PA Partnerships for Children (PPC) today released its 2010 School Readiness report which details how well Pennsylvania is doing preparing its youngest children for school. According to the report - which features well-being indicators such as access to pre-kindergarten and high-quality child care, health insurance coverage and early intervention - Pennsylvania lost ground on six of 16 measures.
Most worrisome is that the number of children living in low-income families in Pennsylvania grew this past year to nearly 40 percent of children birth to five. The state also lost ground in the number of children lacking health insurance, access to child care subsidy and the availability of public pre-kindergarten. Today, just over 17 percent of 3 and 4 year olds benefit from public pre-K, while there was a loss of more than 9,000 slots available in the state's subsidized child care system since last year. And while more children birth-4 are funded by public health insurance, more than 4.5 percent of youngsters remain uninsured.
"Children grow up too quickly. We all know how fast the early years race by," said Joan L. Benso, president and CEO, PA Partnerships for Children. "The formative years between birth and five cannot be recaptured, so we need to do everything we can to ensure young children get the early learning experiences that create the foundation for a successful life."
Third-grade PSSA scores stalled this year indicating a need to increase our commitment to early childhood education and not allow it to diminish as studies demonstrate children enrolled in high-quality early learning programs experience fewer grade retentions and have better math and reading scores in the critical elementary school years.
But there is some progress to share. This year's report indicates the Commonwealth has made improvements in the availability of high-quality child care as well as full-day kindergarten programs. The percent of kindergartners in full-day programs increased over the past year as did child care providers rated high quality through accreditation by national child care associations or Keystone Stars, the state's quality improvement system.
While more third-grade students scored proficient in math than in 2009, third-grade PSSA reading scores declined.
"A myriad of research shows that investing in high-quality early learning experiences reaps dividends down the road for children, schools and communities," Benso said. "We must stay the course and ensure that every child has the opportunity to enter school ready to learn, ready to thrive."
More information may be obtained by contacting Kathy Geller Myers, PPC Communications Director, at 717-236-5680 or firstname.lastname@example.org.