Early is the answer.
If the question is how to solve Wisconsin’s achievement gap — the difference in poverty rates between its black and white citizens — then the answer is to act early. Wisconsin ranks 49th in the nation in the severity of its achievement gap, and the UW’s School of Human Ecology (SoHE) understands that if the state is going to reduce that gap, it can’t wait until people are adults if it wants to give them an equal start in life.
During the first six months of a child’s life, 700 new neural connections form every minute.
SoHE’s Prenatal to Five Initiative is a drive to create an innovative, collaborative, and interdisciplinary approach to helping the very young. Using a human-ecology lens, SoHE is partnering with campus and the community to take a closer look at the impact of a wide variety of factors on children: housing, nutrition, physical health, education, parenting, and more. By leveraging teaching, research, and engagement, SoHE wants to give all of Wisconsin’s children the opportunity to thrive.
Why is early intervention so critical? Many important factors that will dramatically affect a child’s life later appear before the age of five:
- During the first six months of a child’s life, 700 new neural connections form every minute.
- After a child’s first 18 months, learning disparities begin to appear.
- After five years, the effects of the income achievement gap are clear.
During this academic year, SoHE is convening a statewide, multidisciplinary consortium of practitioners, community members, leaders, and campus scholars to advance best practices and strategies that promote equity and equal opportunity for our state’s youngest citizens.
It’s another way in which SoHE is engaging the Wisconsin Idea to improve the quality of life and move the state — and nation — forward.