Governor Pat Quinn convened his state’s very first symposium on “college and career readiness begins at birth” through the Governor’s Office of Early Childhood Development.  The symposium which was held yesterday at the Northern Illinois University Conference Center in Naperville was funded through the National Governors Association and Midwest Comprehensive Center.

“The future of our state depends on the quality of education,” Governor Quinn said. “A quality early learning experience gives Illinois children the foundation and basic skills they need for success in school. Bringing together expert educators will emphasize the important role each plays in building a student’s capacity for learning.”

The symposium, “College and Career Readiness Begins at Birth: Connecting the Dots for Student Success,” builds on Governor Quinn’s “Birth to Five Initiative,” which he first outlined during his State of the State speech.

“Achieving Governor Quinn’s goal of ensuring 60% of Illinoisans have a high-quality, industry-recognized degree or credential by 2025 must start with quality early learning aligned with elementary school instruction,” said Theresa Hawley, Ph.D., executive director, OECD. “For the first time, we are gathering stakeholders from the early learning community through high school to discuss better aligning efforts to support our young learners from birth to third grade, helping them succeed in school and in life,” she said.

Governor Quinn’s FY15 budget calls for investing $100 million in Birth to Five in FY15, with a total five-year investment of $1.5 billion to improve access to prenatal care; early care and learning opportunities for every child; and strong parent support.

If this seems creepy and Orwellian to you, well, that’s because it is.  With the increase of “rigor” (read developmentally inappropriate) standards in kindergarten and 1st grade with the Common Core State Standards it is no surprise we will see a greater emphasis on early childhood education.  President Obama has made it one of his top education initiatives.  We see that bear fruit with the U.S. Department of Education’s Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge (Illinois won a phase 2 grant).  Seventeen states applied for phase 3 grants, and since the inception of the program 20 states have won awards.  Last fall in an article about Iowa’s application for this particular grant Caffeinated Thoughts found the five key areas of reform that states are to address:

  • Establishing Successful State Systems by building on the state’s existing strengths, ambitiously moving forward the state’s early learning and development agenda and carefully coordinating programs across agencies to ensure consistency and sustainability beyond the grant;
  • Defining High-Quality, Accountable Programs by creating a common tiered quality rating and improvement system that is used across the state to evaluate and improve program performance and to inform families about program quality;
  • Promoting Early Learning and Development Outcomes for Children to develop common standards within the state and assessments that measure child outcomes, address behavioral and health needs, as well as inform, engage and support families;
  • Supporting A Great Early Childhood Education Workforce by providing professional development, career advancement opportunities, appropriate compensation and a common set of standards for workforce knowledge and competencies; and
  • Measuring Outcomes and Progress so that data can be used to inform early learning instruction and services and to assess whether children are entering kindergarten ready to succeed in elementary school.

Not only do progressives and educrats want to push government-instituted education down to a younger age, but they want to assess preschool children as well.

Watch for states, like Illinois, to decrease their compulsory age.  This is just another demonstration of “government knows best.  I’m not alone in that assessment.

“This was only a matter of time. I’ve seen rumblings about this from California, so it seems only right Illinois would be the next, since they’re neck-and-neck for most suicidal state in the union,” Joy Pullmann, research fellow with The Heartland Institute and managing editor of School Reform News, told Caffeinated Thoughts.

“This sounds crazy to most people, but it is just the logical extension of the progressive ideology that has become the elevator music of our culture. The choice we have is now clearer: Either parents will be the responsible parties for children, or bureaucrats will. Either education is an ever-expanding network of government orphanages, or it is an enterprise that partners with families in raising the next generation,” Pullmann added.

“Illinois’s plan is in line with the national trend, evidenced by ACT’s plan to create a work skills test for kindergartners,” Jane Robbins, senior fellow with American Principles Project, told Caffeinated Thoughts.  “The education and corporate elites in this country have truly stepped through the looking glass. The only word for it is madness.”

College and career-readiness is a byproduct of education, not its primary goal, and it certainly doesn’t begin at birth.  The responsibility of education in general, and early education in particular, belongs with parents not the state.

Photo credit: Center for Neighborhood Technology (CC-By-SA 2.0)

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