Charter schools, WASL graduation requirements, the Harlem Children’s Zone. Educational reform rises to the top of most policy discussions today. My opinion is that we are missing the boat.

If we rightfully disaggregate data, it becomes obvious that groups of API’s, including Pacific Islanders and certain Southeast Asian groups, score disproportionately low on academic and social development indicators. And while the focus of reform centers on K-12 education, whether we consider improved and relevant curriculum, teacher accountability, smaller classroom size, expanded use of technology, or cultural relevance, we often lose sight of the fact that 40 percent of our entering students do not have the reading, writing, or reasoning skills to succeed in school. If we track this 40 percent cohort, it doesn’t require rocket science to figure out that these young people are at greater risk of dropping out of school, entering the juvenile justice system, or to be unemployed. Researchers have linked early learning to long term success. Stimulating and nurturing young people early leads to a stronger sense of self, improved decision making skills, and improved cognitive and emotional development. The Denise Louie Early Learning Center, ACRS, and the City of Seattle’s early learning programs are on the right track. They get it.

They understand the importance of parent involvement in their children’s education from birth through the early years.

We need to recognize what learned brain researchers have told us … that focusing on the developmental needs of kids from birth to three leads to more competent, confident, and socially adept students. ALL kids deserve a fair start and it is clear that we are not on an even playing field. Whether it is expanding successful early learning programs, or whether it means a constitutional amendment so that early learning is considered a critical part of basic education it should be clear that education does not begin in K but at birth. True educational reform begins at home and at birth.

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