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Commentary: US must invest in early childhood


June 9, 2016
Economics and FinanceGovernance and AccountabilityQuality and CurriculumState & Local
Rebecca Ullrich & Jessica Troe
My Journal Courier

Yet time and again, policymakers expect hundreds of thousands of miles out of early childhood programs that are not adequately funded and maintained. Critics like to say that we don’t know if early childhood programs work, suggesting that the research is inconclusive. But we can’t expect much mileage from programs whose funding is constantly under threat, whose teachers are paid less than parking lot attendants, and whose budgets can’t accommodate a full school day or school year. Here’s what we do know: Early childhood programs work, but they have to be high quality. A large body of research suggests that children who participate in high-quality early learning programs gain anywhere from four to 12 additional months of reading and math skills. High-quality programs can also boost children’s social-emotional development and physical health. We also know what quality looks like in child care and preschool classrooms. It includes learning through play, teachers who are well-paid and knowledgeable of child development and child-friendly activities, routines and classroom environments.