FRANCES BUSHNELL — Early childhood education keys future success

Published 12:20 am Friday, March 25, 2022

Did you know children who are academically behind in kindergarten are more likely to remain so throughout their educational lives (Quality Early Childhood Education: School Readiness, Pediatrics, 2017)?

The importance of a child’s early learning and its continuation is a concept that is universally understood. For this reason, many parents start the learning process the moment they find out they are expecting.

They play music, read books and even have full conversations throughout pregnancy to give their children a head start in education and a successful future.

Many parents conduct hours of research in order to select the best early childhood learning program for their children, and this selection process carries on at every educational milestone.

Research tells us during the first five years of a child’s life, brain development and overall learning is monumental, meaning more than half of brain connections are made within those pivotal years (Edie & Schnid, 2007).

The first months and years of learning in a child’s life can have lifelong implications on that child’s eventual success as well as possible setbacks.

A review of the Golden Triangle’s birth rate, available educational systems and overall economic growth of the area reveals that creating accessible and high-quality early childhood learning programs is vital to the success of a community.

There is a need for more early childhood learning programs that check off both of these boxes.

The Texas Education Agency has established research-based pre-kindergarten guidelines regarding how children develop and learn.

The Texas Prekindergarten Guidelines are intended to be useful to a broad audience, including school districts, Head Start programs, childcare providers and, most importantly, children’s families (tea.texas.gov).

These programs require such stringent guidelines that many of them require a family to be within certain qualifying characteristics. For this reason, there are high-quality programs that may not be equally accessible to all families; either the enrollment is based on income, English proficiency or cost tuition.

This is where having a solid, tiered educational system in a community comes into play. As a community, one must demand equal access to the best educational opportunities for children. A quality charter school may be the answer.

Children’s vocabulary skills are linked to their economic backgrounds. By 3 years of age, there is a 30-million-word gap between children from the wealthiest and poorest families (Teach Young Children, Feb/March 2014).

When looking at this vast difference in word exposure, it is evident that a need exists to provide additional support to specific groups of children.

As an educator and parent, I have witnessed the significant benefits that a high-quality early education program can provide for students.Children who have the opportunity to participate in high-quality early childhood learning programs are:

  • Better academically prepared
  • Less likely to be retained
  • Less likely to participate in Special Education
  • More likely to graduate high school and attend post-secondary programs
  • More likely to earn higher wages

Overall, we can and should agree that access to effective, diverse and high-quality early childhood education has the potential to break down systematic and structural barriers that have prevented many children from achieving their full potential.

The Bob Hope School model for early childhood education begins with children at the age of 3. These children are enrolled in a Montessori/Dual Language program that emphasizes individualized instruction, independence and self-motivated learning in all areas of growth.

When students move into first grade, they are enrolled in violin and Mandarin Chinese instruction, which is an enhancement of the academic program.

It is up to all of us to see that all children’s educational experiences begin with a high-quality investment by their parents.

Frances Bushnell is the Bob Hope School Beaumont campus director. and her picture is attached. She can be reached at frances.bushnell@bobhopeschool.org.