Santa Cruz COE News

Inside Education: An Innovative Look at Education in Santa Cruz County Schools

Early Care and Preschool: Why the Early Years Matter!

The 2014-15 school year kicks off the seventh series for the Inside Education Program sponsored by the Santa Cruz County Office of Education and the ten local school districts. This innovative program was created to build awareness and support for public education through “hands on,” interactive seminars in educational settings throughout the county. Participants from the community along with business and civic leaders and educators meet on a monthly basis to discuss the opportunities, current issues and challenges facing schools as they prepare students for the demands of entering college and the work force. The Inside Education group travels by vans throughout the county for an inside look at what is happening in our schools.

two young children playing with colandersCounty Office of Education Superintendent, Michael Watkins welcomed the new cadre on September 17th for the first field trip titled Early Care and Preschool Education, “Why the Early Years Matter”. The group traveled to the Head Start Program located at the Elena Baskin Childcare Center and the Cabrillo College Children’s Center and Lab both located on the Cabrillo College campus to interact with students and staff and children.

Jerri Winner, Director of Education for Head Start, Jean Gallagher-Heil, Chair of Early Childhood Education Department at Cabrillo College, Tricia Pastor-Cross, Program Director for the Cabrillo College Children’s Center and Carole Mulford, Program Manager for Child Development Programs at the Santa Cruz County Office of Education led the group in a lively and interactive discussion and “hands-on” visit that emphasized the latest brain research from the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University regarding the importance of the early years on a child’s learning and development.

Members of the group learned that during the first three years of life, 700 new neural connections form in the brain every second. These years are so crucial; they can literally define the rest of a child’s life. It makes a difference to the child and it matters to all of us.

Here’s why: more than half of U.S. women with children under age three are in the labor force. Six million infants and toddlers spend time in childcare—but high-quality care is scarce and too expensive for many families.

By age two, toddlers in the lowest socioeconomic quintile are behind all other children in measures of cognitive skills and emotional attachment. Unfortunately those early gaps continue and children struggle to catch up. These children go on to struggle in school, requiring additional resources to help them learn. As a result many of these children end up dropping out. Some go into low-wage jobs, where they remain the rest of their lives because they don’t have the skills to advance. Some children get into trouble—and create costs for the criminal justice system (80% of prisoners can’t read past the 4th grade level).

We can prevent spending money in remediation and fixing lives later by investing in high-quality learning experiences for infants and toddlers, including childcare, Early Head Start, Early Intervention and Home Visiting. These Programs are investments that economists say we can’t afford to squander.

Our future is connected to the educational and emotional well-being of all children. When they succeed it’s better for all of us.

For more information about the Inside Education Program please contact Cheryl Brothers at 831-320-3625.

For more information about Child Development Programs, contact Carole Mulford at 831-466-5821.