Building Block #5: Early education levels the playing field for at-risk kids

When children at risk for school failure (due to poverty, learning English as a second language, or other factors) participate in quality early learning at home and in programs, they can make amazing developmental progress and enter kindergarten at grade level.

Fast Facts:

  • Forty years of research shows that children affected by risk factors such as poverty, low education level of the mother, and poorly performing schools can make significant gains and overcome these risks for failing in school when they participate in quality early education.
  • In Pennsylvania, children in 63% of Pennsylvania’s counties are at moderate-high to high risk of school failure because of such risk factors. Every county has children at risk, for example, at least 30% of children from birth – five in every county are living in economically at-risk families.
  • In Pennsylvania, approximately 33% of children under age five participate in publicly-funded, quality early education programs.
  • In PA Pre-K Counts, for example, which serves children who live in families up to 300% of poverty, less than one in four four-year olds began the school year in Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts classrooms with proficient language, math and science skills. By the end of the school year, more than three in four four-year olds showed age-appropriate language, math and social skills after attending Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts in 2012-2013.
  • In Head Start Supplemental Assistance programs that serve children living in families up to 100% of poverty, the percentage of four-year olds with proficient academic and social skills more than tripled to 76 percent after participating by the end of the 2012-13 program year. In fact, there was a six-fold increase in the percentage of children with proficient mathematical thinking skills.
  • In 2015 90% of children screened who participated in a home visiting program showed at least age-appropriate development in general cognitive and communications skills after 18 months in the programs.

You can share:

With Providers/Community leaders:

  •  The risk level for your county and the percentage of children under age five that are served by publicly-funded quality early education programs. You can find this information in OCDEL’s 2014-15 Reach and Risk report.
  • Share examples of at risk children who have made significant gains in quality early education programs such as Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts, Keystone STARS, Early Intervention, Nurse-Family Partnership, andHead Start Supplemental. Share the child’s level of development upon entering the program and progress by the end of the program year.

With Families:

  • Share the risk factors that impact your child and family, such as living in a low-income family, having less than a high school education, or learning English as a second language.
  • Share how your child has progressed and developed in a quality early education program. If they were behind when they entered the program, share how they were behind and how they made progress.
  • If your family is receiving services for free or with the help of subsidy, how has that made a difference in your lives? What would happen if the program was no longer free or if you lost their subsidy?

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