Opinion
Early Childhood Letter to the Editor

History of Improvement Efforts Points to Early Years as Key

December 11, 2013 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

To the Editor:

I just read your recent coverage on the work of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation on teacher quality (“Gates Foundation Places Big Bet on Its Teacher Agenda,” Nov. 6, 2013). It reminded me of other efforts to improve student learning that I have also read about over the years in Education Week.

In 1996: The Goals 2000 effort reported “no significant parallel change in high school completion rates or most indicators of student achievement.”

In 1997: Tracking Title I showed “no significant change in the academic performance of students.”

In 2001: Regarding block scheduling, “studies show that lengthening class periods is not a proven means of raising standardized tests scores.”

In 2002: The $500 million Annenberg Challenge yielded results that were “downright disappointing.”

In 2003: The federal government’s $1 billion effort to give students a safe place to study and play after school “had little effect on academic achievement.”

In 2005: The results of the Gates Foundation’s $1 billion effort to create small schools were “insufficient to draw definitive conclusions about student performance.”

In 2006: Further analysis of the Annenberg Challenge showed no “noticeable systemwide impact on student performance.”

In 2009: A “controversial $14.4 million federal study testing the effectiveness of reading and math software programs has found few significant learning differences between students who used the technology and those taught using other methods.”

In 2012, I also read that new evidence from cognitive and neuroscience shows that what happens in early childhood, “like a child’s footprint in wet cement, leaves its mark forever,” and you can’t go back and rewire a child’s brain.

I have read Education Week for decades and have learned that until a free and high-quality education begins at conception, we will not bridge the pre-K-12 learning gap.

Mr. Gates, what are you reading?

Rebecca Shore

Assistant Professor, Educational Leadership

University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Charlotte, N.C.

The author is a former high school principal.

A version of this article appeared in the December 11, 2013 edition of Education Week as History of Improvement Efforts Points to Early Years as Key

Events

School & District Management K-12 Essentials Forum Get a Strong Start to the New School Year
Get insights and actions from Education Week journalists and expert guests on how to start the new school year on strong footing.
Reading & Literacy Webinar A Roadmap to Multisensory Early Literacy Instruction: Accelerate Growth for All Students 
How can you develop key literacy skills with a diverse range of learners? Explore best practices and tips to meet the needs of all students. 
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
College & Workforce Readiness Webinar
Supporting 21st Century Skills with a Whole-Child Focus
What skills do students need to succeed in the 21st century? Explore the latest strategies to best prepare students for college, career, and life.
Content provided by Panorama Education

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Early Childhood Spotlight Spotlight on Early Learning
This Spotlight will help you examine the impact of early education programs on high school performance, evaluate pre-K programs, and more.
Early Childhood Opinion The Not-So-Certain Science of Pre-K
Much of the support for universal preschool proceeds with a blind assurance that leaves difficult questions aside.
4 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
Early Childhood Pandemic Kids Need Early Language Support. Here's How Teachers Can Help
Preschool teachers share their ideas for promoting students' language growth.
3 min read
A Birmingham, Ala., preschool teacher works with a student wearing a "talk pedometer," which records child and adult vocalizations, as part of the school-based LENA Grow program. Teachers receive report on how much talk and interaction each child experiences in a day of recording.
A Birmingham, Ala., preschool teacher works with a student wearing a "talk pedometer," which records child and adult vocalizations, as part of the school-based LENA Grow program. Teachers receive reports on how much talk and interaction each child experiences in a day of recording.
Courtesy of LENA Foundation
Early Childhood What the Research Says Babies Are Saying Less Since the Pandemic: Why That's Concerning
Children born in the pandemic have heard fewer words and conversations. Their language development has suffered.
5 min read
Illustration of woman and boy talking.
<br/>BRO Vector/Getty