"Early childhood education is critical," State Superintendent of Education
Wright was among three speakers at the event, which focuses upon the 17-county area of
The event is sponsored by the
"We can help create an environment where all of the people in
The need for high-quality pre-kindergarten is more important in
"You have a lot of little ones out there, and I've seen the power pre-K education can have in their lives," she said.
To ensure more children have access to high-quality programs will require more money from the state, Wright said. In 2013,
This year, legislators appropriated another
She suggested the state form a foundation that could provide funds for various education initiatives, citing a model she saw when she worked in the
"How do we reach out and help existing providers get better at their craft?" she said.
Programs do not need to be mandatory, Wright said, adding that if the quality is high, demand for participation will follow.
"I believe if you build it, they will come," she said. "If you have high-quality pre-K programs, you will have a waiting list."
This fall will be the first time the state will give the same test to all incoming kindergartners to measure their skills and needs. It will be the first time for a common screening test, which Wright said will provide a better picture of those students' skills and needs and also will help assess existing pre-K programs. The MDE will create an office focused solely on early childhood education, she said.
During her remarks, Wright also:
--Spoke of her support for the Common Core State Standards, which she said would set a higher standard for students. Districts would maintain flexibility to create their curriculum, she said.
--Called for the creation of a superintendent's academy that could train aspiring school district leaders and support existing ones.
--Said the state needs to find ways to provide access for more students to take Advanced Placement and dual enrollment/ dual credit classes.
"We provide the tools of opportunity," Johnson said. "Our best course is to be true to our heritage and to our founding principles. ... low-cost energy, economic development and environmental stewardship is what we're all about."
Walker touted the
Heritage tourists -- or cultural tourists -- spend more money than other tourists.
But the region's focus on American Indian heritage, African-American heritage, the Civil War and the arts will be a calling card for those higher-spending tourists.
Walker said communities need to work together and think regionally to benefit everyone.
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