Texas Public Education Reform Foundation Summit
February 16, 2007
Speech by: Donna Blevins, Founder and CEO of Be Smart Kids
I wish to thank the Texas Public Education Reform Foundation for inviting me to speak here today.
Why are we here? We’re here because we are concerned about the quality of education and the impact it will have on our children’s lives. Education is the gauge of progress for any civilization.
In an ever changing world market, we simply are not measuring up. I’ve heard many quotes concerning our educational standing with the rest of the world–20th, 23rd, 24th, 27th and even as high as 29th. Choose your figure, it doesn’t matter, we’re behind. Bottom line, we definitely have a crisis. Our children’s future and the future of this country are in a precarious situation. If America is to survive as a nation and a world leader, we must do a better job of educating our youth–one child at a time. To quote Aristotle "Fate of empires depends on the education of youth."
I often hear people whining (I call it whining) and resolving themselves to this substandard educational level by saying "In America we have to educate everybody and in most countries they don’t have to do that." Let’s stop the excuses; there is a way. We must and can do a better job!
Today, I want to talk about one of the ways we can definitely raise the bar and insure success in school and success in life for America’s future generations. The key is early intervention! I’m a firm believer that we must prepare rather than repair. This is one of my pet phrases and also one of my pet peeves. We must prepare our children, not constantly repair their learning capabilities and education.
How do children learn? Scientist tells us how children learn and process information for the rest of their lives depends on how we stimulate their brains in the early years, ages 0-6. When we stimulate the brain of the young child and the neurons fire often enough, a permanent connection is formed. The more connections, the more work the brain can do. It is called hard-wiring the brain. It’s the greatest learning potential of a person’s life and the foundation for all future learning, a "window of opportunity." A perfect example is Tiger Woods. Why is he so great? His dad had him on the golf course while he was still in diapers. Educators and policy makers have just begun to recognize this great "window of opportunity."
I’m an educator, a former classroom teacher. I’ve been in the trenches. In 1991, I made a personal commitment to spend the rest of my life trying to make a difference in our educational system. Understanding what scientists were saying about the learning potential of this marvelous "window of opportunity" and the advent of technology on the scene, I thought there just might be a way of combining the two with best teaching practices that would enable every child an equal opportunity at a quality education.
Sixteen years later, we have arrived. With lots of help from some very special people, we have in place a proven preschool product that can deliver called Be Smart Kids. It’s an interactive, multi-sensory, fun, computerized, one-on-one learning system that takes advantage of this "window of opportunity" and wires the brain for life-long learning. It’s one-on-one because we understood how very important adult bonding is to a child’s social and emotional development. This process mirrors science and wires the brain for language, vocabulary, math & logic, music, spatial/visual skills, fine motor skills, social & emotional skills, character and a second language (Spanish). To this mix, we added history (because we thought developing a love of country was important), science, health and sign language. It was built into lesson plans so that anyone who was literate could implement it. After all, parents are a child’s first teacher.
During these years, we made a couple of fantastic discoveries: one, it would take only 30 minutes a week per child to implement and two, the results would be and are phenomenal, no matter the background of the child. This opened the door to provide a pathway of success to all children since 70-80% of them are in some type of institutional setting.
Over the last 16 years, thousands of children have received the Be Smart Kids instruction: We’ve provided it to: