Twenty-six years later, I am still haunted by Joshua. Joshua was in my colleague’s class during my first year of teaching Kindergarten. Joshua came to class one day with a huge gash across the palm of his hand. When his teacher asked him what had happened, he explained that his mother wasn’t well that morning (turns out she was drunk), so it was up to him to fix breakfast for his little sister. All he could find in the kitchen was a can of SpaghettiOs. But he couldn’t find a can opener, so he opened the can with a butcher knife. I’m sure you can guess what caused the damage to Joshua’s hand. He was a smart boy with an engaging smile, but was frequently in trouble in class. I can only imagine that, unless he had some sort of serious intervention, his life has been pretty challenging.
The Annie E. Casey Foundation recently published a new policy report that looks at how a child’s long-term outcomes are related to the first eight years of his or her life (“The First Eight Years: Giving Kids a Foundation for Lifetime Success”). An earlier report from the same foundation revealed that children who are proficient readers by the end of 3rd grade are much more likely than their non-proficient counterparts to graduate from high school and have successful careers. Incredibly, although the new study found that 74% of 3rd grade students are actively engaged in school, only 36% scored at or above average in math, reading and science. For low income students, the results are even worse with only 19% possessing average academic skills.
Fortunately, the Foundation also developed specific recommendations for helping to improve these outcomes.
- “Support parents as they care for their children.
- Improve access to quality early care and education, health care and other services.
- Ensure that care is comprehensive and coordinated for all children from birth through age 8.”
Obviously, as individual early educators we can’t provide all of this for every child, but we can certainly be a starting point for many children. Over the next couple of weeks, we will talk in more depth about each of these areas.