“Recreating primary education is the civil rights issue of our times.”

- Dr. Ruby Takanishi

On Saturday evening we lost a giant in the field of education and child development. Dr. Ruby Takanishi was an amazing woman and thought leader who devoted her life to making a difference in the lives of children over many decades of unwavering commitment and passion to create equitable educational opportunity.

She was the longtime president of the Foundation for Child Development and made numerous contributions in that role including developing the PreK-3rd movement, and a fierce commitment to the needs of immigrant children and dual language learners. She was always ahead of public opinion.

Many of us at Children’s Institute are indebted to her guidance and support over the years. More than a decade ago, she helped shape the direction of Early Works and more recently served as senior advisor to the development and launch of Early School Success. She was our mentor, and pushed us to explore new information and ideas, read the latest research, ask probing and insightful questions, listen to more voices, and dig deep on the issues impacting young children and their families.

Dr. Takanishi’s generosity and impact has left us with the enormous responsibility of living up to her expectations of creating a society that truly supports all children and families, guided by research best practices and informed policy.

We have had the honor of many constructive and thoughtful conversations with Dr. Takanishi over the years, and we are fortunate to have two of them recorded for The Early Link Podcast.

In one segment, she discusses her book, First Things First: Creating the New American Primary School. In addition to sharing insights about reimagining public education, Dr. Takanishi discusses inequalities in education based on a variety of interconnected factors: varied state investments and strategies, declining federal investments in children and families, and the changing roles of parents, families, and communities in the public school system. She also provides advice for Oregon in building a stronger early learning system, and much more. Listen or read the transcript here.

In a discussion focused on English language learners, Dr. Takanishi joined two Oregon educators to discuss the needs of English learners and dual language learners in our schools, communities, and early learning systems. We learned about recommendations to promote the educational success of young English learners based on her experience as the chair for the Committee on Fostering School Success for English Learners and her role in developing its final report. We also explored the work in two Oregon districts leading the way on language development for their students. Listen or read the transcript here.

As we reflect on her significant contributions, we should remember her guiding advice at this time of unparalleled disruption across our schools and educational institutions:

“The schools we have today are a product of the last century. It is time to put our own generation to the test by designing a system that will help all of our youngest learners realize their educational potential. Talent is universally distributed. Opportunity to develop that talent, sadly, is not.”

Ruby has had a lasting imprint on the values and work of the Children’s Institute, and we are forever grateful.

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