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The National Catholic Educational Association
A hallmark of education is the conviction that parents are the primary educators of their children. Elementary and secondary Catholic school staffs recognize that while schools are vital, what they provide is secondary to what happens in the family. However, an important corollary to this frequently is ignored: the importance of early childhood education. Formal early childhood education is a vital component to long-term success in academics and in life. This is especially the case for children placed at risk by poverty, race and ethnicity, home language and disability. Catholic schools rightly have affirmed the role of parents and caregivers, but often have failed to recognize the important role that our schools can play in providing quality early childhood education to traditionally marginalized children. Three panelists at the 2006 NCEA convention in Atlanta provided powerful examples of how Catholic early childhood programs can better meet this need. This article presents an overview of three programs, summarizes key lessons for fellow Catholic school leaders and invites Catholic school practitioners to envision a bold future for Catholic early childhood education.