Early childhood education is our best investment for Oak Park

Opinion: Columns

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Oak Park's six governing bodies proclaimed last week, April 22-28, the Week of the Young Child™, recognizing the critical importance of high-quality early learning and care experiences in preparing children for success in learning and in life.

In fact, research has shown that early experiences make a substantial difference in children's lives and bring lasting benefits to communities. Because 85-90% of brain development occurs in the first three years of life, making important investments in our very youngest children is a smart use of public and private resources. Consider that 40 years of research show that children involved in high-quality early learning and care settings have:

  • Lower rates of participation in special education;
  • Lower rates of involvement with the criminal justice system;
  • Higher rates of high school graduation; and
  • Higher incomes and rates of homeownership.

These benefits translate into 7-10 percent aggregate rates of return on investment, according to research by Dr. James Heckman, a Nobel Laureate in economics.

As our schools struggle to ensure that all of our children are achieving at their optimal levels, it is clear that strategic investments and a community commitment to early childhood is smart policy. Children who lack access to high-quality early care and learning experiences are placed at a lasting disadvantage: two-thirds of achievement gaps are in place when children enter kindergarten, and recent research shows that they are evident as early as 18 months of age.

The Collaboration for Early Childhood was formed in 2002 by all six Oak Park jurisdictions to address the fragmentation and scarcity of services endemic to the early childhood field. It is now a model public/private partnership that leverages the resources of more than 40 local agencies to create a community-wide system of high-quality programs and services that foster physical, cognitive and social-emotional development during the critical first five years of life.

We laud our governing bodies for recognizing the importance of early childhood to our success as a community. We invite you to read the proclamation on the Collaboration's website at www.collab4kids.org. And most importantly, we encourage you to honor young children and all those who make a difference in their lives.

Carolyn Newberry Schwartz
Executive Director
Collaboration for Early Childhood

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Posted: May 5th, 2012 1:06 PM

This is only part of the puzzle. What we need is more is more parent involvement in their child's development and education. The majority of students who excel and succeed in life are people who's parents took an active role in the child's development from early childhood on. A lot of parents with kids who are failing are quick to point the finger at schools and teachers , but the reality is, teaching work ethic, accountability, interest in learning... Are things that mostly happen in the home.

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