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Early education: The earlier, the better

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune – Art Rolnick, Kate Mortenson and BARB FABRE

“Minnesota has made historic investments in early learning over the last several years. And through targeted early-learning scholarships, we are beginning to make significant progress on closing our educational achievement gap, one of the largest in the country. Leaders who have demonstrated their commitment to this progress deserve credit, but our work is not done. Our understanding of what resources are needed to prepare our youngest residents for school continues to evolve. In the coming legislative session, conversations about what additional investments are required almost certainly will again lead to debate over an alternative approach: universal prekindergarten for all 4-year-olds. There is broad agreement that Minnesota’s educational achievement gap is one of the state’s most critical challenges. However, at the State Capitol in 2015, differences over methods of addressing this challenge produced a sometimes-bitter argument that placed proposals with distinct goals into competition with each other. But pitting the unique needs of children who are born into poverty against the value of preK for all 4-year-olds is not helpful to arriving at an accurate understanding of either proposal.”(more)

A decade of research proves early learning scholarships work

The Minnesota Post – Terri Barreiro

“The Early Learning Scholarships Program that the Legislature is considering for expansion this year may be the most extensively, locally researched early education tool in Minnesota’s history. Nearly a decade’s worth of encouraging research findings should be very comforting to policymakers making investment decisions this year. Here’s how scholarships work. Low-income parents are given scholarships, and are allowed to choose any program that is using kindergarten-readiness best practices, as identified by the Parent Aware Ratings. And those best practices are based on decades of national research. More than 2,000 of these high-quality programs can be found in Minnesota schools, centers, homes, churches and nonprofit organizations across the state. A website featuring Parent Aware rated programs makes it easy for parents to learn about their options and choose one that best fits their home and work locations and schedules needs based on location, schedule, teaching approach, and other factors. If a parent’s job or residence changes, parents can take the scholarship to a new rated provider that fits their new situation, so the child’s learning doesn’t get interrupted, and paperwork is kept to a minimum.”(more)

A pot of money for early education

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune – ART ROLNICK and MIKE MEYERS

“Selling is not only about having a good product. It’s about convincing the buyer that the price is affordable. “No money down.” “Buy now and save.” “Twenty-four easy payments (and 12 miserable ones.)” So it is with selling the concept of teaching children born to poverty when they’re ages 3 and 4. Early intervention not only improves their chances of success in elementary school, but in high school and well into adulthood. Study after study — and trial after trial — prove that early-childhood education pays off. Kids learn more and are more likely to graduate and stay out of trouble. In the short run and long run, society saves both money and sorrow. Indeed, these studies show that the annual rate of return on investing in early leaning, for our most vulnerable children, can be as high as 16 percent. These kids start life with the disadvantage of low incomes and parents who often have not finished school themselves. But experience shows that these youngsters have the ability to succeed — if they’re given the chance. The biggest hurdle: finding the money to pay for schooling for at-risk children years before they see the inside of a K-12 classroom.”(more)

Our best hope for education solutions: teachers

The Minneapolis Post – Tom Rademacher

“On Thursday, I gave a speech at the Minnesota Professional Conference to a crowd of teachers working one more extra day to be better for the students who need them most. In that speech, I called on teachers to stand up for their students on the educational issues that matter outside of their rooms.” (more)