I doubt any one would disagree that all children need and deserve a good start on their educational journey. In my early years, there was no such thing as starting school before Kindergarten. I remember that first year of school in bits and pieces. I also remember this being the start of my formal education. Any education done prior to Kindergarten was done at home. No early childhood educational programs existed. That was over 40 years ago. So much was different back then, including the home supports for establishing a strong foundation on which to begin school. I certainly do not believe things were necessarily so great back then nor do I believe things are so much worse today. Things are quite a bit different, though, and what I do know is that early childhood education has become something all children should have access to in its entirety.
According to the National Education Association (NEA), there is a growing body of evidence that indicates early learning opportunities increase the chances for success for students. Two longitudinal studies that show the long-term benefits of early childhood education are the High/Scope Perry Preschool Project and the Abecedarian Early Childhood Intervention Project. Both projects focus on the economic and academic benefits to children who complete quality preschool programs. Since 2003, the NEA has supported universal access to high quality preschool programs for all three and four year old children whose parents wish to enroll them. Of course, the NEA also advocates that when funding is not available for all prekindergarten students that priority should be given to children from low-income communities. A quality preschool program should be rooted in these characteristics: a well-rounded curriculum that enhances the child’s cognitive, physical, social, and emotional development; small class sizes; well trained teachers and administrators who are caring, and services such as staff development (called ancillary services) that support a child’s development through curriculum implementation; partnerships between parents and teachers, and programs that address health, nutrition, and other family needs.
The importance of the formative years cannot be over-emphasized, and three and four year old children need a solid foundation for school. With universal access for all children the results should prove to be long lasting and beneficial on the overall education of children.
NEA Policy Brief, Early Childhood Education and School Readiness, 2006.