A r c h i v e d  I n f o r m a t i o n

Bridging the Gap Between Head Start and the Public Schools

2nd Annual Head Start Transition Conference

Washington, D.C.

August 7, 1998

Presented by

Mary Jean LeTendre, Director

Compensatory Education Programs

U.S. Department of Education

Our host for this conference, the National Head Start Association, asked me to speak this morning about "Bridging the Gap between Head Start and the Public Schools." This is such an important issue not just for Head Start and the public schools but for all early care and education programs and schools.

The sincerity of our efforts, the depths of our efforts to "Bridge the Gap," may well determine the future success or failure of many of our nation's children.

This bridge looks so long and the water so deep and that is how it has been for many children and their families. But today I am going to discuss with you factual findings and research data that will help to move us forward in the right direction.

1997 was indeed a year to mark in our nation's history for our youngest learners. The media exploded on the scene with powerful images of that which many of us who are parents and who have also committed our professional lives to young children have known all along -- that stimulating brain development in children's earliest years, even before birth, is crucial to their success in life.

We were pleased to see the White House sponsor two conferences -- one on brain development and one on the importance of high-quality child care and early learning experiences for our youngest children.

We were also pleased to co-sponsor another brain development and early learning conference --that brought early childhood educators and neuroscientists together to talk about this new research and how we can use it to help children develop language and literacy.

And why should we as a nation be so concerned about this news? I believe it goes to the very foundation of our country --

"We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal... That they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights -- And that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

In writing these most famous lines, our forefathers were making a promise to the American people that we are still striving to keep today. For in order for men to be truly free and savor the benefits of liberty -- I deeply believe education MUST be listed among those certain inalienable rights. A high quality education is the right of all Americans and we must help those most in need get their fair share of educational opportunities. If we are to be the protectors of our children's inalienable rights -- and we MUST -- then you and I must seize the unprecedented opportunties that are now before us to change the course of young children's lives.

We cannot afford to leave one child behind. Think about the consequences:

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