Check out Joanne Jacobs’ blog about this research by Grover Whitehurst at the Brookings Center on Children and Families. Read it and weep.

My take on all of this?

Fascinating and oh, so sad for these children, their families, and our nation. And worse, these studies seem to confirm earlier ones about the lack of long term positive effects from preschools. Yet we continue to throw good money at these, while ignoring efforts that may actually be more effective!

While I’m not an early childhood expert, whoever that may be, I am a former teacher, school attorney, parent, and concerned citizen and have written about this issue in my book, SPECIAL EDUCATION 2.0.

If we are truly interested in closing these gaps in early childhood, we need to work with parents and guardians IN THEIR HOME–not wait till children are three or four years old to take them OUT of the home. The work needs to be done from birth onward, through language, singing, reading, working with hands, etc. We need to help parents be their child’s BEST first teacher.

It’s that early early childhood gap that schools and school-based programs cannot close and, unfortunately, that often continues to widen through the school years. Four year olds, even three year olds– is too late. There’s already that gap in learning.

Some programs with which I’m familiar include 10 Books a Home, An Ounce of Prevention, Zero to Three, Providence Talks, Too Small to Fail, Nurse Family Practice, and others.

Let’s put our money, love, and efforts into programs that work with families in their homes, not create more institutions out of the home. Let’s put our efforts into programs that have a good chance of working.

Do you get discouraged or frustrated that real and effective reforms are too slow and not enough people care about improving schools in meaningful systemic ways. And, that too often, when reforms are actually undertaken, they often go off the rails, even though well intentioned.

Yes, sometimes I do get discouraged. But now, thanks to reading The New York Times Book Review about Steven Brill’s new book, Tailspin—The People and Forces Behind America’s Fifty-Year Fall—and Those Fighting to Reverse It—I have a more optimistic view.

The review by Daniel W. Drezner closes with a discussion of Sheila Krumholz, the executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP). He writes that her words stay with him most. And with me.

“When [Ms. Krumholz] is asked whether she gets frustrated that not enough people care about [CRP’s] focus on dark money in politics, she said: ‘We need to be here building the record so that when the opportunity arises, when people of good faith on both sides of the aisle decide that enough is enough, we will have armed them…The system has careened off the tracks, and everyone knows it. But I’m impassioned, not discouraged.”

While Ms. Krumholz focuses on dark money, my colleagues and I are focused on public education. Yet, the challenges and spirit are the same—the system is broken; everyone knows it; apparently people have not yet had enough; and we need to keep on keeping on, providing a platform for discussion, collecting data, encouraging innovation and promoting solutions.

I don’t know Sheila Krumholz or anything about the work of CRP. But, I feel better already. I’ll print out a copy and put it on the wall near my desk. I hope you feel better, too, and continue to work for common-sense true reform!

An interesting piece. And if it’s tracking, Joanne is fine with it–because it focuses on what students need, not their labels or economic status. Finally It’s about time. I think we’re finally getting somewhere.

My comment in her piece is this:

Check out schools based on proficiency and competency (competency-based education–CBE). Dare I say it–these schools and programs are on the right “track” because they focus on what students know and can do now and then teach them to move from that to higher achievement–not based on what class the child happens to be in but on what the child needs at the level he/she is now. Different areas of strengths are taught differently.

As I see it, the basic difference between CBE and what is discussed above is that CBE is NOT label-based (gifted, advanced, honors, etc.). Instead, it is subject/skills/ knowledge based. It takes kids from where they are and moves them forward–student by student, subject by subject, knowledge/skill by…. you get the idea! Check out Taylor County, Kentucky and Westminster, Colorado and Lindsay Unified School District in California–for starters.

Your thoughts?

The most inspiring news about improving public education for all students—general and special ed—comes from the new health care venture launched in Boston by Jeff Bezos of Amazon, investor Warren Buffett, and Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase. It doesn’t come from education at all!

These three wealthy leaders hired a practicing surgeon and author, Atul Gawande, to lead an-as-yet-to-be named new approach to improving health care for employees at their companies–better services at lower costs. I don’t know about you, but I’ve enjoyed reading Atul Gawande’s New Yorker pieces and book, Being Mortal. They are wonderfully original and thought-provoking. Gawande a powerful thought leader–and practical, too. If/when these guys succeed, they hope their new approach will be a model for other companies and entities.

I actually love the fact that the venture is still unnamed, since they don’t know where they are headed. They do know their dream. They know their purpose. Yhey know their why.

Reading about this new venture has inspired me because it reminds me of what we’re trying to do with special ed. It’s fascinating. As I read articles about it, I just substituted the words, “special education” for “medicine.” It all rang true! The challenges, backlash, dream, second guessing, encouragement—it’s all a very familiar parallel for those of us trying to fix public education, including special education. I’m impressed by this venture and started thinking….

In education, who would WE hire as our Atul Gawande to lead a transformation? And who would be moved to fund it? Interesting questions worth pursuing.

What do you think?

BTW, Part I is my piece at