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Weak kindergarten has lasting effects

11/7/2013

By the Kansas Health Institute News Service

TOPEKA -- Officials at Kansas Action for Children are citing a new national report as evidence state officials need to target more funding for early childhood development programs.

"In Kansas, investments in young children are at a critical juncture," said Shannon Cotsoradis, chief executive of Kansas Action for Children, a Topeka-based advocacy group.

"We know that next year our state will receive more than $17 million from the tobacco arbitration agreement in addition to our annual tobacco settlement payment, and this report demonstrates why it's so important for Kansas to dedicate that money to early childhood programs," she said.

The report, titled "The First Eight Years: Giving Kids a Foundation for Lifetime Success," was released by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, a national child advocacy group that partners with Kansas Action for Children.

It detailed results of a longitudinal study of 13,000 children who were in kindergarten during the 1998-1999 school year.

The study showed children who lagged in kindergarten continued to have problems in later grades.

Only 36 percent of the children in the study were on track in the cognitive knowledge and skills area by the time they reached third grade.

The report found connections between family income and school performance and noted that in 2012, 48 percent of Kansas children age 8 and younger lived in low-income homes.

It also found more than 60 percent of Kansas children ages 3 and 4 from low-income homes were not enrolled in preschool.

Among the report's recommendations:

* State and federal government should make it easier for parents to navigate the array of programs available by streamlining services.

* States should adopt standards and expectations for child development and ensure the availability of comprehensive health care with screenings to catch disabilities of developmental delays.

* States should use consistent measures of child development that provide "broad assessments of well being, including progress across key aspects of development."