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Report: First Eight Years Crucial for Ohio's Children

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PHOTO: A new study that makes the case for why better investments are needed in the first eight years of a child’s life. Photo: Little girl outside pre-school class. Credit: M. Kuhlman
PHOTO: A new study that makes the case for why better investments are needed in the first eight years of a child’s life. Photo: Little girl outside pre-school class. Credit: M. Kuhlman
 By Mary KuhlmanContact
November 4, 2013

COLUMBUS, Ohio - New research has found that the majority of Ohio's children are not on track in cognitive development by the third grade, and the number is even lower for children living below the poverty level. According to a report released today by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, in Ohio almost half of children under age 8 are from low-income families.

Renuka Mayadev, executive director, Children's Defense Fund Ohio, said that is where they see the lowest skill development and social emotional growth.

"Children who don't meet the key developmental milestones, they struggle to catch up in school, they struggle to graduate on time, and they're less likely to achieve the kind of economic success and stability necessary to support themselves and their family," Mayadev said.

The report found that high-quality early childhood programs that include supports for families can have a lasting impact. Ohio has made progress by recently adding 2,500 additional preschool spaces for low-income children, but Mayadev said it's not nearly enough. According to the report, more than 60 percent of low-income Ohio children ages 3 and 4 are not enrolled in a preschool program.

Laura Speer, associate director for policy reform and advocacy with the Casey Foundation, said federal, state and local policies can help parents effectively provide and care for their children.

"Having the flexible work schedule - it's so important. Also things like providing paid sick leave for parents could make a huge, huge difference," Speer said.

While Ohio's Third Grade Reading Guarantee is a good standard to have in place to keep children on track, Mayadev said it cannot work if a child lacks adequate developmental and education opportunities in the early years.

"You can't have third graders having to meet standards if you haven't developed children's cognitive abilities and emotional and social abilities before third grade," Mayadev explained.

For children to succeed, classroom learning should be integrated with other aspects of child development, such as social, emotional and physical development, Mayadev added.

The report is available from the Casey Foundation at www.AECF.org.

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