Early learning summit
Requested by president, event highlights progress
Washington Department of Early Learning. (Photos by Julie Titone, College of Education)
About the WSU coalition
The mission of WSU's Early Learning Coalition is to develop and administer educational programs and research-based services that advance healthy and happy whole-child development from conception to classroom.
Coalition members include faculty, researchers and program leaders with expertise and experience in child and community care, communication, distance programs, education, extension, gift giving, research development, health professions, human development, liberal arts, sciences, multicultural issues and children with special needs.
For more information, visit http://earlylearning.wsu.edu
Professor Lindsay Chase-Lansdale of Northwestern University credited the rapid change to cooperation between federal agencies, congressional support, improved communication networks, and media attention to advances in brain science.
“There have been extraordinary accomplishments toward improving the life chances of our children,” said Chase-Lansdale, who foresees all-day public schools for children ages 3 and 4 - a prediction supported by recent action by the Washington Legislature.
The summit, which included an address by Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire, was organized by WSU's Early Learning Coalition at the request President Elson S. Floyd. Its 70 attendees included 20 WSU researchers, administrators and staff, plus leaders from state agencies and private foundations.
Arlene Hett, director of the School and Community Collaboration Center in the WSU College of Education and chair of the coalition, said the summit built connections among leaders in philanthropy and public policy and introduced them to research being done at WSU.
Major points of discussion included:
• Legislative support for early learning. Rep. Ruth Kagi said that, despite the budget crisis, this spring lawmakers passed a law entitling Washington 3- and 4-year-olds to educational programs.
“It doesn’t kick in until 2018, but this is too important for us to ignore, even though we cannot pour millions of dollars into it this year,” Kagi said.
• Child mental health.
“The biggest question I get is how to help kids with behavioral needs,” said Bette Hyde, director of the Washington Department of Early Learning.
• Teacher education. In a panel discussion featuring early learning experts, Nina Auerbach, director of Thrive by Five, called for better preparation for early learning teachers.
“We still hear that classes aren’t accessible, classes fill too fast, and sometimes classes don’t meet the needs of early learning professionals,” she said.
WSU offers elementary school teacher preparation through its Department of Teaching and Learning and preschool teacher preparation through the Department of Human Development.
|Floyd addresses group.|
Floyd rejected the traditional "blame game" in which college faculty blame poor student performance on high school faculty, who blame middle school teachers and so on. Educators must work together at all levels, and communities and parents must be involved in order to create a system that supports learners at all phases of their education, he said.
He drew on his own childhood to highlight the value of community support.
"If I didn't perform well in school, my parents - who did not have a phone - knew about it before I got home," he said.
Hett said the summit, which was two years in the making, would not have happened without Floyd’s support. Among those attending were Dan Bernardo, dean of the College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences, and Phyllis Erdman, interim dean of the College of Education.
Researchers who participated were professor Erica Austin, graduate assistant Connie Beecher, associate professor Brenda Boyd, associate professor Maria Gartstein, assistant professor Ella Inglebret, assistant professor Jane Lanigan, assistant professor Jared Lisonbee, associate professor emeritus Paulie Mills, assistant professor Patricia Pendry, professor Karen Peterson, senior instructor Mary Wandschneider, and associate professor Nicole Werner.