Feds embrace comprehensive early learning approach

When it comes to early learning, research has shown that comprehensive programs that combine education, health, nutrition and other social and emotional supports give at-risk children the boost they need to succeed in school. That's the basis for Head Start, of course, and it's why DCPS is now expanding comprehensive early learning to all children in preschool and Pre-K classrooms in Title I schools. As a result, more than double the number of children who received Head Start services last year through DCPS will benefit this year.

The new Pre-K in DCPS is made possible by blending federal Head Start funds with local funds--at no additional cost to D.C. In these tight economic times, it's exactly the kind of smart investment and innovative funding approach that the Obama administration is encouraging more states to adopt. As the fourth state to implement blended funding for Pre-K, D.C. is not only a national leader, but is actually a step ahead of the feds.  

Just yesterday, Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius announced the formation of a new interagency policy board on Early Learning. Naturally, the goal is to promote a more comprehensive approach to early learning to improve outcomes for our youngest and most vulnerable children, and to expand coordination and create efficiencies in terms of data, research, and resources across the two massive departments.

It's no small task. Anytime bureaucracies are forced to change, it's a massive undertaking to sort out new roles and responsibilities and to get buy-in from everyone involved, a process that will necessarily take time and involve a learning curve. But we can all agree that it is a giant step in the right direction, not only for D.C. but for our nation.