The government is investing heavily in early childhood education, trying to get students school-ready earlier. This will then cut down on “catching up time,” making class time more efficient, according to an article in the District Administration.
The U.S. Department of Education has collaborated with the Department of Health and Human Services to create a $500 million grant for early childhood education.
The government is also throwing in incentives to encourage states to promote early childhood education. Under Obama’s Race to the Top, states can earn extra funding if they create better early childhood education programs that close the school readiness gap for young children.
Jacqueline Jones, senior adviser on early learning for the Department of Education, told the District Administration that the school readiness gap can appear as early as one year of age.
“Data shows real differences in math, language and literacy achievement scores in kindergarten for children coming from homes of poverty, where English isn’t the first language, where the mother’s education is less than a high school diploma, single parent homes—all of these are major risk factors,” Jones said.
This is the exact group that the Department of Education is trying to target because it believes that the school readiness gap will only widen if the problems are not addressed early. It says the gap can widen to a point where it will be almost impossible for young students to catch up.
The Department of Education said the funding will help states build more coordinated and structured early childhood education programs.
Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius announced this funding on May 25, 2011. The money will help states create various “head start” programs for early childhood development.
Currently, these programs are funded through grassroots organizations, and funding can be very inconsistent. Because of that many of these programs go under. But, the Department of Education is trying to provide consistent funding to stabilize these programs.
“We’re not just adding to the array of early learning. We’re trying to leverage the funds and bring Head Start, Title I, special education and other programs together in a coordinated manner,” Jones said.
These programs will be geared toward low-income students to help narrow the school-readiness gap. These programs will also be aligned with K12 standards to cut down on training students to be school-ready.
Obama created the Promise Neighborhoods initiative, a similar plan in 2010. This initiative funded similar programs in urban communities to help ensure those students are not already lagging behind when school starts.
These grants can range from $50 million to $100 million, depending on the state and will be awarded at the start of 2012.