Thursday, February 23, 2012

When scientists and policy makers work together, everyone benefits

Science can tell us a lot about how kids learn.  It tells us a child’s brain is wired for learning from day one, and that every single experience a child has – whether good or bad – affects brain development. 
The more we understand about how young children’s brains learn, and how outside events impact learning, the better we can tailor our public policies to nurture the best possible educational outcomes for children.  This has all kinds of implications beyond just educational success. Science is actually showing us that the right investments in early learning have a positive effect on families and the economy.
This is something Rep. Ruth Kagi has long advocated, and her efforts are paying off for our state. For several years now, Rep. Kagi has been involved with the Early Childhood Innovation Partnership (ECIP), a collaboration between the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University, the National Conference of State Legislatures, the National Governors Association and the TruePoint Center. ECIP is dedicated to applying advanced scientific knowledge in early childhood development to policy and practice. Last spring, ECIP began a new initiative called Frontiers of Innovation (FOI). FOI brings together leaders in Washington from the legislature, state agencies, and private organizations to build an innovative strategy for improving childhood development, particularly for the most at-risk families in our state.  In fact, we were named the very first “Innovation State” in the nation! 
And earlier this month, the House passed HB 2608, which puts into statute early learning guidelines that are based on close collaboration between scientists and policy makers.
Last May, Rep. Kagi sat down with Bette Hyde, who heads the state’s Department of Early Learning, and Susan Dreyfus, the former head of the state Department of Social and Health Services, for a roundtable discussion on science-based policy and what it means for Washington. Harvard filmed the discussion, which includes commentary from Governor Christine Gregoire.

The three-minute video can be viewed here.

To read this story in Spanish, click here.