America will make little progress on improving education outcomes unless it starts when education begins—from birth to age five. Data conclusively show that the early formation of cognitive and character skills provides the essential foundation for success in school, college, career, and life.
Most children receive early childhood education through regular and positive interaction with their parents and through enrichment programs, recreation, and private early childhood education. At-risk children are not so lucky. Their parents may work long hours but cannot afford quality programs, or they may lack the education and life experience necessary to provide effective childhood development at home. For these children, the achievement gap opens before they enter kindergarten—and it is very difficult to close, which proves costly to them, to their families, and to taxpayers.
Early childhood education for at-risk children is a smart way to change the equation through a cost effective investment that pays dividends in better education, health, and economic outcomes. It helps prevent the achievement gap, increases school readiness and achievement, dramatically reduces the need for special education, and produces children who know how to learn through focus, persistence, and teamwork.
An effective education system is one that starts with an infant's first caregivers and ends with a highly capable, adaptive, and productive citizen.