CHRIS KIEFFER: Week ahead is a big one for prekindergarten education

By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal

This is a big week for early childhood education in Tupelo.
Parents will have an opportunity to learn more about a prekindergarten program in the Tupelo Public School District, and community members will be privy to a presentation about the importance of pre-K to the state’s economic future.
The Mississippi Economic Council will begin touring the state this week with a message for business leaders from Greenville to Gulfport to Tupelo: Early learning is pivotal to economic development.
The tour will be in Tupelo on Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Summit Center. National experts on early childhood education like Laurie Smith of Mississippi Building Blocks and Mike Petro from the Washington, D.C.-based Committee for Economic Development on Early Childhood will address how businesses can grow tomorrow’s work force by supporting early childhood education.
As research tries to pinpoint the cause of America’s achievement gap, it focuses more and more on early education and the huge discrepancy between the number of words spoken in high-income versus low-income households. The belief is that if more children were introduced to reading, numbers and learning before they enter kindergarten, their chances of success in school would greatly increase. Their likeliness of students feeling overwhelmed and dropping out would greatly decrease.
According to a report released last week by the Southern Education Foundation, in 2008, one out of every 14 kindergarten students in Mississippi had to repeat the grade. That’s more than twice the rate of fifth-grade students, and the number has been constant over the last 10 years.
Meanwhile, parents will be able to get a firsthand look at early education on Thursday night when Tupelo’s Early Childhood Education Center will hold its open house from 4 to 6 p.m. at its building at 1402 N. Green St. The school for 4-year-olds is accepting tuition students for the first time this year.
The school currently has spots for 220 students and gives priority based upon academic need, according to an assessment test that the children take. This year, 40 parents will be able to assure their child a spot in the class by paying $5,250 a year, or $2,625 per semester. That tuition will allow the school to maintain two qualified teachers and two qualified assistants whose positions were funded by stimulus money this year.
The deadline for tuition students is April 1, although registration for the remaining spots at the school is ongoing and will extend beyond April 1. Those remaining spots will still be filled based upon academic need.

Contact Chris Kieffer at (662) 678-1590or chris.kieffer@djournal.com.