Report: First Eight Years Indicate a Child’s Success

School Desk
By Stephanie Carroll Carson, Florida News Connection

TAMPA, Fla. – Third grade is the crossroads of a child’s educational future, according to a report released today by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. The analysis found that a majority of pupils, 64 percent, are not on track with cognitive development by third grade.

According to Steve Martaus, director at the Early Childhood Council of Hillsborough County, in Florida there is a lack of consistency around the state when it comes to birth-to-age-eight education.

“There’s definitely some gaps, and I think some counties have sufficient resources to do a really good job for young children, and many counties struggle with a lack of resources.”

The report, “The First Eight Years: Giving Kids a Foundation for Lifetime Success,” also indicates that children living in low-income households are even less likely to be on track by third grade. Just 19 percent of third graders in families living below 200 percent of the poverty level have age-appropriate skills.

Laura Speer, associate director for policy reform and advocacy at the Casey Foundation said that enabling parents to expand their involvement in their children’s lives can help support early childhood education efforts at home.

“Having the flexible work schedule; it’s so important. Also things like providing paid sick leave for parents could make a huge, huge difference.”

In addition to early learning, the report finds that social and emotional skills also help secure success for children, explained Steve Martaus.

“Kids that come into kindergarten that are better able to make friends, get along with others, follow directions, are going to be better able to cope and better able to learn as they go forward.”

Policy recommendations from the report include programs to support parents so they can care and provide for their children, increase access to early childhood education for low-income children, and develop programs that support a child’s transition to elementary school.