BY FAMILY SERVICES
All children in Forsyth County deserve the opportunity to succeed in school and in life. Brain science has confirmed what most parents already know: namely, that the first five years of life are a time of tremendous physical, social, emotional, and cognitive development. These years are especially critical for the construction of a child’s developing brain.
Unfortunately, too many children in Forsyth County are not reaching their full potential. Nearly half are not proficient in reading by third grade. From there, it’s hard to catch up. A Harvard University study ranks Forsyth County as the 5th worst out of 2,873 counties in the nation for helping poor children move up the economic ladder.
Fortunately, there are proven ways to help children enter kindergarten ready to achieve socially, emotionally, and academically. Extensive research over the past forty years shows that high-quality Pre-K programs are a wise investment that close educational achievement gaps and improve health and well-being far into adulthood.
A recent Duke University study, authored by Kenneth A. Dodge, who spoke at the Annual Raising Every Child Luncheon last month, followed more than one million North Carolina public school children and found significant benefits from the state-funded Smart Start and More at Four (NC Pre-K) programs. These early childhood programs “…continued to have positive effects on the population of targeted students…as they progressed through middle school. Higher levels of program funding improved students’ math and reading scores, decreased the likelihood that they would be placed into special education, and reduced the probability of repeating a grade. The More at Four program effects varied significantly across subgroups within the population, with larger positive impacts on children from less well-educated, more economically disadvantaged, and African-American families.”
Forsyth County is poised to provide all families with the opportunity to enroll their four-year-old children in affordable, high-quality Pre-K programs. We can build on the solid standards and Best Practices of current programs funded by the North Carolina Pre-K Program (NC Pre-K) and provided in classrooms in the Winston-Salem Forsyth County Schools, at the Family Services Head Start program, and in private community childcare centers.
There’s still much work to do. Any expansion of the current system will require improvements in quality, additional facilities, more qualified and better-compensated teachers, and the establishment of an administrative structure to ensure uniform practices and positive outcomes.
We know what needs to be done and how to do it. But to make this vision a reality, support is needed from elected officials, business and civic leaders, and everyday people committed to the well-being of our community. The time has come for Forsyth County to make Pre-K a Priority.
Visit PreKPriority.org to learn more.