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The Real MVP: Wanda Durant on Need for Early Education Curriculum that inspires Parent Engagement

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The Wanda Durant Achievers Academy does not require parent support.  The best way parents can support their children is to take care of themselves first. The RealMVP Center at J. Frank Dent Elementary provides resources, services, and education for families who desire to stop the cycle of poverty and violence within their own lives.  To ensure the necessary progress monitoring, all support is provided on site and the expectation is that all children enrolled should attend every session until dismissed. The RealMVP Engagement Center will constantly assess the progress of each individual’s growth to determine readiness for support of his or her child’s education and will have interventions that make it possible for fathers to be engaged in a child’s life.

Home life and environment are known to be stronger predictors of academic and health outcomes than either formal education or health care, thus, the Academy has the family as integral in a child’s development. Currently, there is no comprehensive STREAM focused on early education program that focuses on the 0-5yr developmental age group with an intervention for fathers and men in general to be fully engaged in the first 1000 days of a child’s education. The Wanda Durant Real MVP Charity Foundation believes that Early Childhood Development (ECD) is a fundamental phase in laying down the foundation for learning. Wanda’s own experience as a young mom was enhanced by the Uplift Program. The Wanda Durant Real MVP Charity Foundation is her commitment to make the world more generous and more resilient. The struggles she had in raising her two sons influence her parenting and education model that is anchored on parents being involved early on including fathers. The initial focus on her own community in Maryland is an example of her philosophy. In reviewing the detailed Maryland demographic report at Appendix A,  the need for programs such as the Saturday Achiever’s Academy could not be greater.  Notable, only 38.9% of Child Care Centers are willing to care for children in the Child Care Subsidy Program. Also significant is that the largest reason families could not find Child Care was cost which is more than three times larger than location.

Children achieve outcomes through play and exploration. They observe, manipulate, and explore objects and materials. Therefore child-centered methods of play and learning should permeate activities at this level, and ultimately influence their interests, school trajectories, and professional careers. As such, there is an increasing effort to understand what can make these experiences more or less productive for children, particularly in science, technology, engineering, reading and mathematics fields that face ongoing challenges related to workforce development. A better understanding of what happens during and after early STREAM related exposure – and in particular, what contributes to a productive and engaging experience for children between the ages of 0 and 5 years old   informed the design of academy activities which will potentially catalyze greater interest and learning about engineering at a young age in our community.

The tenets of the No Child Left Behind Act, although in place for over a decade prior to Every Child Succeeds Act, still have schools scrambling to produce student outcomes that mirror either Act’s expectations.  Historically, economically disadvantaged students fare far worse than students who have adequate resources. Leveling the playing field so that all students achieve the same expected outcomes begins with early childhood education.

Until recent years, curriculum for preschool students consisted of crayons and drawing paper, paint and newsprint to paint upon, and lots of free play.  Over time individual preschools began to see the necessity for more structured activity that would be a precursor for developing academic foundations, especially in core subjects.  Curriculum for preschool students was not regulated; and Learning foundations for preschool students were not developed until 2008 to assist preschool programs to build foundations that would effectively scaffold the student’s with kindergarten readiness skills.

Unfortunately, those Preschool Learning Foundations were not available when the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) became a law.  Incoming kindergartners arrived on the first day of school possessing an array of skills severely deficient in foundational skills and especially STREAM.  Maryland children were no exception.

Preschools usually operate on shoestring budgets, which significantly hinder or effectively prevent a comprehensive STREAM program and teacher professional development.  To become a conduit for preparing preschoolers to enter kindergarten equipped, for the most part, with the Maryland Department of Education Learning Foundations, fully ready to progress through the academic system, while meeting or exceeding the expectations of Every Child Succeeds, early education should obtain intensive intervention.   Unless intervention occurs with a foundationally strong academic STREAM program complete with professional development for the preschool teachers, the targeted students in this community will continue to be future statistics resembling the dismal demographics that secondary students now experience, just as current statistics for demographics, education outcomes, and disadvantaged reveal.


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