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Focusing on a variety of education, health and youth development issues of importance to children and families in Pennsylvania.

The Impact of High-Quality Pre-k on K-12 Learning

A newly released report from the Pre-K for PA campaign underscores one of the many benefits of high-quality pre-k: its positive impact on a child’s K-12 education.

Pennsylvania’s public schools spend a significant amount of time and money helping children catch up when they enter kindergarten unprepared academically and socially. High-quality pre-k helps prepare young learners for kindergarten and has long-term benefits that carry with a child throughout his or her academic career.

As the new report notes:

“In looking at dozens of high-quality programs across the U.S., researchers have identified three primary benefits to K-12 systems based on children’s participation in pre-k: reduced need for special education services, reduced grade repetition, better performance and fewer behavioral problems in school. The direct relationship between quality pre-k and K-12 savings has been recognized by the private sector. The impacts are so pronounced, in fact, that innovative financing models like Social Impact Bonds have been created to fund pre-k.”

Yet the report also notes too few Pennsylvania children have access to high-quality pre-k due to a lack of state investments. You can read the full report on the Pre-K for PA website.

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Check Out Our New ‘State of the Child’ County Profiles

Do you know how your county compares to other Pennsylvania counties when it comes to child poverty, health insurance coverage, educational opportunities and other important measures of children’s well-being?

You can find those answers quickly and easily with Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children's newly updated “State of the Child” profiles. For each of the commonwealth's 67 counties, you can find:

  • Child population and poverty statistics;
  • Information on how many children are uninsured, and how many benefit from coverage through Medicaid or Pennsylvania's Children's Health Insurance Program;
  • Data on how many children benefit from subsidized child care and publicly funded pre-kindergarten programs;
  • The number of children in foster care or receiving other child welfare services; and
  • Academic performance data for school districts, charter schools and cyber charter schools.

Whether you’re a parent, policymaker, journalist, activist, children’s advocate or just someone who likes to stay in the know, our “State of the Child” profiles can help you get timely, reliable information on how Pennsylvania’s nearly 2.8 million kids are doing.

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The Power of Pre-k: The Military Gets It

 

“There are many factors impacting educational achievement. But there is one factor that has been proven to have a crucial impact on children from all backgrounds, and that is high-quality pre-kindergarten.”

That’s a powerful quote from a powerful source: a coalition of more than 450 retired generals, admirals and other senior retired military leaders known as Mission: Readiness. The non-partisan, national security organization issued a new report today underscoring the lifelong benefits of high-quality pre-k.

But the report also notes access to high-quality pre-k continues to be a problem in Pennsylvania. A full 70 percent of the commonwealth’s 3- and 4-year-olds – nearly 209,000 children in all – lack access to a high-quality program, and only about 1 in 6 of those children benefits from publicly funded, high-quality pre-k.

Of course, we can fix this by investing more state funds into high-quality pre-k, which is a goal of the statewide Pre-K for PA campaign (of which Mission: Readiness is a founding member). Such investments not only save money in other areas of the state budget, but they also have benefits for every one of us.

As the Mission: Readiness report puts it:

“High-quality pre-kindergarten programs can help children succeed in school and avoid criminal involvement, opening the doors to college, careers and military service, if they choose to serve. Increasing access to high-quality pre-kindergarten is a key investment in the readiness of our next generation and our future national security.”

 

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New Poll Shows Strong Support for Pre-k

Likely voters in Pennsylvania’s Nov. 4 election strongly support access to high-quality pre-k, according to poll results released today by the statewide, non-partisan Pre-K for PA campaign. And that support comes from voting blocs you might not expect.

In particular, the poll found solid support for pre-k investments among two important groups of voters: senior citizens and those who remain undecided in the race for governor.

Sixty percent of voters over age 65 favor ensuring every 3- and 4-year-old in Pennsylvania has access to voluntary, high quality pre-k programs, and 55 percent of older voters favor increasing state funding for pre-k. Among undecided voters, 59 percent favor ensuring pre-k access and 55 percent favor increased funding for pre-k.

The poll of 400 likely voters, conducted by national pollsters Lake Research Partners and Bellwether Research & Consulting, also found strong support for pre-k among all likely voters in general. Overall, 68 percent of those polled favor every 3- and 4-year-old having access to voluntary, high-quality pre-k programs, and 64 percent of likely voters support increased funding for high-quality pre-k.

We know Pennsylvanians are willing to support smart public policy that gets results and has a strong return on investment, so it shouldn't be surprising that most voters are increasingly supportive of high-quality pre-k. Yet only 1 in 6 of Pennsylvania’s 3- and 4-year-olds has access to publicly funded high-quality pre-k, so it’s clear we have more work to do as a commonwealth to ensure this once-in-a-lifetime learning opportunity is available to all.

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Grandparents Want High-Quality Pre-K Too

Yesterday was National Grandparents Day, making this a great week to hear from Pennsylvania grandparents who understand the many benefits high-quality pre-kindergarten has on young learners. Kelly, a grandmother and educator from Camp Hill, recently shared this story with the statewide, non-partisan Pre-K for PA campaign:

“Although my children are all now grown, my three grandchildren have absolutely benefited from having the chance to be part of a preschool program before entering kindergarten. They were much better prepared for the structure of the classroom, as well as socially and emotionally ready for elementary school and beyond.

“As an educator, I believe that these quality programs give children the foundation for future school success. We have all seen the research that it is never too early to impact our children with education – learning begins at birth and continues through the preschool years.

“If all the children of Pennsylvania have a chance to receive quality preschool programming, we will build a generation of children who will seek out higher education opportunities and become strong leaders. If we make the investment now in their education, we are investing in the future of our state.”

Kelly is hardly alone. Recent polling shows 60 percent of Pennsylvania's seniors support every 3- and 4-year-old having access to high-quality pre-k and 55 percent favor increasing state funding to make it happen.

Know a grandparent who uses social media? Ask them to use the image below as their profile picture to help us show the strong voter support among grandparents for investing in high-quality pre-k.

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Join Us for an Early Learning Twitter Event on Sept. 10

We need to continue building awareness about the need for greater investments in high-quality early learning services for our children. Kids are heading back to school and Election Day is just two months away, making it a great time to underscore how early learning investments prepare children for school and life success.

What can you do?

Join your friends and colleagues nationwide on Wednesday, Sept. 10, to tweet photos of children and adults holding up #InvestInKids signs.

All you need to do to participate is follow these easy steps:

1)    Print out the #InvestInKids sign at this link and write in why you think we need to invest in early learning.

2)    Take photos of children/adults holding the sign.

3)    Post the photos to Twitter using the hashtag #InvestInKids. Twitter action is being focused between 2-3 p.m. EST on Sept. 10, but if you can’t make this exact time, please participate whenever you are able that day.

Also, please forward this message to a friend and ask them to do the same. Our state’s youngest children are counting on our help. 

Thank you.

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Stay on top of the latest news affecting Pennsylvania's children by following Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children via social media:

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Preparing PA Students for Success

Common Core State Standards have been getting a lot of media attention recently, and the term “Common Core” has become politically charged, with much of the opposition to the standards based on a lack of understanding and misinformation. Here are the facts:

Pennsylvania replaced the Common Core State Standards with the Pennsylvania Core Standards last year. The Pennyslvania Core Standards were created by Pennsylvania teachers to meet the specific educational needs of Pennsylvania students and teachers. The standards are not curriculum, but rather a set of expectations of what students should know by the end of each grade level. As children across the commonwealth begin a new school year, they will be learning to these new, stronger academic standards in English and math.

To measure the progress students are making toward achieving the Pennsylvania Core Standards, schools in the commonwealth assess student performance on the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) tests in grades 3 through 8 and Keystone Exams in high school.

This school year (2014-15), there will be changes to the reading, writing and math PSSAs that students in grades 3-8 take in the spring to reflect that these tests are now aligned to the Pennsylvania Core Standards. As a result of this alignment, the separate writing PSSAs in grades 5 and 8 will be eliminated and students in grades 3-8 instead will take an English Language Arts PSSA that includes both reading and writing.

Implementing the stronger academic standards and measuring how well students are doing on the more challenging PSSA tests may result in an initial decline in test scores when they are released in the fall of 2015. This drop in scores is not unexpected and should not be interpreted as a decline in student learning or teacher performance. It simply means Pennsylvania is recalibrating expectations and raising the bar for student achievement to ensure our kids are on a pathway to graduate from high school postsecondary and workforce ready.

For more information on why the Pennsylvania Core Standards are important to ensure student success, read PPC’s factsheet, Preparing Our Students for Success: Higher Expectations = Greater Achievement.

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Preparing Kids for Success

With just 10 weeks to go until Election Day, the statewide, non-partisan Pre-K for PA campaign continues to share and highlight personal stories from real people – mothers, fathers, educators and community members – highlighting the connection between high-quality pre-k and school readiness.

This week, we share a testimonial from Jim Buckheit, executive director of the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators, on the benefits high-quality early learning opportunities have on later learning:

“In learning, as in life, preparation makes a big difference. And high-quality pre-k is one of the best ways we can prepare our children for academic success.

“There is overwhelming evidence that kids who benefit from quality pre-k head to kindergarten with stronger literacy, language and math skills, making them less likely to need costly remedial or special education services later on. Because they benefitted from such a solid foundation for learning, these children are more likely to succeed academically, graduate and be prepared for whatever challenges they’ll take on after high school. That not only benefits the student, it benefits every Pennsylvanian.

“Unfortunately, too many young learners will be heading to kindergarten this fall not fully prepared because they missed out on high-quality pre-k. The Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators supports the goals of the Pre-K for PA campaign because our school leaders know first-hand how high-quality pre-k can help drive student achievement in later years. We recognize the commonwealth needs to do more to make this once-in-a-lifetime learning opportunity available to every 3- and 4-year-old.”

Despite the proven benefits of high-quality pre-k, too many kids are missing out on it due to a lack of access to quality programs. You can help us turn this around by lending your voice to the Pre-K for PA campaign.

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‘We’ll Help Teach Her’

Summer is winding down and more kids are heading back to school with each passing day. It’s a perfect time to look at how high-quality pre-k can prepare young learners for success as they enter kindergarten.

This week, we share a story from Lorena Afanador, an early childhood educator at Three Stages Daycare in Mount Pocono, Monroe County:

“Last year, I had a young girl in my class who was born in the United States, but her parents are Asian and spoke only Chinese at home. Her mother thought it would be a good idea for her to socialize and interact with other children, so she enrolled her in my preschool classroom.

“When she first arrived, she was very shy and couldn’t understand the other children, who spoke English. She cried for her mother, didn’t mingle or play with the other kids and just stood in the corner with her stuffed animal. I told the other children that we have a new friend learning how to speak our language – and that is when one of my students suggested doing a poster of words and pictures like dog, cat, bird and pizza. ‘We’ll help teach her,’ they told me.

“I gathered magazines, scissors, and glue sticks, and they cut out pictures and glued it onto the poster to make a word chart. They showed her the pictures, said the words and pointed to the objects. I then asked her parents to make a word chart in Chinese – they included 20 words, like hello, good-bye, boy and girl – and they came in to demonstrate how to pronounce each word. The kids loved learning Chinese, and were so excited to learn three languages at once.

“Within three weeks, she started saying words in English to the other children in the class, and even began speaking in sentences. She will be going to kindergarten this September.”

There are many stories like this unfolding every year in pre-k programs across Pennsylvania. The problem is, too many kids are missing out on the benefits of high-quality pre-k due to a lack of access that stems from a lack of state investments. You can help us turn this around by lending your voice to the Pre-K for PA campaign.

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Stay on top of the latest news affecting Pennsylvania's children by following Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children via social media:

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‘She became a voracious reader’

Election Day in Pennsylvania is 12 weeks from today. As we count down the days to Nov. 4, the Pre-K for PA campaign continues to highlight personal stories from across Pennsylvania about the need for all children to have access to high-quality pre-k - stories every candidate for state office this fall should hear.

This is Lailah’s story, told through the voice of her mother, Sonja Claxton, of West Philadelphia:

“I graduated in 2008, during the Great Recession, and was expecting my first child two months later. Each night, I put my baby, Lailah, to bed and stayed up for hours looking for work. I had no job prospects and decided instead to focus on caring for my newborn. We spent most of our days between the park and the library. She got her first library card at 6 months old, and almost every day we stopped in for new books. ... But there were only so many trips to the library one could take. After spending a year at home with me, I recognized my daughter needed something more – to socialize with other children. I enrolled her in daycare, only to hear teachers screaming at children to go to the potty and watch children propped in front of the TV. 

“I stumbled upon the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s (CHOP) Early Head Start program, a home visitation program for low-income parents of children ages 0-3. During our time at the Early Head Start program, Lailah and I participated in socialization activities for families and children – including messy activities with paper and glue, sing-alongs and story time. 

“I was soon employed but didn't make enough to cover the cost of full-time pre-k. My counselors at Early Head Start encouraged me to apply for the federal Head Start program as well as Bright Futures and Pre-K Counts. … I received an email in the summer of 2011 that Lailah had been accepted into the Pre-K Counts classroom at Parent Infant Center – an email I still have to this day.  

“She was quiet and timid at the time, but I would soon find pictures of her in the PIC newsletter engaged in activities. She became a voracious reader. On weekends, she would gather our family together for circle time to share and explain the pages of her favorite books. She learned about countries around the world, how to manage her emotions and even how to count in Mandarin. More than anything else, she and I were relieved. She was free to explore, examine and question the world around her, and I was able to go back to work with ease knowing that she was getting the education and care she needed. 

“When she graduated kindergarten, she was comfortable with the course work, passionate about being in the classroom and open to learning more. In just a few weeks, Lailah will enter the first grade – I could not be more proud or excited to see my daughter blossom – thanks in large part to high-quality pre-k and the power of readying.”

While there are many success stories just like Lailah’s, there also are nearly a quarter of a million 3- and 4-year-olds in Pennsylvania who are missing out on the opportunity publicly funded, high-quality pre-k provides. We can reach those children with stronger state investments in high-quality pre-k.

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Stay on top of the latest news affecting Pennsylvania's children by following Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children via social media:

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