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Effectively Reaching Impoverished Communities with Quality Care

ExchangeEveryDay, the newsletter of Child Care Exchange, recently drew our attention to The Hechinger Report’s profile of the Mississippi Building Blocks program. In many ways, Educational First Steps and Building Blocks have a similar model which emphasizes teacher mentoring, training, access to higher education and supplying materials in an effort to raise the level of educational quality among independently owned child care centers. The privately funded Building Blocks program «positively impact[s] children’s skills and social emotional development – particularly kids with the greatest need» (ExchangeEveryDay). The initiative is increasing school readiness, moving the state beyond its reputation of pairing the highest rate of child poverty in the nation with some of the lowest standardized test scores, and coming in last in licensing and oversight of small, family child care homes.
Like EFS in North Texas, this program is clearly energizing academic progress in impoverished communities. While Building Blocks estimates that the cost per child for taking the program statewide would be $2,000, EFS’ Four Steps To Excellence 2.0 program has proven that it can be replicated for a per child cost of $500. EFS students show comparable, if not accelerated, results as they have been:
28% more likely to pass tests of limited English proficiency
16% less likely to experience grade retention through each of the first three grades
more adept in both literacy and numeracy in kindergarten through second grade.
Perhaps most important, students from accredited centers tested for literacy at the third grade level were found to score nearly 6 percentile points higher than all others at DISD, while the non-accredited students scored nearly 6 percentile points below the DISD sample. Students from accredited EFS-assisted centers score over eleven percentile points higher than students from non-accredited centers.
The EFS program of achieving accredited quality is a catalyst for transformation as children are provided with the academic and social-emotional skills necessary for scholastic and professional achievement. This success mobilizes families and communities toward increased productivity and accomplishment, vitalizing a population all too often relegated to repeating the cycle of poverty. Support of early childhood education, whether in Mississippi or closer to home, is an investment in the communities that surround us, an opportunity to point our children’s future toward producing positive outcomes both for their personal lives and society as a whole.