programs and building support for them, released last week by the National Governors Association.
The report is the culmination of two years of work by the NGA’s Task Force on School Readiness, which was formed in 2002 under Kentucky’s then-Gov. Paul E. Patton, a Democrat. The group’s efforts continued under Gov. Dirk Kempthorne of Idaho, a Republican. Six other governors participated, as well as several leaders of state early-childhood offices.
A Strategic Plan
In their work, task force members focused not only on organized preschool and pre-K programs, but also emphasized the important role that parents play in making their children’s transition into kindergarten a smooth one.
States, the report recommends, need to have a vision and a strategic plan for school readiness that encompasses the entire birth-to-5 age span. The needs of families from different cultures and of those who speak different languages should be considered, and state early-learning standards should be connected with K-12 academic ones, the report says.
“We discovered that states are leading the way in promoting school readiness and that there is already much on which to build,” the report says.
Given the tight budgets that many governors have had to work with in recent years—which in some cases led to cuts in preschool programs—the task force also stresses that not all of its recommendations carry a “high price tag.”
“Even in a lean fiscal environment,” the report says, “states have an opportunity to set priorities, align policies, build collaborative relationships, and leverage existing resources to maximize impact and achieve goals over the long term.”
A version of this article appeared in the February 02, 2005 edition of Education Week as NGA Task Force Endorses More Inclusion for Preschool