By MICHELLE POPE
After moving from the Midwest nearly 12 years ago, I was immediately struck by the pride that people have as Texans. To be a Texan, I learned, is to be proud of one’s history and culture. If you were a former student in Texas Public Schools, you probably remember spending countless hours learning about early native populations, the Texas Revolution, and Texas history. I can tell you that for all the years I spent in Michigan, I scarcely remember addressing the history of the state in one lecture.
I also noticed that Texans take great pride in their culture. Some bumper stickers illustrating Texas pride:
“American by choice; Texan by the grace of God”
“Everything is bigger and better in Texas”
“I wasn’t born a Texan, but I got here as fast as I could.”
It is clear to see why people love Texas. The friendliness of the people, the food, and even the way Texans talk are points of pride for our state.
But for all the greatness of Texas, it is difficult to understand many things:
Educators, policy-makers, and economists have looked at early childhood as the having potential to create systemic change in the K-12 system. From a developmental perspective, the ages of 0-5 have long been considered a ‘critical period’ for development. Early brain research demonstrates that it is this time in which intervention for altering the course of negative developmental outcomes is the most promising.
For some children, an optimal learning environment occurs in the home. A nurturing caretaker, attentive to the child’s developmental needs provides a stimulating environment, thereby allowing a child to thrive.
Unfortunately, many children do not have a desirable early home environment. The television replaces the development of important language and social interaction skills. Few books other than the phone book are in the home. A child may not have paper or crayons to practice pre-writing skills.
A child who comes to kindergarten with few language skills is already in trouble. Poor language skills and few books in the home will be significant obstacles to the development of literacy skills. It will take a considerable amount of time for the child to catch up with classmates. Many children do not catch up, and instead fall further behind.
The economics of early intervention cannot be overstated. In the short term, a child who is held back in a grade costs the state an average of $5,000. Early intervention can also lead to fewer special education placements which are very costly to the state and the local education systems. A child who receives special education services can cost as much as four times the amount as a student in regular education.
In the long term, early intervention has been linked to higher graduation rates and lower crime rates. Some economists have even estimated that for every dollar spent on early childhood, seven dollars to society can be saved. These costs are saved in remediation, special education, work force development programs and juvenile delinquency rehabilitation programs.
To effectively create systemic change, it is necessary to look more carefully at the roles of employers, service-care providers, and educators. Employers can provide a critical link for valuable information on important developmental skills for children:
These suggested changes are only a few of the possible things that employers and businesses can do to begin addressing the problem locally in our community. We all have a stake in the future of children in Texas. For more information on how you can get involved in Education Initiatives in San Marcos, contact the San Marcos Chamber of Commerce. And educated workforce is good business. The San Marcos Chamber of Commerce is FOCUSED ON BUSINESS!
MICHELLE POPE, Ph.D., is Presidential Fellow to Texas State University President Denise M. Trauth and a Health, Physical Education, and Recreation professor.Email | Print