There is no better time to address the educational achievement gap than before it has fully manifested itself. That means intervening in the lives of at-risk children while they are still very young.
This work is being done effectively in the Dallas area by Educational First Steps. Its aim is simple yet powerful: to improve the availability and quality of early childhood education for economically disadvantaged children. The organization provides services to childcare centers and preschools in low-income areas. It offers teacher training, educational field trips, and funding for classroom materials.
Recent evidence indicates that kids born into low-income famlies are likely to experience cognitive deficits that grow substantially over time and contribute to a substantially greater likelihood relative to their peers of dropping out of high school. Yet other, more encouraging evidence shows that this trajectory is reversible; it just depends on making investments in high-quality early childhood education.
Educational First Steps’ work unfolds in four stages:
- Working on-site in the classroom to develop age appropriate, well-run child learning centers that earn national accreditation for educational excellence
- Professionally training teachers and center directors in low-income neighborhoods through EFS own teacher curriculum and subsidized achievement of Child Development Associate certificates
- Providing quality educational materials and enrichment directly to impoverished children
- Engaging parents/guardians in their child’s learning and social-emotional development
This work is making an impact — on children’s test scores in the early elementary grades, on their general excitement about and investment in learning, and in engaging parents and guardians in their child’s learning and social-emotional development. Such dramatic successes, coupled with the significant and growing need, are sure indicators that EFS’ work deserves greater support!