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Bush: Early Childhood Learning Essential to Later Academic Success

President Bush wants to improve pre-school education for American children from low-income families. He is focusing on teacher training and greater accountability for early learning programs.

The president's plan would strengthen the federal pre-school program known as Head Start which provides early learning lessons for children from low-income families.

He wants to boost training for Head Start teachers while making states more responsible for ensuring that the program's pre-school learning goals more closely follow the curriculum those children will face in kindergarten.

The president's plan gives states more flexibility in using federal funds for children who are below school age. In turn, states will have to develop quality criteria for early childhood education including guidelines on pre-reading and language skills.

Mr. Bush says there is often not enough information for early childhood teachers and parents to help prepare their children for school. He wants tougher monitoring for Head Start programs to determine how well they prepare students to succeed.

"We know what works," he said. "We want to measure the input. We want to say that in return for federal-taxpayer's help, we expect you to be providing the foundations for reading and math."

In a speech to teachers, students and parents in the state of Pennsylvania, Mr. Bush says he is asking Congress for $45 million in research funding to identify more effective early literacy programs. He emphasized there is a strong correlation between children who know their letters in kindergarten and those who read well in the tenth grade.

"A child who cannot identify the letters of the alphabet in his or her first year of school runs a real risk of staying behind in school throughout her or his career," he said. "We cannot accept this in America. To close the achievement gap on our schools, we must close the early childhood education gap in our society."

Under the president's plan, the department of Health and Human Services will soon start a national training project to reach all of the nearly 50,000 Head Start teachers with the best in pre-reading and language teaching techniques for young children.