From the Chair - February 18, 2011

After a year of careful planning, the Governor's Texas Early Learning Council has begun implementing a variety of strategies intended to improve the school readiness of our youngest citizens. Some have called our plans ambitious; some have called them impressive; some have called them unrealistic. Regardless, the Council has been very deliberate and intentional to ensure that we use the resources and talents provided to us to meet important needs in our communities, our schools and centers, our homes, and within the various systems that regularly impact families and children.

Whether we serve homeless children, children whose parents are active duty military, highly mobile migrant children, children learning a second language, or children in poor neighborhoods, ALL of them are capable of arriving at kindergarten or first grade ready for school and for success. I make this point to highlight several realities. Despite the challenges and potholes associated with trying to change early childhood education thinking, cultures, and practices, and, in some cases, deal with turbulent conflict as it arises based on philosophical differences regarding what children should learn, there are many examples of high-quality programs and highly effective teachers and leaders who are succeeding in the work that they do. All of us, if we are to be serious about school readiness, must unequivocally commit to restructuring our own thinking, the various ways of "doing the business" of early childhood education among our various settings, including public schools, Head Start, and the mixed, rich tapestry of settings that make up community-based child care. In addition, we need to be serious about systems change-about improving the ways that we talk to each other about early childhood education, how we collaborate, and most importantly, how we leverage research, resources, and best practices in order to provide children with open doors and expanded possibilities.

As a Council, we have been charged with some serious work. Over the next three years and beyond, we will be forging new partnerships and working smartly to drive change in four broad domains: (1) Assessing the needs of communities throughout the state and communicating strategies to parents and families regarding ways by which they can stimulate their children's development; (2) Building a seamless early childhood professional development system that provides clear pathways for growth and career goal realization of early childhood workers while, at the same time supports effective teaching and learning in the classroom; (3) Enhancing collaborations across our systems and communities, testing innovative approaches, and developing integrated and linked early learning guidelines from infancy through school entry; and (4) Building and implementing an integrated early childhood data system that will allow us to drive systematic quality improvements across sectors.

With your help, I believe that we have the opportunity to create significant improvements to the many ways that we go about the work of early childhood education and care, and I invite you to partner with the Council to ensure that your experiences, thoughts, and questions help us to make smart choices.

John W. Gasko, Ph.D.

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