‘The smoking gun for long-term education achievement and health outcomes’

Erikson’s president and CEO sits down with Illinois’ Better Government Association to discuss the importance of a child’s first three years

Nearly 100,000 children in Chicago live in neighborhoods that have homicide rates above the city’s median, a problem that can have traumatic effects on children beginning at birth.

Erikson Institute President and Chief Executive Officer Geoffrey A. Nagle, PhD, calls attention to this troubling statistic in a new episode of the Better Government Association’s “Ready Set Gov” podcast. Dr. Nagle was recently a guest on the watchdog group’s podcast and used the homicide statistic, as well as other facts, to help illustrate how a child’s experiences in the first three years of life can have long-term effects on health and education, particularly among children who experience trauma and toxic stress.

In the podcast, Dr. Nagle calls children’s early experiences “the smoking gun for long-term education achievement and health outcomes.”

“Ninety-seven thousand children under age 5 lived in a neighborhood that had six or more murders in 2016,” he says. “I can’t even imagine being in an environment where there is a murder every other month — maybe one a month, maybe one every other week — and what kind of environment that creates. We as adults can’t not address that with young kids. They are going to be impacted by that.”

In the United States, addressing young children’s developmental and educational needs typically begins in kindergarten or, more and more often today, in preschool, Dr. Nagle says.

But, he adds, given what is known about child development today, the system that is in place begins too late. School systems are performing largely as expected, moving achievement levels along one grade level at a time. However, the achievement gap emerges before children start school. Supports for children and families, such as home visiting programs and high quality child care for infants and toddlers are needed before kindergarten.

Dr. Nagle touches on ways that U.S. cities, including Chicago, are addressing the needs of young children as well as how as Erikson is empowering leaders with the knowledge and tools they need to drive early childhood policy through the Early Childhood Leadership Academy.

“If we can make sure that kids get off to the right start by making sure they have the right experiences, we are really setting ourselves up for success,” he says.

Listen to the full podcast