Early childhood education was prominently featured throughout NBC News’ third annual Education Nation Summit, which took place from Sunday, Sept. 23, through Tuesday, Sept. 25, at the New York Public Library. As a proud supporter of Education Nation, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation trained the spotlight on the importance of the prenatal-to-8 years by helping to bring leaders and experts in the field to take part in the summit.
A major component of this year’s Education Nation was its focus on 10 interactive case studies of innovative education solutions, produced with the assistance of WKKF grantee The Hechinger Report. A case study on grantee Logan Square Neighborhood Association looked into parent and community engagement and the impact of poverty on children and families and a WKKF-sponsored case study featured grantee Educare and showcased the incredible return on investments and impact of high-quality early education. In conjunction with the summit, WKKF also released a new infographic at Education Nation, “Educated Kids can be GR8by8” which highlighted the power of early learning.
The first day of the 2012 Summit began with Education Nation’s first-ever Student Town Hall, during which a video from grantee Kids Rethink New Orleans Schools was broadcast on MSNBC. In addition to hearing students’ ideas of education solutions, the town hall featured a discussion with Ernest Green, one of the Little Rock Nine, who commented, “schools are more segregated now than they were in 1957.”
NBC News’ Brian Williams then moderated a Teacher Town Hall, which included more than 300 teachers from around the country, including two teachers from the University of Florida’s Lastinger Center for Learning. During the evening, discussions around parent engagement were the focus of the premiere of the new education film, “Won’t Back Down.”
Day two of the summit opened with remarks from New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who announced that Educare would be coming to New York City. Throughout the day, NBC examined and discussed the case studies on education solutions, beginning with a panel featuring Geoffrey Canada of grantee Harlem Children’s Zone and San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro discussing grantee Logan Square Neighborhood Association. Castro spoke strongly in support of early childhood education, arguing that we need to “shift the education ecosystem” to focus on the early years of a child’s life.
Other case studies included a focus on Wells Academy in Steubenville, Ohio, which partnered with grantee Success for All to improve student achievement. A panel moderated by Chelsea Clinton discussed how collaboration could improve early literacy, which included remarks by the president and CEO of grantee America’s Promise Alliance, and NBC also took a look into community schools and wraparound services provided in Cincinnati.
WKKF Vice President for Program Strategy Carla Thompson introduced a high-profile discussion called “True Grit, Can You Teach Children Character?” It featured New York Times columnist David Brooks and author Paul Tough and an interactive presentation by professors Carol Dweck and Angela Duckworth on how mindset and grit can help students learn and achieve.
WKKF’s case study featuring grantee Educare was introduced by President and CEO Sterling Speirn, who called for a focus on the prenatal-to-8 years for education reform saying “the future of our nation depends on us launching the early childhood revolution” and discussed grit in the early years, saying “it’s not just about the brain, or the mind, but it’s really about their hearts and souls.” A panel discussion on Educare and the importance of early childhood education featured Diane Mendley Rauner, the president of grantee the Ounce of Prevention Fund; Jenny Kerby, a master teacher from Educare of Omaha; and Dennis Walcott, the chancellor of the New York City Department of Education. During the panel, Rauner called early childhood education “the solution to education in general” and the panelists highlighted the powerful impacts of Educare on low-income students’ lives. On Monday, Oct. 8 NBC’s “Today” show aired a segment on Educare, giving viewers across the country an opportunity to learn about the network’s bold approach to early learning.
The final day of Education Nation centered around the presidential candidates’ views on education, featuring a taped interview with President Barack Obama and a live appearance by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. NBC News also shared one of its final case studies on dual-language programs and child development, which included a panel with Rick Noriega, the president and CEO of grantee AVANCE.
In a wide-ranging taped interview with TODAY’s Savannah Guthrie, President Obama highlighted early childhood education as making a “big difference – particularly for kids who are low-income” and discussed his goals to continue focusing on early learning, hire 100,000 science, math, engineering and technology teachers, and improve low-performing schools.
Later, in a live address and interview with Brian Williams, Mitt Romney discussed his education plan, which focused on school choice, connecting federal funding directly to students and grading schools to help parents. In response to questions on early childhood education and poverty, Romney said that the “involvement of parents … is an enormous advantage for the child” and “I also don’t think there’s any substitute for the home.” The summit concluded with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and three former secretaries of education, who also promoted the need to invest early for long-term benefits.
To get more information and watch other highlights visit Education Nation.