A quiet crisis is threatening the future of America. Deeply rooted achievement gaps andshortfalls, and a lack of high-quality early learning opportunities compromise the potentialof too many children. America vows to be thecountry of hope and opportunity for all, but it fails to fulfill this promise to our youngest citizens. We celebrate their birth, but then wait to see if they succeed in school before we pay attention to their strengths and needs. Unlikemany other countries, we fail to make the most of the opportunities to foster children’s lifelongmotivation and engagement in learning throughexploration, discovery, and discussion in theearly learning years.Research and practice confirm that we are at apoint of crisis—and opportunity. New studiestell us that achievement disparities betweendisadvantaged children and their peers canbe documented as early as nine months of age. Research also tells us how to designhigh-quality early childhood programs toenable all children to build a solid foundationfor school success and lifelong learning. For years we have known that kindergarten is toolate to begin efforts to equalize educationopportunity. Now the evidence is indisputable:we can save money, reduce school failure,and enhance children’s lifelong success andproductivity by improving learningopportunities for infants, toddlers,and preschoolers.Chiefs know that building a 21
-century learning system begins with a strong foundationof early childhood programs for all children.Equally important is the need to provide earlier,more sustained, intensive, enriched, andcarefully sequenced early learning experiencesto children who are most at risk, to overcomethe odds that are stacked against them.Chiefs are invigorated by the recent efforts toexpand investment in the early years. Weembrace the opportunity to be part of thesolution by adopting an agenda that focuses on
Building coherent, integrated stateearly childhood systems instead of acollection of categorical programs;
Defining policies and advocating for funding to provide the highest of quality in all early childhood classroomsand settings;
Aligning the early childhood systemwith K–3 schooling and beyond;
Crafting a new state-federal fiscal andpolicy partnership to advance high- quality early childhood learningopportunities for all children, with aconcentration on those most at risk.If we are to be serious about eliminating our domestic and international achievement gaps,it is imperative that we expand our educationreform agenda to enrich and uplift thelearning potential of infants, toddlers, andpreschoolers. Failure to do so will compromisethe lifetime potential of millions of childreneach year—an injustice that we can nolonger tolerate.
A Q ui et Cr i s i s : T h e U r g ent N e e d t oB ui l d E ar l y Ch i l d h o o d S y s t em s A n d Q u al i t y P r o gr am s f or Ch i l d r enB i r t h t oA g eF i v e
New studies tell us thatachievement disparities betweendisadvantaged children and their peers can be documented as early as nine months of age.Chiefs know that building a21
-century learning system beginswith a strong foundation of early childhood programs for all children.