Early Childhood Education Leads to Education Success

Early Childhood Education Leads to Education Success
May 11 21:05 2016 Print This Article

Of the proposed $4.1 billion budget for the next fiscal year, a critical component of the budget is the $11.4 million for early childhood education.  In the past, only 5% of low-income students attended high quality preschools. However, once the state invested in their education, the numbers rose to 58%. Now, with the proposed budget of $11.4 million, the Governor’s goal is to make sure 100% of early learners obtain a high quality education.  Children who have access to early education do better in school and are less disruptive.  In the long-term, they are more likely earn more money and utilize less government services.

When she started as an administrator at the Denmark school three years ago, April Samuel’s staff knew nothing about Delaware Stars.  Samuel goal was to turn the Denmark School, an early childhood center in the city of Wilmington, into a Delaware 5 Stars school.  After their first evaluation, they attained a Two Star rating. The Denmark School staff were disappointed, but continued to strive for more.  Within six months, they became a Delaware Stars’ Five Star School. “It’s not what we what were doing was wrong, we just needed to be better. We needed better documentation, better supplies and better assessments.”

Delaware Stars for Early Success is a Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS). A QRIS is “used to assess, improve and communicate the level of quality in early care and education and school-age settings… Delaware Stars is a five-tiered rating system. Programs begin in a “Starting with Stars” phase and then are rated from 2 to 5 Stars.”

Denmark School Administer April Samuels pose for a photo in a new class room that is schedule to open Memorial Day 2016 Thursday, April. 28, 2016, at the Denmark School in Wilmington. Photo By Saquan Stimpson

Denmark School Administer April Samuels pose for a photo in a new class room that is schedule to open Memorial Day 2016 Thursday, April. 28, 2016, at the Denmark School in Wilmington. Photo By Saquan Stimpson

For Samuels, being a Five Star program is not for the staff, but for the children, “Children are so innocent. They don’t get the opportunity to explore different types of learning, especially if they are from low-income families. Early childhood education is education; it isn’t babysitting. However, while they are learning through imaginative play, we are able to properly document and assess their progress. If one child is struggling, we use our lessons and play to lift that child up.” The Delaware Stars program invests in programs like the Denmark School so that children, especially those from low-income households, can have access to high quality early childhood education.

It has been well documented that children benefit in a variety of ways from high quality early education.  By the time a child celebrates his or her fifth birthday, nearly 90 percent of intellect, personality, and social skills are already developed.  However, of the  67,700 early learners in Delaware, 42 percent come from low-income families. Unfortunately, achievement gaps form as early as nine months. By age four, children from middle- to high-income families are exposed to approximately 30 million more words than children from families on welfare. Young children from lower income families also appear to struggle more with memory, thinking flexibly, and social-emotional skills.  In order to close this gap and ensure all Delaware children receive a high quality early childhood education, Delaware created the Delaware Stars program.  Currently, 100 out of almost 600 participating early childhood centers and daycares in Delaware receive a Five Star rating from the Delaware Stars.

The Stars program is not the only key to success in early learning. With the budget funding early education programs, the state can also provide an increase of development screenings. “ With an increase in the last year’s budget,” says  Jennifer Ranji, Delaware Department of Children and Youth and their families Secretary, “28,000 additional developmental screenings were added.” The earlier a child is screened the earlier they can receive proper health or developmental services needed to ensure they are ready to enter kindergarten  The end result? Delaware went from last in the nation to 21st in the nation for screening children.  

More funding means even more room for improvement. Mental health consultations  is another key component of successful high quality early education. In fact, $480,000 would go to the Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation (ECMHC) project. These funds go to the Kids Department and cover the costs of five Mental Health consultants working onsite in early learning programs to reduce challenging behaviors and avoid preschool expulsions.  So far, more than 2,400 children have received intensive Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation services— reducing behavioral challenges and achieving a 99% success rate in avoiding preschool suspensions. The new budget would give even more children proper care.

Denmark Annie Stanford-Ellerbe, RIGHT, builds a puzzle with a student during a open play time session Thursday, April. 28, 2016, at The Denmark School in Wilmington. Photo By Saquan Stimpson

Denmark Annie Stanford-Ellerbe, RIGHT, builds a puzzle with a student during a open play time session Thursday, April. 28, 2016, at The Denmark School in Wilmington. Photo By Saquan Stimpson

Without supporting the education of our teachers, we cannot fully support early education.  Therefore, a portion of the budget will go to Early learning teacher education and retention programs.These funds support T.E.A.C.H. scholarships for low-paid early learning teachers to work toward degrees in early childhood, the administrator credential, and retention awards for teachers who increase their level of education or credential and stay in the classroom for a year. Thus, all children in Delaware can continue to excel as their teachers excel.

Finally, community involvement is crucial to creating high quality early education. There are 21 Delaware Readiness teams with over 350 volunteers in high-need communities working on school readiness, accessing quality early learning, early literacy, strengthening families and connecting them with resources, and Kindergarten transitions across the state. Without these funds, coordination, training, and facilitators for the teams are no longer possible. Lack of community investment inhibits early childhood educators from truly reaching early learners.

The more we can do for our children earlier in life, the higher they can achieve in the future. As Raye Jones Avery, Executive Director of Christina Cultural Center,  notes, “While learning begins at home, a quality early learning education is essential. Quality early education increases high school graduation rates, college attendance and employment while decreasing crime.”  Delaware education only succeeds when those most in need are achieving their goals.

 

Written by Shoshana Kohn Editor-in-Chief

Written by Shoshana Kohn
Editor-in-Chief

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