Carmen Nazario, Assistant Secretary for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, reads to an early childhood class at P.S. 5 in New York City.
A new phrase that recently entered the national education lexicon is “the P-20 continuum” or the “P-20 pipeline.” The P stands variously for pre-natal or pre-kindergarten, and the 20 represents the age at which many young people are launched into the world of work. The thinking behind this phrase is important, right-headed and long overdue because it recognizes that the goal of education at all levels is to prepare young people for productive adulthood—and that the levels are intrinsically connected, starting with our youngest children. P-20 efforts are seeking to establish authentic linkages between and among the various levels of our education system (early childhood, elementary school, secondary school, college) and to help young people, as well as their parents, make successful transitions from one level to the next. In fact, studies of The Children’s Aid Society’s Zero to Five Programs have consistently shown that parents who participate in the program become leaders at their schools and are highly invested in their children’s education process.
This kind of “connect the dots” thinking is not new to community schools, and this issue of Partnership Press focuses on one set of critical linkages—that of early childhood to elementary education. We feature three approaches: the integration of a comprehensive Zero to Five program into the primary grades in two New York City community schools that are partnerships between The Children’s Aid Society and the New York City Department of Education; a national effort sponsored by the Coalition for Community Schools and funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation that is demonstrating how to link early childhood systems to elementary education in three cities; and a brief profile from the St. Paul School, Centre de la Petit Enfance, in Quebec, Canada. The results from all of these efforts are promising and have caught the attention of policymakers at many levels. For example, Children’s Aid recently hosted a study visit to P.S. 5 (one of our community schools linking early childhood to elementary education) for several officials from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, including Carmen Nazario, Assistant Secretary for Children and Families. The Early Childhood Challenge grants program represents a major new investment by the Obama Administration, which is recognizing the important connections between early care and education (ECE) and subsequent school success. In fact, the Secretaries of Education and Health and Human Services recently made a joint announcement about the launch of the program—a dramatic and unusual testament to the power of linkages across the developmental stages.
At Children’s Aid, we are aware of the work of some colleagues in other parts of the country who are inventing strategies to solidify the connections between early childhood and elementary education. We are grateful to Dr. Ed Zigler and his team at Yale University for their pioneering Schools of the 21st Century, a well designed and nationally replicated community schools model that exemplifies best practice. We would love to hear about other work on this important topic and urge you to contact us so that we can learn from your successes and innovations.