We know that early education is good for children and their development, but what does the latest research tell us about the specific benefits of pre-K?
Positive early childhood experiences make a huge difference in the lives of children, according to a recent article in the Journal of Pediatrics (November 2023). Researchers looked at the impacts of positive early childhood experiences on children ages 3-5 and found that positive early childhood experiences, such as a high-quality pre-K program, were associated with higher school readiness, even in circumstances where children also had exposure to adverse childhood experiences. Programs like MECK Pre-K that focus on the whole child, including family support, can help to boost those positive early childhood experiences while potentially reducing adverse childhood experiences.
Another recent study from the Journal of Human Resources (January 2023) found that universal pre-K programs that are open to children from all economic backgrounds can be much more effective than programs that limit enrollment to families with lower incomes. Children from these families who attended preschool programs with other children from a mix of economic backgrounds “showed far better reading test score gains when they became eligible for and enrolled in public preschool than children in states with programs targeted to disadvantaged children.” MECK Pre-K, which is open to all four-year-olds in Mecklenburg County regardless of income, provides a high-quality pre-K education for children of all economic backgrounds.
We’ve talked about school readiness and reading test scores, but what about other factors, such as health and well-being? An article from CityHealth (September 2022), a resource for city leaders, policymakers, and advocates, tells us that “Public pre-K programs provide a safe place for children to learn, play, and grow — while also benefiting their health both directly and indirectly.” The article also highlights the fact that “Children in pre-K have greater access to health screenings, health care, improved nutrition, and other health-promoting activities.” MECK Pre-K provides this kind of support to enrolled families at “Smart Start to MECK Pre-K” events, where they conduct developmental screenings to get to know the individualized developmental strengths and needs of each child before they start school. These events also include a community resource fair, meetings with partnered therapy providers, and more.
These findings reinforce what many of us already know – that pre-K is great for children. But how does it impact everyone else in the community? Well, according to the Urban Child Institute, the positive impacts of pre-K extend far outside the classroom! “A community with high levels of educational attainment is a community that is less vulnerable to poverty, unemployment, and crime. Reduced need for public spending on remedial education, criminal justice, and social support programs are key reasons why universal Pre-K is such a sensible investment.” However, the article reminds us that pre-K must be high-quality to provide these benefits. “To ensure that Pre-K is effective, it must include an emphasis on high standards regarding teacher qualifications, small class size, research-based curriculum, and family involvement.”
Fortunately, MECK Pre-K is high quality free pre-K education open to all four-year-old children in Mecklenburg County. Classrooms are located in licensed childcare centers and taught by licensed teachers and highly qualified assistant teachers. You can apply online at MeckPreK.org.
Do you have a child who is not old enough for pre-K this year? Sign up for our email list and be notified when they’re eligible for MECK Pre-K. Simply go to MECKPrek.org/future-meck-pre-k-students and select your child’s age group.