Missouri is not losing ground in the nation’s race to educate its’ children. Instead, we are stagnant. We are treading water. We are mediocre. Rather than wallow in our failures, though, the Missouri State Board of Education met to discuss progress of a pilot program to pull us up by our boot straps.
On Monday, August 20, the Missouri State Board of Education met with Kathy Thornburg, who leads the Office of Early and Extended Learning within the state’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. Thornburg has over 40 years of experience in early childhood education at the state and national levels.
Thornburg presented a pilot program for educating Missouri’s children aged 2 ½ to 5 ½ years; both Head Start other early childhood programs would be involved in this program. The pilot locations for this program are in Kansas City, St Joseph and Columbia.
Currently 167,825 children are in the age range for the program; only 14.2 percent of these children are involved in the pilot. Of those children involved, 30 percent are living in poverty, yet there is no difference in achievement based on gender, age, special needs or poverty in their progress. Instead, the research is showing that preschool is the time to begin working with educating our children.
This is a pre-kindergarten program that would be considered for the state. The major components of the program would include:
- It would be voluntary.
- It would be available in all public school systems.
- It would have a sliding-fee schedule.
- It would have community involvement.
- It would require standardized assessments.
- It would have oversight by the local or regional systems.
According to Thornburg, children of all socioeconomic classes would be mixed together in this program. Thornburg went on to say that Missouri is not keeping pace with most states.
Peter Herschend, the president of the Missouri State Board of Education, said “if the program becomes available, it must be voluntary and universal.”
What is really wild about the Missouri State Board of Education is that there is no community involvement. The first day I was the only outsider in attendance. Only staff members were there. The second day I was joined by a woman from St. Louis along with vendors.
Editor’s Note: Last year, officials with the Missouri State Department of Elementary and Secondary Education applied for but did not win a federal Race to the Top Grant Early Learning Challenge grant. Nevertheless, they are proceeding with their early learning assessment pilot program.
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