Importance of Early Childhood Education

The Importance of Early Childhood Education

The early years are the best opportunity for a child’s brain to develop the connections they need to be successful because 90% of brain growth happens before kindergarten. Kindergarten readiness sets the stage for school success. The District is exploring opportunities to expand early childhood programs in an effort to support school readiness.

Current State

  • Lee County is one of the most diverse and socioeconomically challenged districts in the State of Florida. It has the 2nd highest economically disadvantaged student rate of the largest 10 districts (77.4%). (Source: FDOE 2018-2019 Survey 3 Final)
  • There is a waiting list of over 350 children who meet low income guidelines who may not have access to quality childcare providers. There are likely more students who may not have applied for district programs or fall above the poverty line.
  • The kindergarten readiness rate is the lowest of the 40 largest districts in Florida (40% kindergarten ready). (Source: FDOE Fall 2018 FLKRS District Results)
  • In the 2017-2018 school year 1,500 incoming kindergarten students (22%) in Lee County did not participate in voluntary pre-kindergarten (VPK).
  • Only 6 districts in the state of Florida have lower kindergarten readiness rates and they are small, rural districts. (Source: FDOE Fall 2018 FLKRS District Results)

Points of Pride

  • By blending funding sources, the District has been able to provide full school day pre-kindergarten opportunities to 1,183 children from birth to five years old each year.
  • All pre-kindergarten in the District receive the same level of high-quality, comprehensive services in accredited programs regardless of funding source.
  • The District’s pre-kindergarten programs align with state standards and District initiatives that promote student academic achievement.
  • The District administers the Early Head Start Child Care Partnership Grant to improve quality in local community child care centers.
  • Through District early childhood programs, the newborn to four-year-old child(ren) of teen parents receive high quality early childhood care and education.
  • The District’s pre-kindergarten to 3rd grade workgroup supports articulation with community preschool providers, developed a kindergarten screener, and recognizes high-quality providers that meet specific criteria that provide smooth transitions into kindergarten.

Gaps in children’s vocabulary start to appear as early as 18 months

By the time children are 3 & 4 years old
their vocabulary, attention and
general knowledge are predictors of
3rd & 4th grade reading comprehension

3rd grade reading ability is one of the best predictors of high school graduation

The need for The School District of Lee County to expand its Early Childhood Education programs is so important that the following goals are part of the “BIG 5” focus areas in the District’s Envision 2030 Strategic Plan:

  • Short Term Goal: By the end of fiscal year 2021, the District will increase pre-kindergarten capacity by 200 seats
  • Long Term Goal: By 2030, two-thirds of The School District of Lee County’s kindergarten students will have participated in a District-affiliated pre-kindergarten program