Last Friday (4/27/12), the Morrison Institute for Public Policy released a new report called, “Dropped?” highlighting the fact that Arizona’s economic future is at risk if we continue to fail to address our Latino education attainment levels. As I listened to the presentations, I couldn’t help pondering what’s next? Most of us in the room already believed the findings–or at least had very first hand knowledge that led us to suspect the findings. Certainly, I am grateful that we now have metrics to back up those experiences in the field.
But, what is next?
Will the Arizona legislature wake up next January and give us a budget that funds all-day kindergarten and preschool for children at risk of high school graduation because they will not enter kindergarten with the basic skills they will need to read on time? Will they invest serious resources in remediation for the many children (not just Latino) who will enter the third grade without the skills to pass a grade-level reading assessment?
Whoa, ED Cindy!
That’s quite a leap you, may think. Yet, when it is fairly common knowledge that experts use third grade reading skills to predict prison beds they’ll need a decade or so later, it’s really not that big a leap. If children enter kindergarten with a low vocabulary–at-risk children often have fewer than 1,000 distinct words (less than 1/2 compared the vocabulary than their affluent counterparts)– and experience low or no parent involvement, we know they are at grave risk for not reading at grade level by third grade*.
The speakers on Friday were very careful to tell us that this complicated problem requires a multi-faceted approach, and I agree! However, when pressed to say what the one most important action might be if one and only one could be named, it was early childhood education.
And that my friends is exactly what A Stepping Stone Foundation has been doing for the past 20 years.
*BTW, for an interesting look at vocabulary analysis check out: http://languagefix.wordpress.com/2009/02/02/how-many-words-should-a-child-know/.