I'm still waiting for this to materialize. President Obama stated here (and here as a video excerpt), that he would create such a council in order combat the growing number of students (especially those coming from low income homes) who are not ready on grade level by Fourth Grade. This Kids Count study shows that the degrading level of student proficiency in literacy by this time in children's academic career is one of many crucial concerns for children from birth to age eight. Where's the initiative though on this aspect?
I'm hoping that he puts this together because "launching a children's first agenda" is going to take more than a few years. Using this council to coordinate all of his ideas about improving early childhood forces him to wade into a very disjointed arena that takes a number of stakeholders and blending of philosophies.
First, Obama has to deal with the fractured system made up of child care, Head Start, public school prekindergarten, Kindergarten, and primary school learning. Head Start (the Federal side) has its own philosophies and standards. Child care (often the domain of state social services divisions) has its own set of philosopies, licensure standards, and approaches. Kindergarten and primary school (often the domain of state departments of education) have their own accountability, standards, and philosophies. Somewhere in there, public school kindergarten is caught bouncing from social services accountability to educational accountability. This first charge of the council is to bring these desparete areas under one mission.
Second, the President must work on establishing a proper career ladder for early childhood professionals who often enter the field as teacher assistants and ascend to the level of teachers, directors, and teacher educators. The system is non-existent in a universal sense. prospective teachers who are teacher assistants often have trouble getting their CDA's to translate into community college early childhood degree credits which consequently are looked on with suspicion by four year colleges. The Presidential Council needs to tackle this part so that early childhood can be assured of having enough QUALITY professionals to have the ability to take on the challenge fo finding solutions to improve learning and developmental outcomes for EACH CHILD as our President wants.
Third,...a big one: the President must use some serious elbow grease and develop a vigorous Council that will push, push, and push more for Congress to stablize and increase funding on several early childhood-related initiatives: The Child Cared Development Blog Grants (CCDBG) program, Head Start, Early Head Start (which he alluded to trying to tackle toward the front end of his ECE agenda), early childhood nutrition policy, and child health care policies. If you have ambitious plans that are so vital to the future of our country in competing with other nations, a substantial dollar investment in the right places must be made from the very top.
Is the Presidential Council up to the challenge. We'll find out once the President gets around to creating it...which I'm optimistic he will. I just hope it's not too little too late.