Schenectady’s reading woes begin at birth, run through Grade 3
There is a heartening flurry of conversation on Schenectady’s early childhood education crisis. We believe the community and its major institutions are ready to take meaningful action to ensure that our children are capable readers by third grade.
There is a lot of great work already in place, but clearly we can and need to do better. The question is, what will be different this time? How do we improve our chances of being successful?
There is a growing body of research that defines the risk-factors associated with early school failure. We know that children in Schenectady are exposed to multiple risk factors resulting in even greater challenges. We can, however, make informed choices that will improve our chances of success.
Our work had led us to the following conclusions:
1) There is a serious third-grade reading problem throughout the county, but the challenges facing poor children living in Schenectady’s high-poverty neighborhoods are at catastrophic levels.
2) We need a cohesive birth-to-third-grade strategy. This requires the involvement of families, communities, physicians, social workers, mental health professionals, child care providers, and schools. No single intervention is likely to produce long-term benefits.
3) There are no simple solutions. To be effective, we need rigorous strategies that engage children and families at a substantial level of intensity and duration.
4) Reading proficiency is not simply a matter of academic skills. School readiness and early school success are significantly impacted by the child’s language development, the ability to attend to task, and to self-regulate behavior.
5) We cannot underestimate the importance of a child’s development from birth to age 3. The vocabulary deprivation experienced by poor children inhibits their cognitive development and reading readiness. By age 3 a poor child will hear about 30 million fewer words in his home environment than a child from a professional family.
6) Quality pre-K programs like Head Start and UPK (Universal Pre-Kindergarten) can play an important part in preparing children for school success. Unfortunately, these programs only reach a relatively small percentage of the children in need. We need to find ways to engage those high-risk children who are not engaged in quality programming.
7) We need to seriously address the problem of summer learning loss for low-income children.
On May 6 we present our research to the League of Women Voters. We are asking the community to commit to three measurable objectives:
u Ensure that children are meeting all developmental milestones by age 3.
u Ensure that our children enter school ready to succeed, including language and cognitive development and healthy social emotional development.
u Ensure that our children are reading proficiently by third grade.
We believe the community is ready. We believe the time is right. We believe we can make a difference.
The writers are professional human services researchers.
Maybe lying didn’t matter to Hillary, but it does to us
Prior to retiring from her post as secretary of state, Hillary Clinton made a dramatic retort to a senator asking her why Americans were told, after our ambassador and three other Americans were murdered, that an anti-Islamic YouTube video was to blame. “What difference, at this point, does it make?” she exclaimed.
Clinton appeared to claim that it does not matter if Americans were lied to in the middle of an election, in which President Obama claimed al-Qaida was “back on their heels” and terrorism was on the wane.
UN Ambassador Susan Rice was on five Sunday TV talk shows, claiming a violent response to the video caused the murders. Obama went to the United Nations two weeks after the 9/11 debacle and still claimed it was the video that caused the murders.
Now a congressional report reveals that contrary to Clinton’s testimony that requests for additional security in Benghazi never reached her, “an April 2012 State Department cable bearing Secretary Clinton’s signature acknowledged then-Ambassador Cretz’s formal request for additional security assets.” It was subsequently ignored.
Was Clinton saying it did not matter that the truth was covered up by an administration that was desperate to re-elect its president? Was she saying that lying for political gain or cover-ups is politics as usual?
Be careful who you report got caught cheating
I point out a subtle and misleading error in Michael Goot’s April 27 article on alleged cheating at UAlbany.
The first paragraph is a single sentence that ends with, “a report that students have paid others to do their work in a computer science class.”
This is patently false; the class is given in the School of Business. (The article does go on to name the class as “Computer Applications in Business.”)
Neil V. Murray
The writer is a professor and chair of the Computer Science Department.
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