Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona Stresses Importance of Kindergarten in Early Childhood Education Remarks

Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona Stresses Importance of Kindergarten in Early Childhood Education Remarks

September 7, 2023

Thank you.  I’m pleased to be here at Beyer Early Childhood Center in Rockford, Illinois, with Representative Eric Sorensen and National Education Association President Becky Pringle to visit an incredible early learning program here and talk about why we believe early childhood is so critical to raising the bar for education in this country.

I also want to thank Mayor McNamara for your presence and leadership.  Superintendent Jarrett, and Director Nelson, thank you for highlighting the importance of early childhood education the way you do. 

And of course, Principal Laura Blackwell, thank you for welcoming us.  I know it’s not easy to pull off an event like this while school is in session.  I appreciate you!

We all know a strong start in education makes a big difference.  As a teacher, as a parent, as a former school administrator, I’ve seen it for myself.

And I’ve also seen the consequences when some students benefit from early opportunities in education and others don’t.  You could tell the kids that got a quality early start.

And as we see in other areas of education, it’s too often our nation’s Black and Brown students, our English learners, our students from economically disadvantaged communities, who suffer the most when gaps emerge early on.

It’s heartbreaking.  And it has to change.

We can’t talk about raising the bar for education, and we can’t talk about fixing a broken, inequitable system, if we’re not stepping up in the earliest years.

The span of early learning begins at birth and goes through age 8 or third grade. We collaborate closely with the Department of Health and Human Services on development and learning from birth to age 5.

Today, I want to focus on what we at the U.S. Department of Education are focused on as one of the most pivotal pieces of the early childhood equation: kindergarten.

Right now, kindergarten is the first formal early learning opportunity for children at a large scale – so it makes a big difference whether or not we get it right.

It’s the first big chance for most students to get the services, supports and the interventions they need for on-track development – and it’s the first big chance to build partnerships and shared understanding with parents and families that can help their children learn and grow effectively.

And when we don’t, the evidence is clear: the gaps that result can persist and widen through elementary school, sometimes beyond.

Just one example: we know students who are chronically absent in kindergarten are much more likely to be chronically absent in later grades.

Think of how many crucial early routines and habits, and how much early learning in things like reading and math, don’t get developed properly because of that.

But also think of the difference it makes when we introduce children to incredible opportunities early on.  I was thrilled to see children here getting an early start on a multilingual education.  That’s going to have so many benefits for their development – and eventually, give them so many options for their life and career in a global economy.

Done right, kindergarten can serve as a sturdy bridge to first grade, to elementary school, and beyond. 

The announcement we’re making today aims to step up our efforts in this area through the Kindergarten Sturdy Bridge Learning Community, a new multi-state community of practice organized to transform how students experience kindergarten.

Investing in kindergarten is investing in a strong start for all of our young people – building a strong foundation not only for their future, but our nation’s future. 

I’m proud of the steps we’re taking today.  I look forward to your questions.  Thank you.