2008-11-27 / Correspondents' Notes

Reach And County Risk Assessment For FY 2007-2008

Reaching out an early childhood education hand to children in Pennsylvania, particularly those most atrisk for school failure, is more important than ever before. The office of Child Development and Early Learning of "Reach and County Risk Assessment for FY 2007-2008" demonstrates how far Pennsylvania's investment in early childhood education has come in reaching children, and how far we still have to go to ensure that every child in Pennsylvania has an opportunity for quality education.

No county is immune - children throughout the commonwealth experience risk factors such as low household income. Of the 67 counties, children in 46 (69 percent) counties are at moderate-high or high risk of school failure, however, even counties with moderate or low risks can contain pockets of populations of children who experience risk factors. At a moderate-high risk level, Fulton County as 48.6 percent of children under the age of 5 who live in a low income households, and 18 percent whose families are living below poverty level. A total of 9.2 percent of children under the age of five in Fulton County live in families headed by single mothers whose household are below the poverty level. Such risk factors can contribute to a child who is less prepared for and has more difficulty in school, is more likely to exhibit behavioral and academic programs, and is more likely to need special education services.

Programs such as Nurse Family Partnership, Parent-Child Home Program, Head Start State and Federal, PA Pre-K Counts, Accountability Block Grants for Pre-K, School Based Pre-K, Early Intervention and Keystone STARS are available for children, however, less than 4 in 10 children under the age of 5 statewide participates with a state and/or federally funded quality early childhood program. Currently, one 38.42 percent of children under the age of 5 years in Fulton County are served through quality early childhood education programs. Head Start and Keystone STARS are the only two programs to reach all 67 counties. While most counties have the need and the children, not all have the available programs to meet these needs. In Fulton County, there are three Keystone STARS providers to meet the needs of 76 children under the age of 5. Likewise, 56 children, ages 3 and 4 years, in Fulton County are served through Head Start. Head Start/Early Head Start reaches the most children, with 10.13 percent of children under age 5 with access to the program.

Research consistently shows that children at risk of school failure benefit from quality early learning opportunities, with economic and educational benefits which extend to families, communites and the commonwealth. It is vital we continue public investment in quality early education for a brighter future, ensuring that every child in Pennsylvania has an opportunity for success.

The "Reach and County Risk Assessment for FY 2007-2008" report and county data sheets for June 2008 are available on the Pennsylvania Department of Education Web site at www.pde.state.pa.us.

Return to top