Business leaders learn about importance of early education

Monday, April 21, 2014 | 8:27 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — By investing in early childhood education, business leaders can lay the groundwork for creating stronger employees, representatives from the Alliance for Childhood Education told a group of Columbia business leaders Monday.

"Children who start behind, stay behind," alliance President Torree Pederson said. 

For Missourian digital members

The Missourian has previously reported on Title I preschools’ focus on kindergarten readiness.

Business and education leaders gathered Monday afternoon at Columbia College for a seminar called The Business Case for Investing Early. Through presentations and breakout sessions, the speakers from the Alliance for Childhood Education sought to help businesspeople understand problems in early education and how they can invest their businesses into alleviating them.

Alliance founder Tyler Nottberg and Pederson each gave presentations about the work of the alliance, a coalition of business leaders who aim to improve education in Kansas and Missouri.

In his presentation, Nottberg spoke about a crisis in education, saying that nationally, two-thirds of fourth-graders aren't proficient in reading and math.

He said that in Missouri, more than half of 3- and 4-year-olds do not attend pre-K.

Nottberg said he believes problems in the education system aren't local issues, and it will take more than local individuals to solve them. 

"It's a strategic ground war," he said. "It's not a tactical set of things we can do today that's going to change an outcome tomorrow."

In Pederson's presentation, she talked about the science behind why early childhood education is important. She said research shows that achievement gaps exist in basic vocabulary as early as age 2.

"We do have a power to make a change, and it's simple," she said. "Invest early in these children." 

At the end of the seminar, Nottberg, Pederson and alliance vice president Erin Brower led separate breakout sessions focusing on local education needs, the future of education in Columbia and how businesses can promote early childhood education.

Among topics discussed within the smaller groups were communication within the education system, implementing pre-K curriculum aligned with kindergarten readiness and how businesses can edit their core values to promote stable family relationships.

Jack Jensen, executive director of First Chance for Children, was among those who attended the event. 

"I've come to the conclusion that early childhood education is one of the best ways we can make sure we have an educated work force," Jensen said. 

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