Florida KIDS COUNT is releasing a series of follow-up pieces to the 2016 KIDS COUNT report. Each of the series asks what it would take to make Florida first in the nation on a variety of measures. The August, 2016 piece covers some of the factors detracting from educational well-being, specifically:
In its call to action, Florida KIDS COUNT recommends developmental screenings and high quality prekindergarten programs for all three- and four-year olds, including higher qualifications and salaries for early childhood caregivers and teachers. Given the rigor of Florida’s standards, it is imperative that students enter kindergarten and first grade academically ready for the school year. This imperative requires the highest quality curriculum and personnel and in the programs that prepare students for the primary grades.
Florida KIDS COUNT also recommends that adoption of policies that encourage and support family engagement in their children’s education, beginning in early childhood and continuing through high school. Families exercise a profound influence on their children’s social and academic achievements. When actively engaged, families improve children’s learning gains and create expectations for performance.
Finally, Florida KIDS COUNT recommends the promotion of mentoring programs that increase youth engagement in academic and technical pursuits. This recommendation calls for teachers and counselors to encourage student success in school so that they attain the diplomas and degrees necessary to be economically self-sufficient as adults.
All of these recommendations have a community component. Families are children’s first teachers. Extended family and friends can support a child’s learning through simple interactions. Family and their friends who show an interest in what a child is learning and how she is progressing let children know that adults value education and give weight to its importance. High school students who do not see the point of school or feel alienated from it can frequently be reached by teachers or counselors who take a direct, personal interest in them. This role can also be filled by mentors who see the student frequently and articulate high expectations for the student.
In short, the commonality among the recommendations is the need for a variety of adults to step up and make sound decisions on behalf of kids, from state-level policymakers to parents. When you add extended family and a caring, vigilant community, children have the best chance of thriving in school. Children who thrive in school have must better odds of thriving as adults. Their thriving benefits us all.