20 June 2011

No Question About It...Early Childhood Education Prepares Children for School

By Christy Renjilian

The Pennsylvania Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) released the outcomes for children attending Pre-K Counts, Keystone STAR 3 & 4 early childhood education programs, and state funded Head Start programs. The findings are very impressive.

For Pre-K Counts, a program for at-risk three and four year olds, 99%, of the children showed age-appropriate or emerging age appropriate language, math and social skills on a standardized assessment tool. These children are entering kindergarten with appropriate academic and social skills and ready to learn. Less than 25% of these same children entered the Pre-K Counts program with age-appropriate skills. Currently, 254 York County children, or 1%, attend Pre-K Counts programs. The programs are administered by Crispus Attucks, KinderCare, York Day Nursery, York JCC, York YWCA, and the York City School District/CPC.

Keystone STARS promotes quality improvement among child care programs through quality standards and increased requirements for ongoing professional development for teachers. Nearly all children enrolled in Keystone STAR 3 & 4 programs showed age-appropriate or emerging age-appropriate language, math and social skills. Less than one third of the preschoolers began the school year with age appropriate skills. In a 2010 survey of more than 7,000 parents whose children attend a Keystone STAR 3 or 4 site, approximately 96% reported that the program and teachers’ experience met their expectations. OCDEL monitors compliance with Keystone STAR program requirements through a system of reporting, site monitoring and classroom environmental ratings. Independent assessors evaluate individual classrooms using the nationally recognized Environmental Rating Scales. In York County, 31 programs are either a STAR 3 or STAR 4. From 2006 to 2011, the number of York County STAR 3 programs has increased from zero to fifteen. A listing of STAR 3 and STAR 4 programs can be found at http://www.pakeys.org/

Less than one in five preschoolers enrolled in state funded Head Start began the year with age-appropriate skills. By the end of the school year, nearly all showed age appropriate or emerging skills. Head Start is a comprehensive program serving low income children and their families. On average, these children are at a high risk of entering kindergarten developmentally behind and of failing in school. Approximately 0.4% of York County children are enrolled in state funded Head Start. The Community Progress Council (CPC) operates Head Start.

Area kindergarten teachers report that children who attend high quality early childhood education programs make a smoother transition to kindergarten and have the necessary language, math and social skills to be successful. In fact, one elementary principal noted that the curriculum has been revised to address the fact that children are entering with more skills.

The United Way of York County, through Focus On Our Future, provides training and technical assistance to help programs improve their quality, offers scholarships for early childhood educators pursuing higher education, and works with families to support their efforts to ensure that their children enter kindergarten ready to learn and succeed. Over the past 16 years, the United Way of York County has invested over $6 million dollars in high quality early childhood education. This investment is clearly paying off.

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Christy Renjilian is the Director of Focus On Our Future for the United Way of York County. She has a Masters degree in Social Policy Analysis from the University of Chicago. Christy has more than 20 years of experience administering early childhood education programs and has been with the United Way of York County for more than five years.  She lives in Springettsbury Township with her husband and two children. Christy can be reached at renjilianc@unitedway-york.org or 717-771-3808.

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