Early Childhood Education In-depth

The first years of life are critical period for development of basic skills – necessary for development of a broad range of life skills which result in life success.  We understand that the majority of brain development occurs in the early years, and Family Star is committed to providing the best possible environment for children to learn and grow.   The foundations for future success– motivation, the ability to work with others, attention, self-regulation, and the ability to defer gratification — are developed in these early years.[1]  Family Star classroom environments are carefully designed to allow children the greatest opportunity for growth in these areas.

a.      Language and pre-literacy skills are ripe for development in the first few years.
b.      The first years of life are also very important for development of fundamental social skills.
c.   Young children need opportunities to do focused work requiring concentration, self-control, and making choices—for development of parts of their brain (frontal lobes) that allow them to succeed in school and in life

[1] Warren, James.  Economist’s Plan to Improve Schools Begins Before Kindergarten, December 23, 2010, NY Timeshttp://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/24/us/24cncwarren.html.

This is why economists say that early childhood education is a great investment.

“Skill begets skill; learning begets learning.  Early disadvantage, if left untreated, leads to academic and social difficulties in later years.  Advantages accumulate; so do disadvantages” (Heckman and Masterov, 2007).

James Heckman, Nobel prize winning economist, became very curious as he found that most of the programs intended to reduce poverty didn’t really make a difference.

He made the following discoveries in his research:
1.     The more abilities and skills a person has, the better they tend to do in life.

2.     There are significant gaps in skills and abilities between people of different backgrounds– race, class, and education of the mother.  The great difference in abilities is very apparent very early — a sizable gap exists by age 2 and is even wider at age 3.

3.     Cognitive skills and abilities matter, but also non-cognitive skills, such as patience, persistence, self-confidence, the ability to follow instructions, and the ability to delay gratification for a future reward.

4.     Both cognitive and non-cognitive skills are teachable– but it depends a lot on when you teach them. Young children need a good foundation in learning in order to benefit from later learning.

5.     The skills a child learns early on make it easier for him to master more complex skills as he grows up.

Economists tell us– when it comes to investments in society, it’s pay now or pay later.  The return on investment for quality early childhood services is $7 for every $1 spent—conservatively.  If you look over the course of a person’s lifetime, we’re talking about $250,000 in lifetime costs to society of one person who failed to start school ready to succeed.

Where else can you find even a $2:$1 return on your investment??  (Link to Pew Policy Briefhttp://earlychildhoodcolorado.org/inc/uploads/PayNowOrPayLater_IssueBrief_PAEC.pdf)

Quality early childhood programs provide great advantages for children, allowing them to develop great foundational skills for future success.  For children living in poverty, a quality early childhood program can make all the difference in their future.  This is one reason Family Star provides the highest quality services to children from diverse backgrounds, with a priority to serve a majority children from families living in poverty.

The academic achievement gap for students living in poverty is well-known.  Without effective early intervention, children from families with low incomes consistently fall behind their peers in test scores, graduation rates, college enrollment, and other measures of academic success.  Family Star programs close the education gap and prepare students to enter school ready to learn.