The initial WaKIDS pilot kindergarten assessment suggests that more than one-third of our children enter kindergarten below expected skill levels in all four developmental domains.
In the area of language, communication and literacy, nearly half of children enter with skills below expected level. For low income children, this gap is even more pronounced.
A recent study shows that quality early learning programs such as Head Start and ECEAP increase parent involvement in their child’s development, with more time spent reading, going to museums, and engaging in academic activities.
The parent-child activities that increased the most are those that the researchers deem “most likely to impact child human capital directly,” such as reading, math, and tracking their child’s development.
In Washington there are over 100,000 low income preschool age children (<200% of Federal Poverty Level), which is 40% of the total 3- and 4-year-olds in our state.
Head Start and ECEAP combined serve fewer than 25,000 children per year.
In 2010-11 65% of ECEAP families earned less than 80% of the Federal Poverty Level ($17,640 for a family of four).
More than 10,000 children under 6 are homeless in Washington.
Between 2007 and 2010 ECEAP and Head Start programs saw a 37% increase in the number of homeless children served. During the 2009-2010 school-year one out of every 12 children enrolled in Head Start and ECEAP programs were homeless.
A recent evaluation of the Abecedarian project, a high quality 0-5 preschool intervention, showed that at age 30, participants had almost 4 times the expected number of bachelor degrees and over 50% increase in annual income.
At- risk children who participate in high-quality, center-based programs have better language and cognitive skills in the first few years of elementary school than do similar children who did not have such experiences.
1 in 88 children nationwide are diagnosed with an Autism spectrum disorder. Boys are 5 times more likely to be diagnosed – 1 in 54.
It is usually in preschool that children are first diagnosed – the median age for diagnosis of Autism or Autism Spectrum disorder is between the ages of 4 and 4 years 5 months.
Effectiveness factors distinguish programs that work from those that don’t. In early care and education, for example, the effectiveness factors that have been shown by multiple studies to improve outcomes for children include:
- Qualified and appropriately compensated personnel
- Small group sizes and high adult-child ratios
- Language-rich environment
- Developmentally appropriate “curriculum”
- Safe physical setting
- Warm and responsive adult-child interactions
Children who attend Head Start and Pre-K programs have much better attendance in early grades. Attendance is a key driver of success for children in elementary school.
In a recent Baltimore study, children with no Pre-k, who were almost as likely as the HS children to qualify for Free/Reduced meals (and therefore were likely eligible but unserved) had extremely high absentee rates, and poor math and reading scores in grades 1-3.
ECEAP, our state Pre-K program, is one of the highest quality programs in the country, meeting 9 of 10 standards of quality established by the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER). Only 5 other states rate more highly than Washington in quality.
Aligning curriculum and training between Pre-K and the K-3rd grade (“Pre-K -3rd”) significantly improves test scores and other outcomes for children.
Bremerton School District, a national leader in Pre-K-3rd work, raised the percentage of children meeting benchmark levels from 56% in 2002 to 92% in 2007.
The ‘soft skills’ gained in quality early learning programs have long term effects on employment. The Perry preschool program, for example, increased employment rates at age 40 about 7 times as much as one would expect based on their educational attainment.
The key to the long-term effects of high-quality early childhood programs is that they don’t just teach kids letters and numbers, they also provide kids with better soft skills – how to get along with other kids, how to get along with teachers, how to plan and wait their turn.
12% of 2- and 3-year-olds experience social-emotional problems that negatively impact their functioning and readiness for school. Providing infant and early childhood mental health services in all child-serving settings can help make sure kids have the tools they need to be successful in school.