Early childhood education critical for our workforce

Thank you for your editorial on the new Illinois State Board of Education data regarding kindergartners' readiness for school ("Our View: KIDS survey should be launching pad for change", July 12).

As you note, this new report “turns a spotlight on what is happening with our children in the all-important formative years of their social and educational development.” I agree, and would add that such development is critical not only to helping children prepare for success in school, but even later, in the jobs and careers they’ll assume.

Among other things, the new ISBE figures show that, of the Illinois kindergartners who were assessed by their teachers last fall, about two out of three were starting school without the early math skills they really need. More than half lacked essential early language and literacy abilities.

While the elementary through high school years can help many students to overcome those deficits, plenty of others will fall further behind – until they’re one day applying for jobs that depend on a grasp of those very skills they lack. As research indicates, it’s important to swim upstream of these challenges as best as possible. High-quality early learning efforts can help to shape essential skills early in children’s lives, when it’s most achievable and cost-effective.

That’s why I join other members of the ReadyNation network of business leaders in applauding greater state investments that have been made in preschool, child care, and other important early childhood initiatives.

Your editorial concluded that “we need to do much better and we need to start immediately,” with better resources for kids both inside and outside the classroom. Doing so means treating such supports as the essential workforce development imperative that studies show they really are: a launching pad for positive change.

Note to readers: Kris Noble is executive director of the Sauk Valley Area Chamber of Commerce.