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CNCS Programs Improve Early Childhood Education

by Greg Tucker

In his State of the Union address, President Obama vowed to “make high-quality preschool available to every single child in America,” and he traveled to Georgia today to discuss the need for early childhood education. Improving education is a priority at the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) that we support through proven national service efforts that make a difference in the lives of millions of students.

Like the President, we know that the foundation for future success is laid early in life, and children can quickly fall behind if they are not prepared when they begin formal schooling. The consequences of ignoring early preparation linger throughout life, resulting in behavioral issues and reduced earning potential.

CNCS programs through AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, and the Social Innovation Fund are working across the country to help at-risk children avoid this fate. Our programs reach more than 3 million disadvantaged youths, keeping them engaged in education and improving academic achievement.

Starting Early

The importance of early education cannot be overstated. Studies have shown that students not reading at grade level by the time they reach the third grade will have difficulty keeping pace with their classmates. Many of our AmeriCorps and Senior Corps programs are working to keep children on the path that leads to educational success.

  • The Minnesota Reading Corps, an AmeriCorps program, uses 750 trained tutors in 500 Head Start centers, preschools and schools across the state to serve children age 3 to grade three to improve their literacy skills. Corps members monitor students' progress and work to prevent any who are struggling from falling through the cracks.
  • Jumpstart, a nationwide early education organization, has 300 Corps members working on language and literacy skills with more than 700 preschool children living in low-income neighborhoods in and around Washington, DC. The program currently has 4,300 Corps members serving 11,000 children across the country.
  • Through Senior Corps, our Foster Grandparents Program provides support and tutoring assistance in schools and childcare centers nationwide. At Georgia's Moody Air Force Base Child Development Center, nine Foster Grandparents volunteer to ensure that the children remain on track developmentally and academically, and continue to develop age-appropriate skills. These volunteers continue to serve the children while their parents are deployed.

Supporting Innovation

Early childhood literacy is the focus of several grantees of the Social Innovation Fund (SIF), which supports nonprofits creating innovative, evidence-based programs with strong track records of performance. The SIF requires that each federal dollar granted be matched dollar-for-dollar by the grant makers and again by the nonprofit organizations they select for grants, leveraging the federal investment multiple times for greater impact.

  • The STRIVE Alliance in partnership with the Greater Twin Cities United Way is working to improve kindergarten readiness and third grade reading proficiency in Minneapolis.
  • The Capital Area United Way is engaged in an effort to improve school readiness in the Greater Baton Rouge area by initiatives to increase parental engagement and access to quality child care and preschools.
  • The GreenLight Fund targets low-income children and youth to close the achievement and opportunity gap in Boston, Philadelphia, and the San Francisco Bay area.

When it comes to early childhood education, we can pay now or we can pay later. The best way we can help our children is to build a solid foundation today to ensure that they will be prepared for the challenges they will face tomorrow.

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