This exciting new report commissioned by the Max M. & Marjorie S. Fisher Foundation and conducted by Wilder Research concluded that for every at-risk child in Detroit that is kindergarten ready there is a savings for taxpayers of 100,000. This took into account lifetime educational costs, social service expenditures, and the cost to the criminal justice system. Phillip fisher, vice chair of the Max M. and Marjorie S Fisher Foundation commented about the economic savings well:
“Recognizing education starts at birth, investing in birth to five year old children at risk is a first step to ensure they hit the kindergarten door ready to learn. This is critical if Detroit is prepared to meet the demands of Michigan’s future economy.”
While the study was conducted in Detroit, it is likely that Boulder, Denver and surrounding areas would experience a similar savings.
The economic savings are great to understand but what BIPR is really passionate about is making a difference in these children’s lives.
BIPR’s Zero-to-Five Program concluded the first phase of our Kindergarten Readiness Project in 2010 when we did cognitive, academic, social-emotional, and family stress screenings on 51 three, four, and five year-old at-risk children in Boulder, Lafayette, and Longmont, and Erie. The goal of the screenings was to help children identified as being behind in any of these areas get the help they needed so that they can succeed in school. We connected these families to area resources and suggested at home activities for the children.
We were astounded by the results. Seventeen children (29% of the sample) were identified with cognitive deficits, 13 children (32%) were delayed or very delayed in school readiness, and 14 (27%) had social/emotional difficulties. A normal distribution would have predicted that only 10% of children should have received scores in the Borderline IQ range or lower; in this sample, 32% scored in that range or lower. While there is evidence from other studies that low income children score lower on IQ and achievement tests, the magnitude of the difference surprised us. Many of the children who scored in the Borderline or Extremely Low ranges were in Preschool programs. This suggests to us that interventions will need to take place within the family unit beginning in infancy. The developing brain must be stimulated for appropriate neural pathways to develop. If children do not have adequate stimulation, unused neurons are pruned and neural connections die off.
To reduce or eliminate the achievement gap, creative outreach methods will need to be in place for at-risk-children and families. Good preschool and daycare settings, while helpful, do not appear to be enough in many cases. It appears that many of these children need very early enrichment activities. Parenting education groups for mothers and fathers provided in the prenatal period and early infancy may be best approach. Additionally, providing quality day care for infants and children that is informed by brain science may go a long way in helping children be kindergarten ready.
While our Zero-to-Five program will continue to offer parenting classes and in-service trainings to Preschools, we are pouring efforts into helping promote optimal brain development in infants and toddlers.