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Child Care & After-School Programs

Good Start, Grow Smart Initiative

In his 2002 State of the Union Address, President George W. Bush outlined the next critical step in education reform—the need to prepare children to read and succeed in school with improved Head Start and early childhood development programs. The President's call is built upon themes developed at the 2001 First Lady's Summit on Early Childhood Cognitive Development.

Early childhood, which is the period in a child's life from birth through age 5, is a critical time for children to develop the physical, emotional, social, and cognitive skills they will need for the rest of their lives. These children receive care in a wide variety of settings. While 38 percent receive care solely from their parents, the remaining 62 percent receive care through a variety of arrangements, including care by nonparental relatives, by non relatives, and by center-based programs, including Head Start.

President Bush believes that all children must begin school with an equal chance at achievement so no child is left behind. The Bush Administration has proposed a new early childhood initiative Good Start, Grow Smart to help states and local communities strengthen early learning for young children. This will ensure that young children have the skills they will need to start school ready to learn.

The President's Good Start, Grow Smart initiative addresses three major areas:

  • Strengthening Head Start: Through the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the administration will develop a new accountability system for Head Start to ensure that every Head Start center assesses standards of learning in early literacy, language, and numeracy skills. HHS will also implement a national training program with the goal of teaching the nearly 50,000 Head Start teachers early literacy teaching techniques.
  • Partnering with states to improve early childhood education: The administration proposes a stronger federal-state partnership in the delivery of quality early childhood programs. This new approach will ask states to develop quality criteria for early childhood education, including voluntary guidelines on pre-reading and language skills activities that align with State K-12 standards. To help states meet these criteria, they will have more flexibility with federal child care funds.
  • Providing information to teachers, caregivers and parents: To close the gap between the best research and current practices in early childhood education, the Department of Education will establish a range of partnerships as part of a broad public awareness campaign targeted toward parents, early childhood educators, child care providers, and other interested parties. To assist this effort, the Bush Administration supports an unprecedented $45 million research collaborative between the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the Department of Education to identify effective pre-reading and language curricula and teaching strategies.

NIFA works with the Head Start and Child Care Bureaus at the Department of Health and Human Services, other federal agencies, private organizations, and the Land-Grant University System to bring resources and expertise to this important Presidential Initiative.


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