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Editorial: Importance of early education

Data shows that youngsters who get a head start on their education have more success in school and employment down the road, which is why we're glad to see Carroll County Public Schools continue to put an emphasis on early childhood education by developing their own programs and beginning to partner with community organizations to ensure as many children as possible are prepared to start school.

Children who enter ready are "healthier and are less likely to become involved with the criminal justice system and drop out of school," according to Ready at Five, an organization that advocates for early education in Maryland. "These children experience future academic success, attain higher levels of education and typically have higher earnings throughout their lives." Other organizations note that children taught at an early age also have improved social skills and enhanced attention spans.

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Carroll County Public Schools are doing all they can to develop their own programs, and partner with community organizations, to help young children prepare for a life of learning.

Ninety percent of a child's brain development occurs before the age of 5, another reason why early education is so important.

It was surprising to learn that only 55 percent of Carroll County kindergartners demonstrated readiness when entering school in the 2015-16 school year. While that's 10 percentage points higher than the average for kindergartners statewide, it still means roughly half of new students are unprepared to begin their formal education.

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Carroll County offers prekindergarten to income-eligible families — data from Ready at Five shows 41 percent of Carroll youth in low-income households are ready for kindergarten versus 57 percent of children from mid- to high-income households — but also works with the Judy Center, which promotes school readiness starting at birth.

The Judy Center Partnership works with many preschools, day cares and other early learning centers around the county to help children develop reading, math, social and motor skills, as well as problem solving and reasoning through play and other activities. The organization helps streamline curriculum at the early learning centers in the county and tailor it to make sure students transition smoothly into Carroll public schools. Recognizing the role of Parents as Teachers, the Judy Center also provides home visitations when requested to help parents better prepare their kids for entering school.

Universal Pre-K was a hot topic in Maryland a few years ago under the O'Malley administration, but doesn't seem to be on anyone's radar at the moment. It's also something we think Carroll politicians would be reluctant to support given the gulf between county tax dollars currently available for public schools and what education officials say is necessary.

In the meantime, partnerships with early learning centers in an effort to reach more youngsters is a good way to make sure more of them are prepared to enter school when the time comes.

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