CLEARFIELD – At Monday’s committee meetings, the Clearfield Area School District Board of Directors heard an information segment on Early Childhood Education and Community Engagement.
Mary Michael Sayers, principal of the Bradford, Centre and Girard-Goshen Elementary Schools, said their current relationships with pre-school programs and agencies are informal.
“We want to build them stronger,” she said. She said the earlier they work together and collaborate, the more successful the children will be later.
She said their relationships with the Pre-K community need to further develop. She said they need to offer support and ideas for the children to gain exposure to daily kindergarten routines and instruction.
Sayers said they’d like Pre-K children to be introduced to math and literacy at an earlier age. She said they need to collect data from the pre-school programs.
By doing so, Sayers said they’d be familiarized with each child’s educational background at the start of kindergarten. She said they’d then have a better understanding of their individual needs early on.
“We’d be better able to help them right off the bat,” she said. She said they need to establish relationships with both the pre-school educators and parents.
“We need to build a community that works together.”
Karen Krise, director of pre-school at the Central Intermediate Unit #10, said there are just fewer than 4,000 children who are from birth to age five in Clearfield County. She said the county’s children are at high risk of school failure, according to the Office of Child Development and Early Learning Annual Report 2008-09.
Krise said a child’s access to quality early care and education is a way to address the risk factors. She said 56.5 percent of children under the age five participate in publicly-funded quality early education programs.
In Clearfield County, she said 51 percent of children under five live in low-income families; 12.3 percent of births are to mothers with less than a high school education; and 25.1 percent of third graders scored below proficient on the 2009 PSSA reading test.
Krise said at-risk children who attend high-quality early education programs are less likely to be held back a grade and less likely to need special education.
She said they are also less likely to commit crime. In fact, she said by providing high-quality Head Start or other Pre-K programs to all eligible at-risk Pennsylvania children could prevent as many as 1,700 children from committing crimes when they grow older.
She said at-risk children who attend high-quality early education programs are more likely to graduate high school and attend college, however. She said they are also more likely to be employed and have higher earnings, which in turn has a positive contribution to the tax base.
Susan Bloom, of the Clearfield County Community Engagement Group, said a child’s transition to kindergarten is among the most important events in their young life. She said studies have shown children who enter school ready to learn are more likely to be a successful student.
Bloom said the CEG received a special grant to help fund transition to kindergarten activities in the county. She said a booklet was developed by the CEG for all elementary schools. In the booklet, she said they offered parents tips to help prepare their child for kindergarten.
In addition, she said a Transition newsletter was published by the CEG on a bi-monthly basis. She said it was distributed to parents, child care providers and Head Start and Pre-K Counts classrooms.
She said Transition to kindergarten workshops were held at the Moshannon Valley, Clearfield and Dubois school districts in spring 2009.
Bloom said meetings were also continued with the Clearfield Area Schools to link the community child care and pre-school providers to the district.
Bloom said they have five goals for the 2009-10 year. She said they are:
* to increase public awareness about the benefits of early education for children, families and communities and the programs available to support the diverse needs of families.
* outreach to businesses, civic groups, policy makers, families, school districts, early learning providers, community stakeholders and early learning community partners to promote quality early education.
* to develop ways to engage families so that they become involved in their child’s early learning experiences.
* to facilitate connections among school districts, early learning providers and other community stakeholders to develop a community plan to create successful transition to kindergarten experiences.
* to foster connections among children, families, schools and communities.
Sayers said they are currently working with around 15 different early education programs.