By Craig Ramey and Sharon Ramey
School Readiness and School Achievement
“School readiness” and school achievement are at the forefront of our country’s domestic agenda. How can we help all of America’s children to truly succeed in school and in life? A well-educated citizenry is vital to the future of our country as a democracy and as a productive, caring, and economically strong nation. Unprecedented numbers of children start public kindergarten with major delays in language and basic academic skills. Children with these significant delays attend school in every state; they are not concentrated in only a few large urban school districts. Waiting until these children “fail” and then providing remedial, pull-out, or compensatory programs, or requiring them to repeat grades does not help these children to catch-up and then achieve at grade- level. Instead, the scientific evidence affirms that children who do not have positive early transitions to school – that is, those children who have early failure experiences in school – are those most likely to become inattentive, disruptive, or withdrawn; later, these same students are the most likely to drop out of school early; to engage in irresponsible, dangerous, and illegal behaviors; to become teen parents; and to depend on welfare and numerous public assistance programs for survival. What can be done to end this predictable decline?
There is compelling scientific evidence that this negative cascade can be prevented. The prevention of school failure, and the promotion of children’s cognitive and social-emotional development, cannot wait until kindergarten or until children show signs of developmental delay. Rather, the commitment to improving K through 12 achievement must begin with providing children in the pre-K years with a rich array of effective learning opportunities.