Last week I got so busy with herding cats I neglected to report what I was and am up to:
Most of last week was focused on building consensus on how to treat our youngest in terms of child care, Headstart and early childhood education. This included my gathering willing experts in these fields from the Department of Public Instruction, Child Care Resource and Referral and various day care providers. Meeting together, we crafted bills to help each other with these three areas which have expressed critical needs across our state. Child care facilities are finding it difficult to stay open in the atch due to lack of staff retention (one large provider turned its staff over entirely last year – not once but twice!) and along with Head Start programs, have waiting lists of two years or more. Head Start, which serves our neediest children, serves approximately one third of those that qualify.
The Common Core, a program being adopted by our schools across the nation, pushes expectations for our children down the line to the point where much of what is now expected of Kindergarten can be depicted as developmentally inappropriate. While this is a point of debate, there can be no denying that many entering Kindergarten in North Dakota are unprepared for these expectations. Many can hold a pencil or color crayon, but too many have never been shown. Some certainly have been read to by their parents and most can take care of themselves in the bathroom. But as someone married to a Kindergarten teacher, I can tell you that many cannot. That is the world we want, but it is the world we live in. One school district from District 20 (but not MayPort CG), reported that this year a 5 year old came in to school not knowing if they were a boy or a girl.
The evidence of what has happened in the last four years since Kindergarten has gone largely to full day, every day is in and according to Kirsten Baesler, our new Superintendent of Public Instruction, the academic gains have been huge. The goal is to have students ready for this new age of pressing expectations so that they can have a good attitude towards school. We all know that is of the utmost importance if we want as many of our children to succeed in life all the way down the line.
It was a great pleasure to see my sophomores from MayPort CG come to the Legislature. We had an audience in the Supreme Court chambers with a brief hello from our Chief Justice and a presentation from Justice Daniel Crothers. We also had some students visit Tax Commissioner Cory Fong, a photo with Supt. Baesler and got about 30 students on the floor between the House and Senate. District 20 teachers, please continue to get those students to the Capital if at all possible!