To the Editor:
Edward Zigler’s Commentary on the possible future of Title I deserves amplification and support (“A New Title I,” Feb. 4, 2009.) A reframing of his ideas may help those committed to the current approach to federal spending on education appreciate the proposal’s merits.
As we prepare to expand federal investments in both Title I and early-childhood education, we should consider that children would benefit most if we combined these initiatives. It is time to regard early-childhood education as a targeted intervention designed to help address the problems of chronically low-performing public schools.
Imagine if, when states identified a school as struggling under the next version of the No Child Left Behind Act, the responses included a significant additional investment in early-childhood education for all the families in the neighborhood. The investment wouldn’t need to be made through the school directly. But the school would benefit from better-prepared young children, while being required to make changes in practice that would help it leverage the gains made by children leaving comprehensive child-care programs.
It is not so much about tweaking how we spend Title I money, as it is a reframing of comprehensive early care and education as solutions to problems of long-standing underperformance.
This is something K-12 educators have asked for ever since struggling schools started being labeled as a problem that requires solving. Opponents of the latest version of Title I have regularly complained: “Don’t just call our schools failures. Help address the profound needs of the families we serve.”
Mr. Zigler has offered a response. Of course, this would require us to focus more money on fewer communities, which is never politically easy. But it would be better for kids.
Vice President for Research and Analysis
Colorado Children’s Campaign
A version of this article appeared in the February 25, 2009 edition of Education Week as ‘A New Title I': Support for Targeting Early Childhood