Fred Rogers Center at the 2013 Clinton Global Initiative America

“If we don’t apply what we know to helping our kids…are we really going to be able to attain the American dream?”  With these words, Hillary Clinton set the theme of personal commitment to quality early childhood education at this year’s Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) America conference.

Through her Too Small to Fail partnership with Next Generation, Clinton’s leadership and engagement go far in advancing awareness of and the potential for real progress in early childhood research and advocacy, including:

  • Building on the science of early brain development,
  • Providing families with the information and tools they need to optimize learning and development for their young children, and
  • Acknowledging the importance of early learning and early health from birth through age 5.

In addition to attending plenary panel discussions that spanned a wide variety of topics, nearly 80 of us spent time in discussions as part of the early childhood education working group.  Under the leadership of Lisa Guernsey from the New America Foundation and Jacqueline Jones, formerly with the U.S. Department of Education Office of Early Learning, leaders from nonprofit, corporate, academic, government, and advocacy groups identified key issues and committed to action.

And what an amazing collection of ideas for action resulted.  Over the coming weeks, organizations indicated plans to follow up for further discussion of ideas including:

  • Innovative financing for early childhood programs,
  • Mapping early childhood community systems for coordinated delivery of resources,
  • Using mobile technology and social networking tools to deliver information to parents, and
  • Creating a national system of “digital badges” to recognize and create incentives for early childhood professional development.

In addition, I met with members of the Alliance for Early Learning in a Digital Age, a partnership among the Fred Rogers Center at Saint Vincent College, the TEC Center at Erikson Institute, the Ounce of Prevention Fund, PBS, Sesame Workshop, and the Joan Ganz Cooney Center.

The purpose of our Alliance is to optimize the potential of digital media as important tools for quality early learning and school readiness.  We’ll be focusing on four points of action:

  • Compiling and communicating research on what we know, and building a new research agenda, regarding the use and impact of digital media and technology in early learning and development;
  • Inspiring and driving research-based innovation in digital media for learning;
  • Engaging and supporting families in their choices of whether and how to use digital media;
  • Empowering educators to integrate digital media and technology creatively, appropriately, and equitably.

Our six organizations are committed to collectively apply our unique resources and networks to make progress in these four areas.  We will work closely with and showcase Pittsburgh and Chicago as early learning innovation hubs, where digital and nondigital resources are intentionally and creatively integrated to link quality learning in formal and informal settings.

The momentum coming out of CGI America, combined with the early learning initiatives of President Obama’s administration, are built on the dedication and hard work over the years by tens of thousands of early childhood professionals, advocates, corporations, policymakers, program developers, and funders.  Most important, they dedicate influence and resources for making an important move toward ensuring the opportunity to dream, and to succeed, for all U.S. children.

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