Presidential Action

President Bush today announced a new initiative to improve early childhood education for millions of America\\\’s youngest children. The President\\\’s initiative will:

  • Strengthen Head Start to improve the quality of experiences for young children, including training the nearly 50,000 Head Start teachers in the latest and best techniques;
  • Ensure that pre-school programs are more closely coordinated with state K-12 education goals; and
  • Improve the information available to parents and caregivers about the best practices in early childhood development, including an unprecedented $45 million research effort to identify effective early literacy programs and practices.

Background on Today\\\’s Early Childhood Announcement

In his State of the Union Address, President Bush stressed the need to prepare children to read and succeed in school with improved Head Start and early childhood development programs. These themes built upon the First Lady\\\’s Summit on Early Childhood Cognitive Development, held in July 2001.

The early childhood initiative announced by President Bush seeks to improve the state of early childhood education, where too many children come to school unprepared to learn. Because a significant number of young children receive care from people other than their parents (62% of children age 5 or younger), Federal and state governments provide more than $18 billion annually (more than $14 billion in Federal support alone) to help families – particularly low-income families – provide for pre-K care.

Despite these significant resources, not all children are receiving care that is high-quality care because: 1) many states do not fully align what children are doing before they enter school with what is expected of them once they are in school; 2) early childhood programs are seldom evaluated based on how well they prepare students to succeed in school; and 3) there is not enough information for early childhood teachers, parents, and other child care providers on the activities that prepare children to be successful in school.

President Bush\\\’s early childhood initiative will help states and local communities to overcome these obstacles and strengthen early learning for young children by:

  • Strengthening Head Start: The President has directed the Department of Health and Human Services to implement a new accountability system to ensure that every Head Start center assesses standards of learning in early literacy, language and numeracy skills. HHS will implement a national training project with the goal of training all of the nearly 50,000 Head Start teachers this year in the best pre-reading and language teaching techniques for young children.
  • Partnering with States to Improve Early Childhood Education: To ensure that pre-school activities are aligned with state education goals, the President\\\’s plan asks States to develop quality criteria for early childhood education, including optional guidelines on pre-reading and language skills activities for pre-school age children ages that align with State K-12 standards. To help states meet these criteria, the President\\\’s plan gives states more flexibility with their federal child care funds.
  • Providing Information to Teachers, Caregivers and Parents: In order to close the gap between the best research and current practices in early childhood education, the Department of Education will implement a broad public awareness campaign targeted toward parents, early childhood educators, childcare providers, and other interested parties. Additionally, the President announced an unprecedented $45 million collaborative research initiative between the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the Department of Education to identify effective early literacy programs and teaching strategies.