Why Suspending Early Childhood Education Is a Huge Mistake
The basic premise that education is a key element to our nation’s success rests on the premise that education ensures economic growth and strengthens family values and society. Eliminating childhood education programs for two year olds is a setback to our national development efforts. It also has a negative impact on our children and families.
Even more fundamentally, it is a throwback to bygone days of social isolation, class division, and limited opportunity. In mid-19th century United States, social mobility and opportunity were widely unknown and even here in the 21st century, too many opportunities are remaining in limited hands. Early childhood education is the key to creating opportunity and instilling nurturing values in all children.
Early Childhood Education Shows Positive Impact on Socioeconomic Status, Self-Esteem, Self-worth, Health, Academic Achievement
Recent research suggests that early childhood education programs are effective at promoting the early well-being of children, and improving their growth and educational outcomes as they move forward in life. So how does suspending early childhood education programs affect children and families?
A popular method of combining school and home-based learning is Head Start, a federal preschool program which serves young children and their families. Early childhood education and Head Start programs are based on the theory that early exposure to education and other supports at home and in the classroom will positively impact the children’s academic, social and emotional development. These evaluations have shown that all children attending Head Start have greater household income, higher test scores, and less behavioral problems as they progress in their schooling and life than when they were first enrolled in Head Start.
States that have suspended their Head Start programs showed declines in their achievement scores among early childhood students. For example, a 2012 study by RTI International reports that states that delayed the start of Head Start programs reduced the gap between high and low socioeconomic status students by 6.5 percentage points, on average. A 2015 study by the Child Development and Educational Research Center at Columbia University reported that the effects of suspending enrollment in Head Start were more pronounced than any other state action; a full year delayed means loss of 3 to 4 months of learning.
Why is this significant? According to projections based on 2008 graduation rates, 42 percent of today’s high school graduates have struggled academically as children, and the effects of suspension appear to have a detrimental impact on their performance in the classroom. In fact, one study found that between four and 10 percent of graduating students who had struggled academically as children were skipping school, taking more and more absences than others, and falling behind in the grade level. Head Start programs give children a lifetime of educational support and help to reach the highest academic achievement levels. This program alone provides lifetime opportunities that may help to counter the effects of drops in basic knowledge and ability later in life.
The Impact of Suspending Early Childhood Education Programs on Children and Families
Home-based programs are an alternative option for low-income children that programs must meet to be designated as Preschool Education Resource Centers or PERSCs. Eighty percent of families receiving reduced-cost Head Start can afford home-based learning programs, but families of other low-income children cannot use home-based programs. Parents, though, should have a chance to attend to the health, safety, and academic needs of their young children in order to improve their performance in school. If home-based learning programs are not a viable alternative, students should be able to take place in their older peers’ programs and also receive the supports they need at home that age groups need, such as a dentist, nurse, and books.
There is no doubt that early childhood education can help children learn and grow. Universal access to early childhood education programs would not only help the youngest children to achieve academic success, but help to correct the social, economic, and educational gaps in which these children and families are locked.
Children who are not treated with respect at home may struggle in school to grow up to develop the work ethic necessary to succeed in an increasingly competitive global economy. All children deserve an education to equip them for successful lives and pursue jobs that will enable them to afford basic necessities for their families. Taking the first step to provide quality early childhood education is the first step toward securing more and better opportunities for children and families.