All four panelists at the LWV's April 16, 2014, forum answered the above questions in the hopeful affirmative. Chris Vogel, co-chair of the LWVOR Children at Risk update committee, organized the forum and served as moderator.
Janet Carlson, Marion County Commissioner, said that the goal of Oregon's Early Learning effort is to contribute to create a seamless public education system--from birth through higher education--that delivers better results for students, more resources for teachers and more accountability for taxpayers. There are many services available, but there hasn't been a system. Each Hub is to create a local system integrated into a state network.
Chuck Ransom, Superintendent of Woodburn ISD and an Early Learning Hub (ELH) Board member, said that Woodburn has 80% of students living in poverty as well as a high number speaking Spanish as their first language. The school district recognized some years ago that literacy is a cognitive process, so they teach the children to identify letters and sounds in their first language (whether English or Spanish); that knowledge then transfers to a second language. Spanish-speakers become proficient in English by 5th grade. Woodburn has funded full-day kindergarten for several years. Oregon will fund full-day kindergarten statewide beginning in 2015-16.
Veridiana Pozos is a counsellor who teaches parents one-on-one how to be nurturing and provide structure and security for their children. For example, she teaches parents how to touch their children lovingly, how to play with them, how to listen to them. Her goal is to increase the parent's and child's enjoyment of each other because everything in a child's environment affects a child's brain either positively or negatively.
Margie Lowe, Chief Performance Officer, Early Learning Hub, Inc., of Marion County, said that over $120 million is spent annually on young children in Marion County, but not all of that has been effective. She handed out the results of last fall's evaluations of kindergarten students; it looked at Approaches to Learning (can the child follow instructions, delay gratification, etc.) as well as how many letter names and letter sounds the child knows and early math ability. The ELH is applying for grants, but one low-cost project is a kindergarten-ready tool kit to be mailed to the family of each pre-kindergarten child that has suggestions in the family's first language of how to help their child prepare for kindergarten. Medical clinics hand out free children's books and urge parents to read to their children.