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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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‘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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Student Success and PA’s New K-12 Budget

While Pennsylvania’s new state budget for fiscal 2014-15 does not include any new funding for the basic education subsidy (the primary funding stream for school districts), it does provide an additional $125 million in K-12 funding. This includes a $20 million increase in special education funding, $100 million for a new “Ready to Learn” block grant, and a $4.6 million increase in the assessment line item, which supports continued costs for the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA), Keystone Exams and other supports for schools and teachers. 

Assessments that are aligned to the state’s academic standards, such as the PSSAs for students in grades 3-8 and Keystone Exams for high school students, are an important accountability tool. They give students, parents, educators and taxpayers the assurance that our investments in public education are paying off and students are on a pathway to graduate from high school college and career ready.

These tests measure how well students are achieving to the standards and tell us if students know what they are supposed to know in given grade levels and subject areas - and if they can demonstrate that knowledge. The tests also help students learn and schools improve in a number of other ways, such as identifying students who may be struggling, helping teachers improve their classroom teaching, and measuring how well schools have aligned their curriculum and instruction to the academic standards, to name a few.

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A (Pre-k) Tale of Two Dads

We are less than three months away from Election Day – a small window of time to make high-quality pre-k a big issue in the elections for governor and state legislature. As we count down the days to Nov. 4, the Pre-K for PA campaign is continuing to highlight stories from parents, grandparents, caregivers, educators and community members who have personal stories that reflect the need for all children to have the opportunity to enter school ready to succeed.

This week, the campaign shares the “Tale of Two Dads”: Kevin Toogood from West Chester and Walter Cohen from Allegheny County.

Kevin’s story illustrates the decision that so many parents are forced to make: forgo pre-k, and the valuable early learning opportunities associated with it, because it is just too costly.

According to Kevin: “My son is now 6 years old and in kindergarten. I regret that we did not have the opportunity to send him to pre-k, because it was just too expensive for our family to afford. As a kindergartner, he has had problems socializing with his peers and getting used to a regular classroom routine. I strongly believe that he missed out on valuable learning and growing opportunities that so many kids gain from pre-k. We also have a 1-year-old daughter. I sincerely hope that once she is ready for school, she doesn’t suffer from the same problems that my son struggles with.”

Walter’s story is reflective of so many families struggling to make ends meet, while striving to provide the best footing for their young children – and the sacrifices they must make in order to do so.

According to Walter: It was very difficult to find an affordable pre-school for my daughter. There are very few high-quality, public pre-schools available in Pittsburgh, so we had to put her in a private pre-school, which costs us $500 per month. Although we did get financial aid, it has been a struggle to pay this amount every month. Fortunately, it is a NAEYC-accredited school and we all love it. My daughter loves going to school.”

Only about 1 in 6 of Pennsylvania’s 3- and 4-year-olds has access to public funded, high-quality pre-k, putting it out of reach for many families. The result is missed learning opportunities that ultimately benefit every Pennsylvanian. We can change this, but only if we make high-quality pre-k a priority issue this fall. Help us do that by lending your voice to the Pre-K for PA campaign.

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100 Days, 100 Stories

This week began with an important milestone: July 27 marked 100 days until the Nov. 4 election in which Pennsylvanians will cast votes for governor and state legislators.

Throughout these final 100 days, the statewide, non-partisan Pre-K for PA campaign will be sharing 100 stories from Pennsylvania parents, educators, businesspeople, law enforcement professionals, community leaders and others who know firsthand the importance of high-quality pre-k. All of these voices convey a common message: Pennsylvania leaders need to make investing in pre-k a priority so we can make sure every 3- and 4-year-old has access to a high-quality pre-k program.

Here’s one such story, from a West Chester mom named Julia:

“Before entering kindergarten, my son was in a preschool setting only a handful of times. When he turned 4, we once paid for two months of preschool – only two half-days a week – for around $500 a month. We really liked the pre-school, but were unfortunately forced to withdraw because it was just too expensive. … I regret that he was not able to benefit from the rich experiences and opportunities for socialization and learning that go hand-in-hand with the preschool years.”

 

As we head toward Election Day, you can read other stories about the need for high-quality pre-k on the Pre-K for PA website. And you can share your own story on social media using the hashtag #100Days100Stories.

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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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The Competitive Advantage of High-Quality Pre-k

Access to high-quality pre-kindergarten isn’t just an education issue - it’s an economic development issue.

Research shows high-quality pre-k helps build a stronger workforce, boost employment rates and fuel higher lifetime earnings. This means states that prioritize investments in high-quality pre-k enjoy a competitive advantage over states that fail to do so. As it turns out, Pennsylvania is surrendering that competitive advantage to many of its neighbors.

The latest report from the Pre-K for PA campaign finds most of the states that border Pennsylvania – Maryland, New Jersey, New York and West Virginia – are making high-quality pre-k available to a larger percentage of their 3- and 4-year-olds. That means they stand to see greater returns on this proven early learning investment.

Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children became a founding member of the statewide, non-partisan Pre-K for PA campaign because we want to help turn this situation around and make the commonwealth an undisputed leader in access to high-quality pre-k. We realize increasing pre-k access requires additional state investments, but we also realize all of us have too much to lose if we let Pennsylvania’s young learners lag behind.

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Budget Time = Time to Invest in Pre-k

We know high-quality pre-k works to help prepare children for a lifetime of learning and success. But high-quality pre-k serves far too few children in Pennsylvania. That’s because the amount of public funds available for pre-k is only enough to help about 1 in 6 of Pennsylvania’s 3- and 4-year-olds access high-quality programs.

As lawmakers in Harrisburg work to craft a spending plan for the upcoming fiscal year, help us remind them to make high-quality pre-k a priority in the state budget by sharing this graphic on social media or in your emails …

And share this information with your elected officials …

  • Investment in pre-k saves taxpayers’ money in the long term by reducing the need for special education and remedial instruction, and increasing the rates of graduation and college enrollment.
  • Every $1 invested in pre-k generates $1.79 in local economic activity and returns up to $17 in long-term public savings through reduced costs to our schools and society.
  • Other states - including many of Pennsylvania’s neighbors - are making high-quality pre-k availability on a broader scale, meaning they will see greater benefits. Pennsylvania is lagging behind. The time to invest is now.

And if you know someone who hasn’t already signed on as a supporter of the statewide, non-partisan Pre-K for PA campaign, please share this message with them.

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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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The Difference Pre-k Makes

Across the commonwealth this month, Pennsylvania’s high school seniors are proudly donning caps and gowns and standing with their classmates and teachers as they accept their diplomas – a huge accomplishment.

We know (thanks to volumes of research) that high-quality pre-k is a solid foundation for a great education. High-quality pre-k greatly increases the likelihood of high school graduation and college enrollment, in turn leading to stronger employment opportunities and increased lifetime earning potential.

That’s why the work we are doing as part of the statewide, non-partisan Pre-K for PA campaign is so important.

We are proud of the commonwealth’s high school graduates and equally proud of the support people like you are showing in the effort to increase access to high-quality pre-k for every 3- and 4-year-old in Pennsylvania. With your support, we can help ensure Pennsylvania will have many more high school graduates to celebrate in the future – graduates that benefitted from high-quality-pre-k.

If you know someone who hasn’t already signed on as a supporter of the Pre-K for PA campaign, please forward this message to them.

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Former PA Governors Push for Pre-k

These days, there seem to be few things the major political parties agree on, but two former Pennsylvania governors - one a Democrat, the other a Republican - came together this week to speak up for something that has broad, bi-partisan support: high-quality pre-k.

On Monday, former governors Ed Rendell and Mark Schweiker made joint appearances in Erie and Philadelphia to speak about the urgent need for Pennsylvania to boost its investments in high-quality pre-k so more young learners can benefit. Currently, about 244,000 of the commonwealth’s 3- and 4-year-olds lack access to publicly funded, high-quality pre-k. That’s nearly a quarter of a million missed opportunities that impact the entire commonwealth – from our schools to our communities to our workforce.

“How you treat 3- and 4-year-olds will have everything to do with how they fare in an academic sense in grades 3, 4 and so on,” Schweiker said. “There is a direct connection between what goes on when they’re age 3 and what they'll do later in life, let no one tell you otherwise.”

“Study after study shows the proven benefits of quality early learning,” Rendell said. “From lower dropout and crime rates to stronger communities and businesses, the reasons to expand access are mounting.”

These former governors are hardly alone in recognizing Pennsylvania must do more. That’s why support for high-quality pre-k is one issue that receives enthusiastic support from Republican and Democratic voters alike. In fact, 67 percent of Pennsylvania voters across party lines support expanding access to high-quality pre-k programs.

We might not all be former governors, but we all have a voice in the future of our children and our commonwealth. Make your voice heard by joining Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children and other in the statewide, non-partisan 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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