BEST SOUTHWEST – While College and Career Readiness and STEM programs are a heavily promoted feature of most school districts, many are now shifting more attention and resources toward Early Childhood Education.
Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson has united a few school districts within District 30 to host a free Early Childhood Education Summit on Saturday, March 21 at DeSoto High School from 8:30 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. Everyone is invited to attend—especially parents of young students.
This summit — Embracing the Vision for Early Childhood Education — includes participants from her district including parents and staff from six public school systems — Cedar Hill, Dallas, DeSoto, Duncanville, Grand Prairie and Lancaster; Head Start programs; daycare providers; pediatric and medical professionals; education advocates and many more who wish to be part of the movement.
Retired State Board of Education Member Mavis Knight serves as the event coordinator, and through her work with the Coalition for an Accountable System of Education (CASE), she has worked to outline the summit and its purpose.
“The purpose of the District 30 Early Childhood Education Summit is to begin a dialogue in Congressional District 30 about creating collaborations to support the learning of children ages 0 through 3 and beyond,” she said. “Parents, educators, administrators, Head Start personnel, daycare providers, Higher Education personnel, medical professionals and other interested parties will provide the feedback that translates dialog into an action plan.”
The summit agenda includes a national overview by Dr. Libby Doggett, Deputy Assistant Secretary for the U.S. Department of Education, and Dr. Nolan Estes, consultant with the Coalition for an Accountable System of Education (CASE); a cross-section reaction panel; breakout sessions for all participants to engage; and a closing session report out of findings.
Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson conceived the idea of an Early Childhood Education Summit as a follow-up to a meeting she hosted with the superintendents in
Congressional District 30 and Dr. Libby Doggett.
Dr. David Harris, Superintendent of DeSoto ISD, said that this event demonstrates the need for districts to be collaborative when faced with an enormous need that affects all school districts.
“This summit will set a tone for upcoming discussions in Austin concerning Early Childhood Education,” he said. “If we are to continue making strides and advancements in education, we must begin with our younger students first. The summit will send a message that we are focused and ready to defend the need for change.”
Harris noted that such an education is not an option, but simply a right.
“I would like to see all students given an opportunity for Early Childhood Education, regardless of economic status or other factors that sometimes are barriers to access,” he said.”
Many districts in the Best Southwest have already began to implement Early Childhood programs as they recognize the growing need.
“We understand that the academic achievement gap for some students starts long before they enter kindergarten,” Dr. Helena Mosely Lancaster ISD Assistant Superintendent of Achievement and Early Childhood said. “Research shows that some children enter kindergarten performing, on average, 12 to 14 months behind their more affluent peers in pre-reading and language skills. With a high-quality early childhood education, a child’s mind works faster, makes more connections, and is ultimately better prepared for kindergarten.”
Knight said that the summit provides an opportunity for the community and other attendees to learn about high-quality Early Childhood Education programs and identify challenges and opportunities in establishing and maintaining high-quality Early Childhood Education programs.
“In addition, we will identify best practices in preparing students to read on grade level by third grade and share parent and community engagement best practices,” she said. “At the end, we hope to form a collaborative partnership among the District 30 superintendents and other entities to develop and implement both short and long-term strategic plans specifically addressing issues identified by summit participants.”
Cedar Hill ISD Superintendent Orlando Riddick said that it is going to take the partnership of the parents, care providers, doctors and legislators to make an impactful change in the landscape of early childhood education in District 30.
“This summit is important for our community as we prepare the next generation of learners that will be entering our school buildings,” he said. “I jumped at the opportunity to become a part of such a strong educational commitment by our outstanding peers. We look forward to becoming part of a renewed commitment to our youngest learners that brings heightened visibility and increased partnerships to our district and others.”
While district leaders are looking forward to the upcoming summit, they plan to continue the work and conversation that have started as a result of uniting.
“We are also planning to develop an early childhood consortium that will rewrite a blueprint for Early Childhood Education,” Harris said. “This summit is just the beginning of something great.”
This summit is a free is open to everyone. All participants are encouraged to pre-register online at www.ecesummit.org by Friday, March 13.