Early childhood education has become an important factor in a child’s development within the past decade. Extensive research indicated that the capacity of the human brain to absorb new learning reaches its peak at just 3 years old (ZERO TO THREE, 2009). Scientist have learned the child’s brain can develops over one hundred trillion brain synapses; “wiring” between two brain cells that grasp new learning. The more synapses, the more your brain will learn. It is during this time that the human brain has the highest potential for new learning in its lifetime. Recognizing shapes, singing, playing with toys and drawing are all examples of behaviors your child learns in the first few years of life.
Even the youngest of children begin to explore and learn literacy skills. Infants begin to learn literacy in the arms or on the lap of a parent or caregiver. As you sing, rhyme, and tell stories, babies develop listening skills and an interest of words. As you read together, babies will watch the reader’s mouth, watch as your turn the page, play with the book and, eventually, have a desire to read them too!
The State of Florida began to recognize the importance of Early Childhood Education and in 2002 a Constitutional Amendment was passed by Florida voters requiring a voluntary Pre Kindergarten. In 2005, Governor Bush signed it into a law, creating a program designed to prepare four-year-olds for kindergarten and build the foundation for their educational success.
The VPK program gives each child an opportunity to perform better in school and throughout life with quality programs that include high literacy standards, accountability, appropriate curriculum, substantial instruction periods, manageable class sizes and qualified instructors. If you live in Florida and have a child who turns 4 years of age by Sept. 1, your child is eligible for Florida’s FREE VPK program. A child can attend one of the two programs offered annually. The school-year program includes 540 hours of instructional time and begins in August. The summer program consists of 300 instructional hours and can begin as early as May. There are a number of private child care and public school providers who offer this program.
Each year more 4-year-olds are enrolled in this program. According to The Office of Early Learning, Florida Department of Education, statistic show that in 2005-06 there were 220,857 total number of four-year-olds in the state and 106,507 were enrolled in VPK = 48% of all four-year-olds. In 2006-07, there were 226,832 four-year-olds in the state and 123,594 were enrolled in VPK = 54% of all four-year-olds. In 2007-08 there were 231,062 four-year-olds in the state and 134,718 were enrolled in VPK = 58% of all four-year-olds. In 2008-09, there were 234,186 four-year-olds and 137,716 enrolled in VPK= 59% of all four-year olds.
This program is growing because statistics show that it has been successful in its goal to prepare a child to be “ready” for kindergarten. This is determined by an assessment called FLKRS that is conducted within 30 days of a child entering Kindergarten. In the 2008-2009 school year, Eighty-five percent of Florida’s VPK providers earned a readiness rate of 214 or higher out of a possible 300 points. In Fact, The Office of Early Learning, Florida Department of Education determined that children who participated in the VPK program performed better on the kindergarten screening than children who did not participate.
Kindergarten teacher, Jennifer Broffman states “it’s beneficial to expose a child to early learning experiences.” When children enter kindergarten and have been enrolled in the VPK program or some type of early childhood learning center, they typically adjust easier than those who have not had that experience” Broffman said.
Not only have VPK allowed children to jumpstart their educational career, it also has encourage and pushed Childcare professionals to continue their education in early Childhood development. Any person leading a VPK class must obtain at least their CDA (Child Development Associates) and 4.5 Continuing Education Units (CEUS) each year in addition to their 120 hours of CDA-approved coursework.
VPK is offered in both the Public school setting and Private Childcare facilities. Although VPK is free at both locations, some may say that private facilities have just as much or even more of an impact on a child’s early learning and school readiness experience. Children need to know about painting, and about why sand-play and gardening is important which has typically been a part of the standard curriculum for most private childcare facilities.
Ultimately, the state would like to have every VPK teacher hold at least a bachelor's in education. That would cost the state an extra 60 million dollars annual according to The National Institute for Early Education Research. However, the state currently spends 350 million on remediation for first, second and third graders. Do the math!
Research will continue to show the importance of Early Childhood Education. We must continue to support and help develop these opportunities to better equip children for a successful academic career so that they, in turn, will make a positive contribution to society.
This story is contributed by a member of the Treasure Coast community and is neither endorsed nor affiliated with TCPalm.com
By Janeth Andrade
Source: TCPalm - http://goo.gl/KTxI2