Joined by his counterparts from Mississippi and New Mexico, Governor Jack Markell took part in a roundtable forum on reading hosted by the Washington Post.
The discussion centered on making sure students are reading at grade level by the third grade. In addition to the three governors, state school superintendents and other education leaders took part in the conversation held at the Washington Post headquarters in Washington, D.C.
Third grade literacy is seen as a milestone in the education process; because, if students can’t read at a proficient level by that point, their chances of being able to read textbooks in subjects like history and science worsen, which leads to diminished learning throughout the student’s remaining years in school.
Markell pointed to Delaware’s focus on early childhood education to make sure students are ready to excel at reading by third grade. “You can’t fix third grade literacy by focusing only on third graders. So, strategy number one has been an immense focus on early childhood.”
Markell said Delaware has made a major move to get more kids into higher quality preschool programs. “In the last two years, we’ve gone from one out of every 20 students, to one out of every three students who are in preschool, who are in a quality preschool.” Markell says the state has a good system of rating quality preschools and has implemented higher rates of reimbursement for quality preschool programs.
The early childhood investment will pay dividends, Markell says, for the state’s longer term economy. “The most effective economic development investment that a state can make is in early childhood education.” He says it is a tragedy anytime you meet a five year old who is a year or two behind his peers.
Markell’s participation in this national conference is the latest example of his rising profile on a bigger stage outside of Delaware’s borders. That rising profile has led to speculation that Markell could eventually take a job on the national stage, possibly even in the U.S. Department of Education. When that issue was raised during last year’s gubernatorial campaign, Markell said he expected to remain in his job for the full four years of his term.