Early childhood: An investment in the future

In the past three-to-four decades, the importance of high-quality early childhood education in laying a solid foundation for future success has been increasingly recognized. While early childhood is considered the period between birth and age eight, 40 years of research demonstrates the significant and lasting benefits of providing educational experiences to children before first grade. These benefits include improved academic achievement, higher graduation rates, greater wage earnings, more employment stability, and less incarceration. The benefits to individuals and society at large translate into a wise investment into our collective future. For each dollar spent, the return to society is between $1.80-17.07. A case in point, the Perry Preschool Project, the landmark study which followed two matched groups of children into their 40’s estimated a return of $7.16 for every dollar spent on high quality preschool.

Not all early childhood programs are created equal. The following are characteristics of high-quality early childhood programs:

  • Teachers are well educated.
  • Curriculum and learning experiences are developmentally appropriate.
  • Parents have many opportunities for involvement.
  • The environment is child-focused and children are given choices as part of daily routines.
  • A wide variety of materials are accessible to children.
  • Play is an integral part of learning activities.
  • Teachers are responsive to children’s needs.
  • Administrators are knowledge about early childhood, as well as supportive.

We are proud of the quality of the early childhood education provided in the Blaine County School District. We enroll 127 students in five preschool classrooms, one of which primarily serves children with developmental needs. In addition, 275 students attend full-day kindergarten as opposed to the more common half-day programs found in most school districts. All preschool and kindergarten teachers hold early childhood or elementary certification. In education, as is true in other social sciences, there are very few practices we can unequivocally claim as “proven;” even so, there are a few we can “take to the bank.” One such practice is the provision of high quality early childhood education. Through these programs, Blaine County School District and communities it serves are making a wise investment in their children’s future and in the future of the Wood River Valley.

For more research on early childhood programs, go here:

www.highscope.org

www.rand.org/pubs/research_briefs/RB9145/index1.html

www.naeyc.org

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