Friday, December 12, 2008

Get Them Early

As USA Today reported yesterday, a group of college presidents wants more students in this country to go to and graduate from college. Given the source, this is not terribly surprising news. As it stands now there are 3.64 million students enrolled in first grade. There are 1.49 million in their second year of college. Clearly something is getting lost in the middle to the tune of about 2.15 million kids. As the presidents phrased it, "a torrent of talent entering the nation's schools in kindergarten is reduced to a trickle 16 years later." Not a bad quote.

What's interesting then about the report (and USA Today's reporting on it) is that these college presidents focused on early childhood education - particularly a universal, voluntary pre-school program in low-income comunities - as one of the most promising ways to boost college graduation rates. It's like they've been reading this blog! The most promising way to close the achievement gap and make sure that all children are ready and able to learn is to start early so that no gap ever opens. It just makes sense.

This notion seems to be the prevailing counterweight to the idealocrat reforms of heavy-handed accountability and high stakes testing. I think the difference couldn't be more stark. One approach offers a solution. The other approach offers nothing more than a measuring stick. It will be interesting to see which gains greater prominence in the years ahead.

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