–submitted by Carol Toussaint; photo by Jeff Burkhart
Wednesday’s speaker, Katherine Magnuson (pictured here with club President Donna Hurd) of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Institute for Research on Poverty, ended her speech with this question. She had already provided insight into helping her Rotary audience understand just what is needed to focus on the early years in every child’s life.
At the heart of the issue is that early experience shapes brain development and that experience varies widely as a function of family social and economic factors. Professor Magnuson had presented similar information to a Federal Reserve conference where she stated that to grow the economy we will need to focus on the first five years of a child’s life.
Identifying the skill and behavior gaps between high- and low – income kindergarteners, Professor Magnuson emphasized that closing the gaps is extremely difficult without the base of early childhood education. If present when a child starts school, gaps continue through 3rd, 5th, 8th and 12th year. To look at the skill and behavior gaps in reading, math, externalizing problem, etc., we learned these gaps need to be closed early.
The conclusions that early childhood is a foundation for human capital development and a productive investment were supplemented with graphs. Our speaker provided documentation as to the vulnerability of children and families who need a range of supports and experiences to thrive. All evidence points to the benefits from Early Childhood Education Programs, she said, and referenced studies published between 1960-2007 to help her audience grasp the significance of the opportunity to improve conditions for our children.
If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch the video here.