GCS Keeps Commitment to Pre-Kindergarten Program

While school districts around the country are increasing the class size and reducing the budget for their pre-kindergarten programs, Guilford County Schools (GCS) is not. GCS believes that the N.C. Pre-kindergarten Program is so important to the development of the 4 -year-olds who it serves, that it is using portions of Title I funding to support the program at last year's capacity of approximately 1,200 students. GCS is maintaining last year's number of pre-kindergarten slots even though the numbers of slots funded by the state continues to fluctuate.

The value of pre-kindergarten programs cannot be overstated. Pre-kindergarten programs have been shown to reduce the number of students placed in special education or remedial classes; as well as increase test scores for those at-risk students who have gone through the program.

Donna Foster, first grade teacher at Archer Elementary and parent of a recent pre-kindergarten graduate, says the program is worth keeping.

"The [pre-kindergarten] program is preparing kids for what they need to succeed in kindergarten," said Foster. "It helps kids learn how to read and write and helps them prepare for a traditional school setting. This program helped my son with social interaction and working one-on-one and in small groups. I would recommend this program to another parent. It is beneficial for any student that qualifies," Foster added.

A 2010 evaluation completed by the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill helped to reinforce this fact. The study found that the gap in test scores between economically disadvantaged students who attended pre-kindergarten and middle class students who did not attend the program was reduced by between 25-40 percent depending on the test and the year.

"Despite budget cuts and other changes, GCS is continuing in our commitment to provide pre-kindergarten services for eligible children who will benefit from learning skills to be kindergarten ready," said Linda Olinger, Director of pre-k programs for GCS. "A solid pre-k experience is the foundation for future academic success."

The state-funded pre-kindergarten program, which began in 2001, provides at-risk and other disadvantaged children with invaluable educational skills that enables children to enter kindergarten ready to learn. The N.C. Pre-kindergarten Program provides 40 percent of incoming kindergarteners with academic experiences that are critical to the development of any child, but are especially important to the healthy cognitive development of at-risk children.