Early Childhood Education (ECE)is the starting point for a high quality education. Starting at age 3, children enrollingat St. Louis Public Schools can receive an academically aligned Pre-K education that will prepare them for the core concepts taught at the elementary level as well as teach them the critical thinking skills necessary to succeed in secondary schooling and beyond. More specifically, investment in ECE pays off in the long-run because its effects have the ability to:
· Increase vocabulary development;
· Provide developmentally appropriate practices for young children;
· Foster school readiness and an easier transition to kindergarten;
· Provide positive behavior support for children with challenging behaviors;
· Promote health and nutrition awareness; Including health screening for all children – hearing, vision, developmental, articulation and behavior;
· Encourage parental involvement;
· Promote positive relationships among all children and adults;
· Implement a curriculum that promotes learning and development for years to come;
· Provide a healthy/safe learning environment for children;
· Recruit and retain effective ECE teachers and provide on-going, research-based professional development
· teaching approaches;
· Create an on-going systematic, formal and informal assessment process; and
· Decrease special education referrals.
Unlike grades kindergarten through 12, the district does not receive per student state funding for Pre-K enrollment. However, the return on investment in early childhood education to our students, the district, and the community is indisputable. According to the Connecticut Early Childhood Alliance (2008), Early Childhood Education results in successful students:
· In Chicago, children who attended an early childhood education program were 29% more likely to graduate from high school than their peers who did not attend. Moreover, those who attended an early childhood education program were 41% less likely to require special education services than their peers who did not attend.
· In Michigan, fourth graders who attended ECE programs passed the state’s literacy and math assessments at higher rates than their peers who did not attend.
· In Maryland, fifth graders who attended an ECE program were 44% less likely to have repeated a grade than peers who had not attended.
Early Childhood Education also results in stronger communities. Every $1 invested in high-quality education programs saves tax payers $7. The savings are found in reduction of remedial and special education, welfare, and criminal justice services. According to RAND (2008), “Well designed early childhood interventions have been found to generate a return to society ranging from $1.80 to $17.07 for each dollar spent on the program. Programs with better-trained teachers and smaller child-to staff ratios appear to offer more favorable results.”
For the 2011-2012 School Year
This school year, SLPS is adding 25 additional Early Childhood Education Classrooms (ECE) classrooms and two additional Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE) classrooms. Approximately 350 children can be served in these classrooms at no cost to parents, and accommodate most children and families on the district’s current waiting list for early childhood education. Simultaneously, the district is assessing the demand, cost and feasibility of adding even more ECE classrooms in current schools or opening a building as a dedicated early childhood center.
SLPS is also proposing to provide before and after school programs for ECE students. These programs will compliment school day lessons, while providing families with the flexibility necessary to fulfill their other daily obligations. The SLPS Early Childhood Department is in the process of seeking licensure to offer before and after care at 11 sites and would like to expand services to at least 30 sites. The fire, safety and sanitation inspections are on-going with some schools facing costly hurdles. To date, only Nance Elementary has met all necessary requirements. Adams, Columbia, Froebel, Hodgen, Jefferson, Lexington, Mason, Monroe and Woerner Elementary Schools, along with Sumner High School require minor repairs in order to become licensed sites.
As previously stated, the benefit of early childhood education to our youngest students will be seen in their academic achievement almost immediately and experienced by the community throughout their adult years. Because of the direct return on investment, SLPS will continue to provide these services for students and their families at no cost.