Meet VCPC on TV

I was delighted to join Frank Perotti and Diana Langston recently on Live at 5:25 to talk about the Vermont Community Preschool Collaborative (VCPC). We talked about the vision of bringing universal, quality Pre-K to every child in Vermont, why the Permanent Fund believes this is such a critical effort, and exactly how VCPC helps school districts like Springfield, where Frank was formerly superintendent — and Burlington, where Diana heads a robust preschool program — partner with high quality local childcare providers.

For those interested in finding out more about how VCPC can help your community, there is a contact form on our website for school districts, providers, and parents.

You can watch the 30-minute program on TV through August, or you can view it here.

Airtime Schedule

*WATCH ON TV : * You can watch this program on Channel 17/ Town Meeting Television, on Comcast Cable and Burlington Telecom at the following times:

  • Tuesday July 30, 5:25 PM
  • Wednesday July 31, 7:00 PM
  • Sunday August  4, 4:30 PM
  • Monday August  5, 4:00 PM
  • Friday August  9, 4:30 PM
  • Sunday August 11, 4:00 PM
  • Friday August 16, 3:00 PM
  • Sunday August 18, 5:30 PM
  • Tuesday August 20, 1:00 PM


Vermont Governor Announces $400,000 Grant in Pre-K Funding

I’ve found that the states that are doing the most for early childhood education—think Arizona, Georgia, North Carolina, Oklahoma —are the ones that began with the most supportive governors. These governors made advancing the quality and availability of early childhood care and education a priority during their tenures—and they have gotten things done. In Vermont, Governor Shumlin signaled his support for improving early childhood education by dedicating his entire inaugural address to education.

Recently, the Governor gave the early childhood community yet another signal. For the first time ever, the State of Vermont stepped forward with a $400,000 grant to the Permanent Fund to help fund the work of the Vermont Community Preschool Collaborative (VCPC). Coupled with $400,000 raised by the Permanent Fund and its other funding partners, this $800,000 represents an important step forward for pre-K programming in Vermont.

You can read what the Governor had to say at his recent news conference announcing the State’s grant. Or you can watch a brief video clip.

Or Alicia Freese and Anne Galloway of captured the whole thing…..

The Informal Curriculum

Is the education of our children simply a function of what schools try to do?  How  about all the other influences that shape children’s learning?  Children get “education” from everything around them, and, in a sense, from what is not there for them.  You could call it the Informal Curriculum.  Children are full-time learners, and can learn the useless and the harmful as readily as the strengths we’d like them to gain.  Importantly, what they learn, or fail to learn, in the world outside of school, they bring to school and it affects how teachable they are.

Ask any thoughtful senior teacher about today’s pupils and you hear that overall they are more “needy”, less attentive, less disciplined and often less interested.  What’s going on?

Surely it’s time for adults to talk with each other very seriously about that question.  Here are a couple of key topics to consider.

There’s the world of “entertainment”,  and modern digital communication devices.  We know our children are inundated with images and messages from TV and videos and every other medium.  For many children, the “entertainment” world may be a greater influence than their schools and perhaps even their parents.  Three issues come up.

Is “entertainment” like junk food?  A little doesn’t hurt but a lot can cause malnutrition – in this case, malnutrition of mind and spirit.  Simply put, time spent on “entertainment” is time not spent on something nourishing.

Is “entertainment” toxic?  We’ve asked that about violence and the cheapening of sex, but we could ask also about the way many important human values are mocked.  For example, in TV comedies set in schools, study is said to be for nerds, while the real kids go for fun and games.

Is “entertainment” damaging to the human brain?  We’ve seen how films and videos have continuously escalated the speed of images, the pace of stories, the loudness of sounds.  How can a child take his hyperstimulated nervous system to school and not find school work slow and boring?  How can a child not expect her teacher to be as entertaining, at a fast clip, as last night’s video?  Schools can’t do much with kids that lack the required attention span.  Attention-deficit disorder may be partly ascribable to chemicals, but surely it is also a conditioned state of a nervous system flooded with multiple streams of  chaotic “information”.

Another topic: Children used to grow up in closely knit communities with stable values that were supported within and outside the family, but now children encounter change and contradictions everywhere.  They badly need adult help in sorting things out, but, sadly, this is also a time when adults are busier than ever.  Are children suffering a deficit in mentors and models?  If they don’t find them in everyday life, schools are hard pressed to make up the deficit.  It’s difficult to teach children who are insecure and perhaps depressed.

A third topic:  Schools everywhere report too many children arriving at school lacking a basic sense of self-discipline and of the good manners that make a community run smoothly.  In elevating the values of individualism and creativity, have we lost some degree of the self-discipline without which we edge toward anarchy?  We can’t dump this problem on the schools.

If anything is to be done about these aspects of the informal curriculum, it’ll have to be done on a community-wide basis.  It can’t be done sufficiently by parents acting alone.

It will take community-wide initiatives to counter the intrusion of the “entertainment” world on our children’s minds and hearts, and to provide the mentoring they need to achieve life-skills and emotional maturation

That old aphorism “It takes a village to raise a child” is still true.  It’s still the “village” that sets the informal curriculum.  We just have to figure out how to build “village” in the modern era.

One additional note:  There is good research to suggest that among older children (and perhaps ‘older’ starts very early these days) the influence of peer values and preoccupations and behaviors is stronger than that of parents.  And the peer group, once it gets its hands on digital communication devices, is further empowered to exclude other worlds.

Arnold Golodetz, MD

Structural Elements of Child Care

I want to add a couple of thoughts to my previous post re: child care professional development. I want to make a distinction between programs and grass-roots structures, and use an analogy from health care. A current big idea in health care is to develop local and/or regional “medical homes”, to replace the ancient pattern of various doctors operating as separate entrepreneurs out of individual shops (a cottage industry model). The most striking model is Burlington’s Community Health Center, an integrated delivery system – one-stop shopping, but much more than that because of the fact of integrated services. The relationship between BCHC and the surrounding community is one in which the center accepts a comprehensive responsibility for all aspects of health care needs, i.e. it has a public health perspective as well as a medical practice perspective.

The center is an organizing and distribution system for bringing health care knowledge and professionals into a committed relationship with the entire local population. The center is the structural element in the plan for a community’s care, as the local church is for the exercise of religion, a school is for education, or a supermarket for food etc.

As noted in my previous post, Chittenden County’s Child Care Resource center has the characteristics of a structural element in a childcare system; so does a parent-child center. They are designed to have an enduring existence, a constant presence. They have local knowledge, local governance. They are “distribution centers” in the sense that, for example, the providers of a particular program/product aimed at literacy education can market their stuff there, on the basis of an on-going working relationship with the center. They are also centers for knitting together the often isolated local providers of direct services; and centers for promoting professional development, and providing scarce resources such as professional consultation in education, mental health etc.

The two structures I mentioned are only partial models of a child care and education center, but they could be developed further (needing careful tailoring to what would fit particular and diverse Vermont communities). VCPC‘s work on pre-K and its current ‘leadership’ project point in the right direction.

I would like to see Henderson, the Permanent Fund and VCPC explore possibilities for building stronger local structural elements into Vermont’s child care system. I also hope that Building Bright Futures can be viable as a structural feature whose purpose is to build a coherent plan for public support – but I’m not keen on regional “coordinating councils”. I’ve seen them eat up a lot of people’s time and energy to not much purpose.

Arnold Golodetz, MD