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Governors Group Urges Focus on Early Math Learning

Governors should take steps to improve early-childhood mathematics education, including raising the bar for states' early-learning guidelines and promoting changes in teacher-preparation programs, according to a recent paper by the National Governors Association

The paper points to 2009 research by the National Research Council showing that early math learning is critical for long-term academic success and yet often neglected. It also mentions research by Douglas H. Clements, a professor at the State University of New York College at Buffalo, finding that teachers tend to underestimate how much math young students can learn. 

"A child's math ability when he or she enters school has proved a better predictor of academic achievement, high school graduation, and college attendance than any other early childhood skill," the NGA paper states. 

The report recommends governors:

  • "Use the 'bully pulpit'" to advocate for the importance of early math learning;
  • Review their states' early-learning guidelines and align them to state standards' further in the education pipeline (i.e., the Common Core State Standards in many states);
  • And support policies that strengthen professional development and up the requirements for pre-service early-childhood and elementary teachers. 

According to the report, the actions recommended "require no or minimal new state funding."

Many governors have pushed policies that require students to be retained if they don't demonstrate reading proficiency by the end of 3rd grade. South Carolina recently implemented such a law, while Oklahoma recently repealed one. The NGA paper also suggests governors embed messages "about the importance of early mathematics into existing policy priorities," such as those concerning early-childhood literacy.

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