On December 16th at a White House event convened by the Domestic Policy Advisor, Melody Barnes with Secretaries Duncan (ED) and Sebelius (HHS) the announcement that nine states will be receiving the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge Grants was made. The states are: CA, DE, MD, MA, MN, NC, OH, RI & WA.
Both secretaries emphasized the importance of linking education, such as pre-reading activities with child care. They view this as a significant policy change. This policy change will not only focus on the mission of early childhood services but their tools as well. This includes “aligning and raising standards for existing early learning and development programs; improving training and support for the early learning workforce through evidence-based practices; and building robust evaluation systems that promote effective practices and programs to help parents make informed decisions.” (From USED press release which can be found at: http://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/we-cant-wait-nine-states-awarded-race-top-early-learning-challenge-grants-awards
In addition to both secretaries who spoke, James Hechman, Nobel Laureate in Economics spoke on the value and importance of early learning. A paper he has presented on this topic can be read at: http://ftp.iza.org/dp3515.pdf. He spoke of the closing the achievement gap and the “multiplicity of human abilities” that all children have. He called for a focus on the whole child and that this includes cognitive abilities in addition to social and emotional skills. Hechman also cited the need to close the achievement gap as early as possible.
Barbara Bowman closed the panel presentation calling on education to be part of the care system, and that we need to be looking at making kids ready and having schools ready for all children, including those are living in poverty.