Early Childhood Education—preschool, kindergarten, and day care—is in high demand throughout the country. Families are struggling to go to work and find safe places for their young children to learn and prepare themselves for elementary school. In Colorado, Governor Jared Polis has pledged to reinvigorate the state’s funding for early education programs. Polis’ administration has already begun to roll out its promised early childhood initiatives, including full-day kindergarten state-wide and the expansion of free full-day preschool. The result has been more access for families across the state to these much-needed programs.
In Pickens Technical College’s Early Childhood Education program, you’ll learn how these policies can be effective in preparing young students for success as they enter higher grades. The transition from living at home to going to school every day isn’t easy (I struggled more than most), but the younger kids are exposed to working, learning, and playing with others in a classroom environment, the smoother the transition will be.
Recently, a study of students in the Westminster school district found large indications of literacy gains and other positive outcomes for full-day preschoolers when they start kindergarten. It appears that Polis’ emphasis on early childhood education in Colorado will benefit many children. It will also benefit you if you enter this educational field.
The Westminster study was the first of its kind to compare full-day pre-K students with half-day pre-K students. Westminster preschoolers entered a lottery to be placed in one of the new full-day preschool programs back in 2016, before Polis pledged state funds to expand the program. The 2016 program served over 200 students. The study showed that the students in full-day preschool scored significantly better on receptive vocabulary, the set of words students understand and can apply to real-world objects and situations, than half-day preschoolers. These vocabulary skills are the building blocks of literacy. The full-day preschoolers also scored higher on an early literacy assessment and a general assessment of several academic areas.
Changes Coming, and New Opportunities
During the 2017-18 school year, only 9% of the 27,000 students in the taxpayer-funded preschool program, available to low-income families, attended full-day preschool. But this year, Colorado increased the number of half-day seats by 5,000, which many districts around the state are combining to offer more full-day slots.
The results, according to some of the teachers in these programs, have been stark. Full-day preschoolers, many educators say, get the chance, for the first time, to do many small school tasks on their own. From washing their hands to putting dishes away, to solving problems as they arise when playing and learning with many other kids, full-day students are well-prepared for the new challenges that elementary school presents.
The benefits of full-day preschool care are manifold, and as a graduate of Pickens Early Childhood Education program, there will be more opportunities to help students make that transition between preschool and kindergarten. If you think you have what it takes to work in this field, the time is now to break in.