It’s time for reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. There’s no doubt change is necessary to ensure our children’s civil rights to a high quality education. While the media has focused on the annual assessments mandated by NCLB as being key, I want to highlight another critical improvement needed: high-quality preschool.
We are a family that can speak to the benefits of high-quality preschool for every child. We have lived in the north, south, east, and west. Our whole lives have been about education and overcoming struggle and “the odds.”
I am an African American born to teenage parents thirty years ago in Michigan. Yet, now that I have my own children, I understand how fortunate I was to attend a Montessori program at age three and then preschool at my public elementary school at age four. Since then, excelling in school has been second nature to me. I was high school valedictorian and magna cum laude at a top major university.
I was nearly finished with college in Los Angeles when I got married and my husband and I started our family. I wanted my children to have high-quality preschool like I did, but it came at a steep price. We found the same to be true from California to Mississippi — North Carolina and Michigan.
Three years ago we moved to Washington, D.C., where our three-year-old son could go to school with our five-year-old daughter each day. We were so relieved. He was excelling in many ways — cognitively, socially, and emotionally.
I could see the results of his early learning at home. He was more conversational. He spoke to us about his friends at school. He has learned the alphabet, to count, the names of basic shapes and colors, and so much more. He talked about the stars and the galaxy, and D.C. as the nation’s capital. He knew of President Obama, the names of the First family, including their pets, and even their address — “1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW!” He asked about visiting the White House.
He was excited about learning!
Having my son enrolled in high quality preschool definitely prepared him for kindergarten. I believe he will have a strong start like I did, a life-long thirst for learning, and achieve anything he wants. Regardless of what type of money a child’s parents make, their cultural background, their native language, where they live, as Americans, they should have access to the same high quality education early in life. Why? Because we know it’s what’s best for them, their future, their family’s future, and thus the future of our country. It would be a disservice not to include preschool in the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.
Latoya Smith is the Founder and President of Pros4Kids and Chair of the DCPS Early Childhood Education Policy Council.