Research shows that early childhood education prepares children to enter and succeed in the classroom, decreases their risk of social-emotional mental health problems, and increases their self-sufficiency as adults. Education during these formative years can also begin closing the educational achievement gap between low and high-income students before formal schooling begins. Effective early childhood education increases high school graduation rates, improves performance on standardized tests, and reduces both grade repetition and the number of children placed in special education.
Increasing access to high-quality full day pre-K and full day kindergarten could have lasting impacts on APS’ student achievement. Over the past year, APS has not taken systematic steps to add additional full day pre-K or full day kindergarten seats. The only new pre-K seats added this year are those offered by Rocky Mountain Prep, a charter school that will be rolling out one grade-level at a time as a replacement for Fletcher Community School. Though charter schools can and should be involved in expanding pre-K and kindergarten options, the district needs to create a more systematic plan for increasing the number or the size of quality programs offered to families.
Currently, only 54% of Aurora’s kindergarten children are in enrolled in full-day programs and Aurora lags substantially behind other neighboring communities in having quality full-day ECE offerings. APS must work with the city and others to ensure that more entering students have quality full-day ECE and schools have supported high quality full-day Kindergarten programs with solid early literacy programming. APS should focus on expanding the capacity of existing early childhood centers, creating new centers with the help of community partners. Several school districts around the country have established strong pre-K and early childhood programs to better serve their students; APS should refine these programs to best suit the context and the needs of the students in Aurora.
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