Tuesday, August 18, 2009

How Would You Assess the Early Learning Challenge Fund?

by Guest Blogger, Candice DePrang

Requiring data-driven standards simply means finding out what works through research. Currently, benchmarks like oral language and print awareness can be examined at early growth stages, and are thus appropriate. Seen as a part of the greater context of education research, the Early Learning Challenge Fund builds not only a system based on outcomes, but a culture of innovation and exploration where programs can be tried, assessed, dismissed, or reinvented based upon the very data in question.

In coordination with Race to the Top, which aims to improve student outcomes, high school graduation rates, and ensure college and career readiness, the Early Learning Challenge Fund seeks those same successes from the start. If the Department of Education wants to see Race to the Top realized, Early Learning is not simply a challenge, but a mandate. With far reaching effects from social, emotional, and language development to a reduction in crime, early learning is paramount to success at life and learning, and kindergarten is too late to play catch up.

Furthermore, one aspect of the achievement gap is a gap in expectations. Currently, urban schools are rife with low academic expectations, and as long as communities, states, and the federal government require no qualitative output, no data or evaluation, the achievement gap – the expectation gap – will persist. The demand for outcomes raises the bar for educational expectations, and in conjunction with Race to the Top along with its demand for continuous improvement and evidence based systems, the Early Learning Challenge Fund will set comprehensive expectations where previous pieces were missing.

This height in expectation and kind of innovation, spurred by knowledge developed from research, is a welcome challenge.

Our published response to the National Journal's Education Expert's Question: here

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