In contrast to previous mandates for bubble-in quick fixes, the administration now endorses collaborative and coordinated efforts emphasizing socio-emotional interventions and diagnostic data so that children read for comprehension by third grade. He now heeds the wisdom of generations of scholars, including Nobel Prize winner James Heckman, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and many local business leaders.
Even better, Obama now seeks the same sort of community-based process that MAPS recommended 12 years ago for planning and implementing early education.
Oklahoma City is poised to benefit from this seismic shift. MAPS for Kids set the goal of collaborating with community partners to develop early childhood reading and development programs for 5,000 4- and 5-yearolds by 2005. It sought to coordinate resources already available within our community (including Head Start funds, charitable contributions and faith-based facilities and volunteers.) Our leaders also brought Heckman to OKC to raise awareness, and they pushed for Educare, a state-of-the-art early education program.
Before joining the MAPS process, I did not grasp the cognitive science behind its target of bringing all readers to grade level by third grade. Children who “learn to read” for comprehension will then “read to learn.” Nationally and locally, however, we have failed to “fix” secondary schools serving large concentrations of poor readers. All we know how to do for them is punish students, teachers and administrators for failing to do what nobody knows how to do.
As the Black Chronicle explained, our school district’s new board chair has the experience of pulling city leaders together to build the Oklahoma School of Science and Mathematics. The Oklahoman notes that her supporters include former board chair Cliff Hudson, the AFT/OK and others who worked together in the MAPS coalition.
Nationally and locally, it is time to stop the blame game and restart the team effort to coordinate high-quality early learning programs that provide a foundation for educational excellence.
—John Thompson, Oklahoma City