Lessons from Freedom Summer: Creating Pathways to Early Learning Success

The Supreme Court rendered its historic decision to end de-jure segregation in public schools 60 years ago. Yet, de-facto segregation persists. According to a study conducted by the Brookings Institute, high-performing schools are located in communities with homes costing 2.4 times more than homes in communities with low-performing schools. With strong correlations between low performing schools and discriminatory zoning laws, it is important to note that low performing schools can be eradicated by expanding affordable housing options in all neighborhoods.

In addition, the hallmarks of Freedom Summer, such as federal intervention, innovative teaching methods, and training for local teachers, demonstrate alternative ways in which to improve school performance broadly, and more specifically, the educational experiences of African Americans. For example, Freedom Summer, and more specifically Freedom Schools, inspired the founding of the Child Development Group of Mississippi (CDGM), a non-profit that implemented federally funded early learning programs. CDGM operated 84 head start centers in 24 counties. The organization demonstrated early learning program potential for improving educational outcomes for African-American children while also creating employment opportunities and empowering the poor.

Implementing similar programs today would improve K-12 school performance, increase the number of African-American children who enter kindergarten prepared for future success, and create opportunities for community members to secure employment and nurture our youth. Also, similar programs would fulfill two of President Obama’s goals as articulated in his proclamation for “Creating Ladders of Change.” First, high-quality early learning services would be available to children through partnerships with states to expand their services. Second, the programs would create opportunities for communities to rebuild from the lingering effects of the recession by putting people back to work.

To learn more about what President Obama is currently doing to create pathways to early learning success for all youth, check out The President’s Fiscal Year 2015 Budget Proposal which includes Preschool for All and Preschool Development Grants.

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