Photo courtesy Flickr user Daehyun Park under Creative Commons license
January is often when governors signal what they plan to do in the coming year, and education is a perennial topic in “State of the State” addresses. What can they say they haven’t said before? Plenty. A white paper published by the National Governor’s Association last fall has loads of ideas for what to say -- and do.
The paper, Governor’s Role in Aligning Early Education and K-12 Reforms: Challenges, Opportunities, and Benefits for Children, makes a strong case for changing state policies so that children experience more consistent teaching practices and learning environments from birth through the third grade. The paper presents concrete ideas in six areas: leadership and governance; learning standards; child assessments; accountability; teacher/leader preparation and professional development; and resource allocation and reallocation.
At only 10 pages long, the paper should be digestible by busy policymakers in governor’s offices. And none of the recommendations are so far-reaching that they should be considered long shots. In fact, already-existent examples are sprinkled throughout. To give you a sense of what’s possible, here are four of 14 initiatives mentioned in the report:
- New Jersey and North Carolina have early learning offices within their state education agencies that go beyond administering early childhood programs and help align policies and practices from preschool through grade 3.
- Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels “has long championed voluntary full-day kindergarten,” according to the report, and, during the last legislative session, legislators passed a bill that fully funds the initiative.
- Delaware, Massachusetts and Washington are creating regional centers or teams that bring early childhood educators and early elementary teachers together for joint professional development.
- Illinois recently enacted legislation embedding more early childhood content in its principal certification requirements.
When championed by governors, these kinds of ideas can make a huge difference for children in the long term. The impact may not appear right away, but an accumulating pile of policy research shows the importance of these kinds of steps in laying the foundation for more children to thrive and succeed in school.