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Embracing early childhood education



In contrast to previous mandates for
bubble-in quick fixes, the administration now endorses collaborative and
coordinated efforts emphasizing socio-emotional interventions and
diagnostic data so that children read for comprehension by third grade.
He now heeds the wisdom of generations of scholars, including Nobel
Prize winner James Heckman, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT)
and many local business leaders.

Even better, Obama now
seeks the same sort of community-based process that MAPS recommended 12
years ago for planning and implementing early education.

City is poised to benefit from this seismic shift. MAPS for Kids set
the goal of collaborating with community partners to develop early
childhood reading and development programs for 5,000 4- and 5-yearolds
by 2005. It sought to coordinate resources already available within our
community (including Head Start funds, charitable contributions and
faith-based facilities and volunteers.) Our leaders also brought Heckman
to OKC to raise awareness, and they pushed for Educare, a
state-of-the-art early education program.

joining the MAPS process, I did not grasp the cognitive science behind
its target of bringing all readers to grade level by third grade.
Children who “learn to read” for comprehension will then “read to
learn.” Nationally and locally, however, we have failed to “fix”
secondary schools serving large concentrations of poor readers. All we
know how to do for them is punish students, teachers and administrators
for failing to do what nobody knows how to do.

As the Black Chronicle explained,
our school district’s new board chair has the experience of pulling
city leaders together to build the Oklahoma School of Science and
Mathematics. The Oklahoman notes that her supporters include
former board chair Cliff Hudson, the AFT/OK and others who worked
together in the MAPS coalition.

Nationally and locally,
it is time to stop the blame game and restart the team effort to
coordinate high-quality early learning programs that provide a
foundation for educational excellence.

—John Thompson, Oklahoma City

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