Age 0 – 3 the focus of achievement gap forum

Goals developed for early childhood interventions, daycare

On March 5, North Minneapolis’ Phyllis Wheatley Community Center hosted Mayor
Betsey Hodges’ Cradle to K Public Forum. Roughly 100 Minneapolis parents and community members gathered to voice concerns and add input to the city’s growing factors that contribute to the Minneapolis achievement gap between students of color and their Caucasian counterparts.

Mayor Betsey Hodges
Mayor Betsey Hodges

Mayor Hodges said that it is all of our responsibility to prepare future “Minneapolitans” to lead the city. Other notable members present included MN Department of Education Director Melvin Carter, Think Small President and CEO Barbara Yates, and Harvest Prep Chief Officer Karen Kelley-Ariwoola.

Following introductions and a complimentary dinner, participants gathered at tables to discuss the following three goals:

  1. All children zero to three will receive a healthy start, rich with early experiences that prepare them for successful early education and literacy.
  2. All children will be stably housed.
  3. All children ages zero to three will have continuous access to high quality child-development-centered care.
Melvin Carter III
Melvin Carter III

Each goal also had follow-up questions to steer dialogue to a “how to accomplish” conversation. Diverse reactions ranged from how to spread the news to financial constraints.

Sitting in on the goal three group, one parent spoke about the how the majority of resources are given to families in desperate need but there is no relief for middle-class families. She spoke on the price of child care and how middle-class families struggle financially paying “more for child care than their own mortgage [or rent] payment.”

Another parent followed up stating that most families can only afford the local neighborhood unlicensed babysitter who isn’t an educator. As a result, children may be socially developed but lack educational development.

One proposed solution for goal three was to put a financial cap on daycare expenses similar to housing that is capped at 30 percent of household income; childcare should be the same or lower. Another parent agreed, stating that such a method would allow everyone to pay their fair share.

“When my children were in daycare,” said another parent, “I never wanted a handout, but I found it stressful that I couldn’t look to any programs to assist me in [providing a quality childcare center] for my child.

Kelley-Ariwoola, of Harvest Prep, led one of the discussions for goal one. She said one of the biggest concerns is that screening children at age three is too late. Speaking from her years of experience, she said that the achievement gap starts early in children. One example is the concept of “word gap.”

In a nutshell, a study out of the University of Kansas found that children plagued by socioeconomic disparities have a weaker vocabulary than their counterparts by age three. Speaking on her own African American culture, Kelly-Ariwoola said, “We ‘talk at’ and ‘talk to’ but rarely ‘talk with’ our children,” which stalls their vocabulary development.

Khymyle Mims welcomes reader response to khymylewrites@gmail.com.