Lunches waiting for the 3-year-old Pre-K class at Weis Elementary School.
New research from North Carolina shows that academic and social benefits are lasting — and the quality of the program is key to that positive lingering effect.
The research, published this week in the journal Child Development, studied nearly 1 million North Carolina students who attended state-funded early childhood programs between 1995 and 2010, and followed them through fifth grade.
They concluded that the benefits from these programs grew or held steady over those five years. And when the researchers broke the students down into subgroups by race and income — they found that all of those groups showed gains that held over time.
"Pre-kindergarten and early education programs are incredibly important," says Kenneth Dodge, the lead author on the study and the director of the Duke Center for Child and Family Policy. "Especially for parents, for business leaders — because of the workforce development aspect — and for policy makers who are spending the money on it."
That's one of many reasons to support the critical mass of energy and focus on early childhood education that is building in Pensacola.
An important piece of this will be Grow With Me and Stars Over Escambia program being launched by the Early Learning Coalition of Escambia County.
Grow With Me is taking place alongside the implementation of Stars Over Escambia, a program is an important locally driven step toward creating a uniform set of measures that can help parents and regulators know what are good centers and what are not.
Escambia is the 12th Florida county to create and use its own quality improvement rating system for child care centers. It’s three key components.
— Professional development for teachers above the 10 hours annually the state requires;
— Using an assessment tool to gauge the child’s developmental and academic progress;
— Using a strong curriculum.
By the end of this school year, Coalition staff will have evaluated all of their 165 contracted providers and given them stars. A simple review can determine if a center is one or two star. Centers will have to “prove their case” through a portfolio to earn 3 and 4 stars. Escambia ELC will offer a total of $500 a year to centers that get 3 or 4 stars the first year, and $1,000 a year for those who keep it two years or more.
Under Stars Over Escambia, providers will be reviewed by Coalition staff on:
— Screening and assessment.
— Curriculum and technology.
— Family partnerships.
— Program operations.
— Professional development.