HARRISBURG, Pa., Oct. 15 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The commonwealth's continuing investment in early childhood education is providing a strong foundation for young children to start school ready to learn and boosting the academic success of at-risk children, according to the Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts year-end report released today by acting Education Secretary Thomas E. Gluck.
Issued by the Office of Child Development and Early Learning, the report highlights the accomplishments of the 153 grantees and 165 partners who provide early learning services through Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts funding.
"Over the past three years, Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts has continued to demonstrate successful outcomes for helping vulnerable young children be ready to learn when they enter kindergarten," Gluck said. "This report highlights the benefits that this early learning program offers to at-risk children and their families, as well as taxpayers and communities."
In 2009-10, an investment of $86.4 million to Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts early learning programs provided high-quality pre-kindergarten services to nearly 12,000 at-risk 3- and 4-year-olds through school districts, Head Start providers, child care centers and nursery schools.
"Children who have access to quality early learning opportunities can overcome risk factors and succeed in school and in life," Gluck said. "These children can start school on par with their peers and be less likely to require expensive special education services, providing an immediate savings to our school districts."
According to the report:
Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts is serving our most vulnerable children. In 2009-10, the program served children in 62 counties and 402 school districts. Approximately 5.3 percent of 3- and 4-year-olds in the rural/rural-mix counties were served and 3.7 percent of the 3- and 4-year-olds in the urban/urban-mix counties were served in Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts.
Enrollment for Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts targets children affected by risk factors that can harm their development and chance for school success. Participating children lived in families earning up to 300 percent of the federal poverty level, and about half (49.9 percent) of children enrolled were also impacted by at least one other risk factor, such as learning English as a second language, having special needs, or living with a parent or guardian with less than a high school education, making them more likely to struggle in school.
Children have made excellent progress in Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts and are entering kindergarten ready to learn. Nearly every child (more than 98 percent) showed age-appropriate or emerging age-appropriate proficiency in literacy, numeracy, and social skills after attending a Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts early learning program in 2009-1010. Schools report that graduates of Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts continue to perform on par with or better than their peers in kindergarten and first grade.
Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts teachers and classrooms are high quality. Approximately 84 percent of teachers have bachelor's degrees and two-thirds have obtained Early Childhood Education (ECE) teacher certification. Approximately 25 percent more teachers are ECE-certified this year than in 2008-2009. Well-qualified teachers keep parents engaged, promote positive development, address concerns, and work with parents to create learning experiences both in school and at home.
In addition to high-quality certified teachers, Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts classrooms offer small class sizes, curriculum aligned with Pennsylvania Early Learning standards, regular assessment progress and performance reports. These high expectations ensure that the children receive a high-quality early learning experience.
Parents are highly satisfied with Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts. In a recent survey, 95 percent of about 3,200 parents with children enrolled in Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts reported that teachers provided them with new ideas on how to support their child's development at home, and that information on their child's performance motivated them to change how they taught their child at home.
Thousands of parents are demanding quality early education for their children. At the end of the 2009-10 school year, approximately 4,500 children were already on waiting lists to participate in Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts for 2010-11.
The Office of Child Development and Early Learning, overseen jointly by the departments of Education and Public Welfare, was created under Governor Rendell to bring a stronger focus to helping Pennsylvania's youngest children develop and learn to their fullest potential.
Learn more or download the full report at www.education.state.pa.us.
Media contact: Steve Weitzman, 717-783-9802
SOURCE Pennsylvania Department of Education