Sara Mead

Sara Mead is a senior associate with Bellwether Education, a nonprofit that works to build the field of organizations accelerating achievement for low-income students.

Recent Articles

Reading for Life

Learning to read by third grade is a goal that can organize everything we do for kids.

(Flickr/Old Shoe Woman)
If you're reading this, that probably means that someone, once upon a time, taught you to read. Most likely, this happened sometime in your first few years of elementary school -- -kindergarten or first, second, or third grade -- building the vocabulary and language skills you began developing earlier in your life, starting in infancy and even before you were born. Not surprisingly, then, you probably remember little about your laborious progress acquiring the skills that form the building blocks of reading -- recognizing the connection between print and meaning, learning to associate printed letters with sounds, putting those sounds together to form words, and developing the vocabulary and background knowledge to derive meaning from words on the page. By now, those skills have become internalized, old hat to you -- so much that now, as you read this, you're hardly cognizant of the mechanics of what you're doing. Unfortunately, for too many children in the United States today, this...

Continuing the Investment

Improvement can't stop at kindergarten. Top-notch "early education" must extend to 3rd grade -- and beyond.

Deep Creek Elementary School is an education success story. In 2001, Deep Creek, where more than three-quarters of students come from low-income families and 80 percent are black or Hispanic, was one of the worst elementary schools in Baltimore County, Maryland. Its third-graders were reading at a first-grade level. But the new principal, Anissa Brown Dennis, expanded collaboration and professional development for teachers, implemented an aligned reading and math curriculum from pre-K through third grade, and offered summer learning and after-school programs for struggling students. Today, nearly three-quarters of Deep Creek students read on grade level, teacher and student morale is up, and the school has received local, state, and national recognition for its improvement. The key to Deep Creek's transformation: a clear vision of high-quality early education, starting in pre-K and continuing through third grade. Advocates of universal pre-K are nothing if not visionary. They view...

Putting Education on the '08 Agenda

Given the prominence of issues like Iraq and health care, is there room for the candidates to say smart things about improving public education? Edwards' new policy plan suggests there's hope.

Remember the 2000 presidential campaign? If it seems like it happened in another lifetime, maybe another country, think how education wonks must feel. That was the year that American voters told pollsters that education was their number one concern in the presidential election. The Republican candidate, George W. Bush, broke with years of Republican platforms calling for the abolition of the Education Department to make education -- and an expansion of the federal role in it -- a centerpiece of his campaign, and virtually every photo op featured him surrounded by a crowd of smiling African American children. The Democratic candidate, Al Gore, used the luxury of a budget surplus to propose significant new federal investments in education, particularly universal preschool. Presidential debates featured heated exchanges over education. Fast forward eight years, through September 11, the launching of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Hurricane Katrina, the return of giant federal deficits,...

The Case for Pre-K

A new book explains why other progressive causes should take some cues from the preschool movement.

The Sandbox Investment: The Preschool Movement and Kids-First Politics by David Kirp (Harvard University Press, 352 pages) - - - In 1961, 13 three- and four-year-olds from poor black families began attending a preschool class at Perry Elementary School in Ypsilanti, Michigan. They were there as much to learn as to teach. A team of researchers followed not only their time at the preschool, but their trajectory over the next four decades, and the findings were startling: Compared to a control group of similar children who didn't attend preschool, this class from Perry Elementary School would be less likely to skip class, be placed in special education, or wind up in jail. They'd be more likely to graduate high school and college and have a job, and would earn more money than their non-preschool peers. And, 40 years later, their successes would launch a national movement to ensure all children the opportunity to attend and benefit from the same type of high-quality preschool they had...