Early childhood in Balitmore model for Iowa

From Des Moines Register:

Literacy-rich preschool instruction puts youngsters on track for success

Written by Mary Stegmeir

May 18, 2013 10:55 PM   

BALTIMORE — Malik King and Kamryn Banks waste no time getting down to business.

As their preschool classmates settle in for story time, the two students are already discussing the day’s reading selection — a book penned especially for them by their teacher, Noelle Hickok.

“It’s about the ocean,” Kamryn, 4, explains to her friend.

Together, the Liberty Elementary School students flip through the book, making up plot lines and admiring the pictures of sharks and jellyfish that fill the pages.

An early exposure to books is a predictor of future academic success, and in Maryland, schools provide literacy-rich preschool instruction for children who need the most help getting ready for kindergarten.

A 2002 state law requires that 4-year-olds from economically disadvantaged families be offered early childhood education. This year, 82 percent of Maryland students entering kindergarten were fully school-ready, up from 49 percent in 2001-02.

In Baltimore, 5,000 children participate in free full-day preschool.

“We know now that pre-K is the engine that drives school success,” said Charlene Iannone-Campbell, director of early learning programs for Baltimore City Public Schools. “We know the kids that enter school ready to learn continue to score proficient on our state exams as they move up through the grades.”

Iowa’s Voluntary Statewide Preschool program began in 2007, but the number of children served is limited. Census estimates show a third of Iowa’s 4-year-olds did not attend preschool in 2011, and children from low- or middle-income families were most likely to miss out.

In Baltimore, Liberty Elementary Principal Joseph Manko pushed to expand early childhood services. His school now includes two full-day preschool classrooms, as well as Head Start, an early childhood education program paid for by the federal government.

“A lot of people think, ‘OK, kids are getting tested in third and fourth grade, let’s provide the intervention there.’ What you need to do is invest in pre-K and K,” Manko said. “It takes time, but you see the fruits of your labors later on.”

Parent Sherreyl Gilchrist said she thinks Liberty’s preschool program has prepared her 5-year-old son, Emahd, for success.

“They reinforce language and communication in here,” she said. “The growth is incredible.”

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