As the mother of a four-year old, it’s easy for me to get passionate about the quality of education in the United States. Most of the parental chatter at the playground revolves around finding childcare, deciding whether to go public or private, and wondering if our kids will have teachers who inspire them to new levels of curiosity and insight. But it wasn’t until we started a research project on the effects of concentrated poverty that it hit home how central schools are to our work in community development. In poor communities across the country, students are not getting the opportunity to learn the skills they need to succeed in today’s labor market, often perpetuating the intergenerational and neighborhood poverty we are trying to address in our work.
In this issue of Community Investments, we’ve brought together articles from scholars and practitioners who are no less passionate about ensuring that all kids have access to high quality education. The issue devotes considerable space to the topic of early childhood education. Research has shown that programs to support early childhood development, such as publicly-funded preschool for low-income children, generate important life-long benefits and are well worth their up-front costs. We’re especially honored to highlight the work of Arthur Rolnick and Rob Grunewald from the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
We also devote a separate section to the links between schools and community development and explore how those of us in community development can think about schools as important partners in our work. We interview Professor Mark Warren of Harvard University, who has studied how neighborhood schools can help to build strong communities.
Professor Deborah McKoy describes an innovative program at UC Berkeley that turns youth and education into an integral part of urban planning efforts. If you want to be inspired, read Principal Deb Drysdale-Elias’s essay on the changes that have happened in Yuma, Arizona. And take a look at the new County Bank branch in Fresno—it’s in a high school!
We see this issue as a first step towards understanding how to build stronger links between community development efforts and educational reform. Let us know if you have examples of innovative efforts in your community—we’d love to share them.