EducationLocalWilliam J. Ford

Maryland Unveils Strategy for Early Childhood Learning

Yetunde Ijaodola ensures the coronavirus pandemic doesn’t negatively affect her family, especially when it comes to the safety and education of her three children.

While the two youngest children are at a local day-care, her oldest child, a son in the third grade at Whitehall Elementary in Bowie, works in a quiet, organized setting at home.

But the virtual learning environment has its challenges.

“The opportunities for socialization are limited,” said Ijaodola, who’s able to work at home for the U.S. Food Drug and Administration. “It is needed in some form of capacity in learning outside of the books.”

With school buildings closed in Prince George’s County because of the rise in COVID-19 confirmed cases, students may continue learning from a laptop, computer or other technology devices for the rest of the school year.

Most parents and guardians with elementary school children in Maryland are forced to be at home to help guide their children through diverse technology programs.

That’s why the state released a five-year strategy through 2025 in a plan called “Maryland Ready: A Path to School Readiness and Success.”

The plan, orchestrated by the state departments of Education, Health and Human Services, is geared toward early childhood education, specifically children up to eight years old.

The drive is fueled by a $26.8 million federal grant to help boost services not only in elementary schools, but also early childhood centers, Head Start and other learning centers.

An overarching theme: make sure all families receive adequate resources at home to help teach and prepare their children for a formal school environment.

“With the early years as the most critical period for brain development, the investments we make to support our youngest learners now provide the foundation for lifelong learning and achievement,” public schools Superintendent Karen Salmon said in a statement Dec. 16. “This strategic plan provides the foundation to build upon and leverage federal, state, local and non-governmental resources to align and strengthen the equity and delivery of programs so that each child can flourish.”

The <a href=”https://bit.ly/34fB6o7″ target=”blank”>23-page report</a> outlines six goals such as strengthen availability and access, improve and support program quality, deepen family engagement, ensure successful transition experiences, expand and enhance workforce opportunities and improve systems for infrastructure, data and resource management.

Underneath each goal are dozens of strategies and action steps that include:

– Increase the number of slots in home visiting programs, including in rural areas.
– Assess state and local data to identify and address equity and diversity trends in various across programs and services.
– Host an annual statewide Family Engagement Summit.
– Create a universal application process that allows families to apply for multiple services and programs across state agencies with a single application.

“A renewed commitment to Maryland’s vision is now needed from various stakeholders,” the document states. “All of Maryland’s children deserve the best that we can provide so they can thrive, no matter the circumstances.”

Several items in the report mirror those approved by state lawmakers this year within an annual $3.8 billion education plan based on recommendations from a group nicknamed the Kirwan Commission.

Two of those focused on increasing enrollment in prekindergarten for 3- and 4-year-old children from low-income families, and professional development for educators that include cultural competency and equity.

Back in Bowie, Ijaodola continues to aid her son in virtual learning. She’s even found humor when her son’s teacher asked students “don’t be late” for a presentation to prepare them for a virtual field trip a few days later.

“At first I was like, ‘Don’t be late for what? To go downstairs?’” she said, laughing. “I understand she wants the children to be on time to log in for class. When my oldest gets to be my age, he’s going to tell stories about the experience he had with [virtual learning].”

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William J. Ford – Washington Informer Staff Writer

I decided I wanted to become a better writer while attending Bowie State University and figured that writing for the school newspaper would help. I’m not sure how much it helped, but I enjoyed it so much I decided to keep on doing it, which I still thoroughly enjoy 20 years later. If I weren’t a journalist, I would coach youth basketball. Actually, I still play basketball, or at least try to play, once a week. My kryptonite is peanut butter. What makes me happy – seeing my son and two godchildren grow up. On the other hand, a bad call made by an official during a football or basketball game makes me throw up my hands and scream. Favorite foods include pancakes and scrambled eggs which I could eat 24-7. The strangest thing that’s ever happened to me, or more accurately the most painful, was when I was hit by a car on Lancaster Avenue in Philadelphia. If I had the power or money to change the world, I’d make sure everyone had three meals a day. And while I don’t have a motto or favorite quote, I continue to laugh which keeps me from driving myself crazy. You can reach me several ways: Twitter @jabariwill, Instagram will_iam.ford2281 or e-mail, wford@washingtoninformer.com

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