Race to the top funding takes aim at early education

BALTIMORE - Maryland doubled down on its theory that if parents, day care providers and teachers get on the same page early enough, it can help fuel a wildly successful generation.

"The sooner you start, the stronger the impact you have on children so we want the very best practice happening with the very youngest children and then consistently until they reach kindergarten."

Margaret Williams is the Executive Director of the Maryland Family Network; an organization that works to better train child care providers to help socialize and educate the children they care for.

Williams' network is expected to be one of the stewards of the 55 million dollars Maryland won from the feds in last year's Race to the Top application.

The state sold the feds on its efforts in increased readiness of young children before their formal schooling and the lasting impact that will have on this state's education.    

"You get children and parents and providers all on the same page about what's needed, you've got ready learners, you will end up with a ready work force and everything can happen faster and sooner and there is no drag on the system," said Williams.

The state is still making some final adjustments to its program before the millions of federal dollars come out of the classroom and begin to make sense in child care centers all over the state of Maryland.

Like at Celeste Joyner's Children's College; her continued education in the state's curriculum is put in practice every day in the accredited day care she runs out of her north Baltimore home.

"Oh yes.  It gives them a sense of how can I say, like self confidence and some leadership skills so when they move on from me, they already have these things so they can be ready for kindergarten," said Joyner.

And it is not necessarily ABC's and 1-2-3's, it is socialization with adults and other children combined with lessons and exercises mimicking the real world; a new, more intensive type of Pre-K filling a void for a generation being brought up in the busy world of double income families and single parents. 

"Now it is a whole different trend so if you're not prepared as an early childhood teacher, provider, whatever you want to call yourself, it kind of reflects on you so you have to give them everything that they need to know whenever they leave from you, as well as the parent so they will be successful," said Joyner.

And the studies show it is working for nearly 80 percent of the state's students, a program now buoyed with 55 million dollars to focus on closing the gap; an attempt to give every child an early and solid foundation before they walk through the doors of a public school.   

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