Melissa Vandertuuk looks on as her daughter Taylor, right, and friend Taylor Gunderson, center, put together puzzles in a play group at Cedar Trails Elementary School

Early Learning Means Advantages for Children, Communities

by Erin Albanese & Charles Honey  

The benefits of a quality early childhood education are many in terms of preparing students for later grades. According to Byron Center Early Childhood Director Melissa Thomas, this includes exposure to new information during the first four years of life, when brain development is highest; access to a loving, structured environment at pre-school; opportunity to develop social skills; and have time away from parents to develop independence.

In addition, more learning expectations have been added to the pre-school classroom, she explained, increasing the need for all children to have access to early learning.  Academics are emphasized more than in past years because research shows children can learn and do more than we used to expect. Plus, there are more academics in pre-school because schools have recently adopted the state adopted Common Core Curriculum Standards, according to Thomas.

Making a difference

According to statistics from the Michigan Department of Education, research shows students attending the state-funded Great Start Readiness Pre-school program did better throughout their academic careers, had lower drop-out rates, had higher incomes as adults and avoided run-ins with the law far more than children who didn’t attend pre-school.

A 2006 study of Missouri children who participated in Parents as Teachers (used throughout Kent ISD) and other early childhood experiences found differences in school achievement. Among the findings:

  • 82 percent of poor children who participated in PAT and preschool entered kindergarten ready to learn, compared to 64 percent who had no such services, as assessed by teachers using a School Entry Profile; the difference among more affluent children was 93 percent to 81 percent.
  • In third grade, 88 percent of poor children with PAT and preschool services met performance benchmarks in the Missouri Assessment Program Communication Arts test, compared to 77 percent who had neither service; among more affluent children the difference was 97 percent to 93 percent
  • The study found PAT parents read more often to their children and were more likely to enroll them in preschool

Source: Parents as Teachers National Center

 Still, about 2,900 Kent County 4-year-olds don’t have access to publicly funded programs, said Erin McGovern, Kent ISD early childhood

Submitted on: May 23rd 2013

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