Canadian report advocates for universal pre-K and expanded family leave. A model for Springfield?

Ontario Education Report CoverEarlier this week, we pointed to data on Springfield and Holyoke’s low rates of on-time graduation and college attendance. Data like this have spurred debates on how best to ensure that our children can meet the challenges that they will grow up to face, with controversies spreading over the role that privatization, vocational education, mentoring programs, and other measures ought to play in revitalizing the region’s schools.

One potential avenue for intervention is an increased focus on early childhood. A report issued this week from Ontario, Canada’s Special Advisor on Early Learning, argues that achievement gaps that have already formed when students first enter school tend to grow and continue to cause problems as the students age. The report recommends universally available full-day pre-K, expanded before- and after-school programs, and more measures supporting parents who take leave of work to care for their young children.

While Ontario and Western Massachusetts are two very different places, ideas like those in the report should be added to the discussion of how best to serve our children. The report parallels the Reading Success by Fourth Grade initiative announced in April by the Irene E. & George A. Davis Foundation, which is also focused on preventing children from falling behind early on in their education. In particular, the Reading Success committee’s goal of giving parents the tools to teach their own children how to read would be substantially supported by expanded leave options for parents who take time off work to be with their young children. As both the Canadian and the Springfield groups realize, it is important to take an integrated approach, bringing together the early education groups and programs that already exist. It is the mission of the Springfield Institute to support these kinds of integrated, community-wide efforts.

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