It's Elementary!

         an online forum for information from the Director of Elementary Education, Kelly K. Cartwright, Ed.D.

January 8, 2011

Early Childhood Education

Filed under: Elementary,K-12 — Kelly Cartwright @ 1:53 pm
Tags: , , ,

An early childhood committee met monthly last year and made recommendations for a three year implementation of both full day kindergarten and pre-kindergarten (Pre-K) programs, beginning in 2010 and 2011 respectively. As a result of that committee’s recommendations, CV is piloting one full day kindergarten class at both Leola and Smoketown this year.

In preparation for our work this year, I attended a conference on The Kindergarten Year in State College for two days in July and joined the Kindergarten Advisory Committee through PDE’s Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL). In addition, a Pre-K Community Partnerships committee has been meeting monthly this school year to further our goal of establishing a Pre-K program in the coming years. Our committee has been studying both the reasons for and benefits of implementing a Pre-K program by exploring research from a variety of sources as well as visiting model programs in the local area.

Research indicates that a child’s chances of success in school and life depend more on family circumstances than on any other factor. A substantial achievement gap appears long before children reach their first day of kindergarten. By the age of three, children with professional parents are already a full year ahead of their poorer peers; they know twice as many words and score 40 points higher on IQ tests. By the age of ten, the gap is three years. By then, poorer children have not mastered math and reading skills, and many never will. This is the age at which failure starts to become irreversible.

James Heckman, Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago, contends that investing in early learning programs is the most efficient way to affect school and life success and to reduce social expenditures later. He further asserts that every $1 invested in early learning programs provides a seven dollar rate of return, or a 6-10% per annum rate of return. These returns are greatest for at risk children, and are actualized through lower special needs costs in K12 education, more students graduating from high school, more students pursuing a higher education degree, and a next generation prepared to enter the workforce.

At risk children are 25% more likely to drop out of school, 40% more likely to become a teen parent, 50% more likely to be placed in special education, 60% more likely to never attend college, and 70% more likely to be arrested for a violent crime. Risk factors include low income/poverty (qualify for free or reduced lunch program), English Language Learner, special needs (developmental or academic delays), living with a parent or guardian with less than a high school education, living in a single parent household, teen parents, migrant status, and lack of access to a consistent source of health care.

Children who participate in public pre-school programs seem to surpass children who don’t participate in basic learning programs before they enter kindergarten. Specifically, some studies have shown that preschoolers perform much stronger in vocabulary. PA Pre-K Counts graduates perform on par with or better than their peers in kindergarten and first grade: 98% of PA Pre-K Counts graduates showed age-appropriate or emerging age-appropriate proficiency in literacy, numeracy, and social skills in 2009-2010.

Research reveals that those who attended preschool earn more, have better jobs, are less likely to have been in prison, are less likely to have been divorced, are less likely to be involved in criminal activity, are less likely to use drugs, are less likely to become teen parents, and are less likely to require welfare assistance as adults. Early interventions for disadvantaged children raise the quality of the workforce; enhance the productivity of schools; reduce crime, teenage pregnancy, and welfare dependency; raise earnings; and promote social attachment.

Change the first five years and you change everything. The Ounce

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