Children in Lycoming County are at Moderate-High risk of school failure; only 50% have access to publicly-funded quality early education

Lycoming County United Way

Lycoming County United Way

Children in Lycoming County are at Moderate-High risk of school failure; only 50% have access to publicly-funded quality early education Children in Lycoming County are at Moderate-High risk of school failure, according to a new state report. The report released by the Pennsylvania Office of Child Development and Early Learning, “Program Reach and County Risk Assessment, Fiscal Year 2007-2008,” compiles information from the 2007-2008 fiscal year on the number of children affected by seven risk factors for school failure and the number of children in each county served by federally- and state-funded early childhood programs, such as Keystone STARS, Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts, Early Intervention, Head Start, Child Care Works, and Nurse-Family Partnership.

“Children affected by risk factors such as living in low-income families or the education level of the mother are more likely to fail in school, however, these same children can overcome these challenges if they have quality early education experiences before age five,” stated Rosann Pelleschi, director of funds distribution and community building at Lycoming County United Way. “Pennsylvania’s Reach and Risk report gives us a better picture of the needs of our young children and how well we are meeting those needs.”

Of the approximately 6,601 children under age five living in Lycoming County:
46.9% live in households earning less than 200% of poverty (which was equivalent to $34,058 for a family of four in 2000)
16.8% live in families whose mother has less than a high school degree

The report also states that 18.1% of 3rd graders in local school districts scored below proficient on PSSA in Reading in 2008.

“If our economy continues its downturn, we will have more children affected by risk factors such as living in low-income families or families receiving public assistance,” stated Secretary of Public Welfare Estelle Richman. “As we prepare our children for a successful future, we need to be aware of the challenges our children face and invest in programs that can help them overcome these challenges.”

According to the report, approximately 50% of Lycoming County’s young children participate in publicly-funded quality early education programs such as Nurse-Family Partnership, Parent-Child Home Program, Head Start State and Federal, PA Pre-K Counts, Accountability Block Grants for Pre-K, School Based Pre-K, Early Intervention and Keystone STARS.

2.24% participate in Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts

24.9% participate in Keystone STARS

11.1% participate in Early Intervention

3.03% participate in Nurse-Family Partnership

“One of the strongest arguments for quality early education is that it can help children who would otherwise enter school without the necessary skills to build those skills early and bridge the achievement gap before it even begins,” stated Secretary Gerald Zahorchak. “This new report shows that Pennsylvania needs to continue to grow its investment in quality early education if we expect all of Pennsylvania’s students to succeed in school and in life.”

Programs and parents report that these early childhood initiatives are making a difference in children’s development in Lycoming County. Locally, Anne M. Doerr, Director, reported that more than 97% of four-year olds enrolled in the PA Pre-K Counts Program operated by Lycoming-Clinton Head Start, STEP, Inc., in 2007-2008 ended the school year with the skills needed for kindergarten success. Children experienced significant gains in thinking, problem solving and social-emotional skills, use of appropriate behavior, improved creativity, language, math, science, health and social skills. PA Pre-K Counts parents, kindergarten teachers and principals praise the program very highly.

This is the second year that the Office of Child Development and Early Learning has published this report with new features this year to include children served in Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts, Early Intervention, Nurse-Family Partnership, and Parent-Child Home Program, and data on children served in Pennsylvania’s 27 largest municipalities.

Based on the percentages of children affected by seven risk factors known to negatively impact a child’s success in school, counties were given numeric “average risk levels” (ARL) that ranged from 1.00 to 4.00. Those at 1.00 or lower were deemed low risk, while levels from 1.01 to 2.00 were considered moderate-low risk. Counties with risk levels ranging from 2.01 to 3.00 were considered moderate-high risk, while those above 3.00 were classified as high risk. Lycoming County was assigned a “moderate-high” risk with a score of 2.71.

Pennsylvania invests in several early childhood programs to help our children and families reach their promise. Through Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts approximately 11,800 of Pennsylvania’s three and four year olds participate in high quality pre-kindergarten in more than 400 schools and early learning programs. Through Keystone STARS, approximately 175,000 children from birth to age 12 are receiving a higher quality early learning experience in more than 5,000 child care and Head Start programs. Through Child Care Works, more than 200,000 children living in low-income working families have access to reliable child care and quality early learning programs that they could never afford. Pennsylvania’s early childhood initiatives, such as Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts, Keystone STARS, Child Care Works, Early Intervention and Nurse-Family Partnership create a quality early education continuum that serves approximately 300,000 children across the commonwealth.

“Armed with this knowledge, each member of the community can make a difference” said Jennifer Bolich, early childhood education coordinator at the Lycoming County United Way. “As a parent, you can enroll your child in a quality early learning program and continue to work with your child at home. Parents can also be advocates for their children and their early learning programs. Let your legislators know how your family has benefited from these programs. And all of us can volunteer for educational activities and events. Take time to read a book to a child – you’ll both be glad you did.”

For more information, please contact Jennifer Bolich, Early Childhood Education Coordinator at the Lycoming County United Way 323-9448.

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