By Karla Pleitéz Howell, Director of Educational Equity
More school districts should model the bold move taken by the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). On December 13th, LAUSD Superintendent Michelle King announced the district’s new strategic plan. For the next few years, the district is committed to ensuring 100% of students graduate and are prepared for college, career, and life. In order to achieve this, LAUSD is dedicated to building a solid foundation for early learners by investing in quality early childhood education programs.
In Los Angeles, LAUSD is strategically focusing on the long game by investing early. A plethora of research demonstrates that quality early childhood education provides a strong academic and social-emotional foundation for children. Those who have access to quality early childhood education are more ready to learn when they begin kindergarten and more likely to graduate from high school.
The decision to prioritize early childhood education in strategic plans may be a challenge for districts as they are bombarded with many important issues. However, districts are encouraged to recognize that the early years matter and that they have an opportunity to play an important role in assuring that all children start on a path to academic and life success.
There are several reasons for lifting up early childhood education in district strategic plans. First, we know that access and opportunity gaps create the achievement gap. These gaps do not begin in middle school or high school. LAUSD is one of the few school districts that now has a strategic plan that recognizes that in order to diminish the achievement gap, we must address access and opportunity gaps early. Second, in California, districts have the option of implementing early transitional kindergarten/transitional kindergarten – programs for young 4-year olds – that are eligible for drawing down state education dollars. Thus districts actually have the money to implement these programs.
Third, families that have good experiences in district early learning environments have a tendency to remain loyal to the district. This may translate to an additional 13 years of family loyalty in district enrollment, including from siblings.
LAUSD is one of the handful of districts that recognizes investment in early childhood education is a key strategy to ensure all students graduate. LAUSD has trailblazed a path for other districts committed to playing the long game for student success. Who is next?
Tags: Early Care and Education, ECE, LAUSD, Superintendent Michelle King, Transitional Kindergarten