"The road out of poverty into a good job is a good education, and a good education starts with parent and early learning activities at home. It continues with outstanding early childhood programs, and as our children enter one of Nebraska's 253 school districts, the focus must be on learning."
Governor Dave Heineman
State of the State Address, January 2010
The Price We Pay for School Success - and Failure
Nebraska currently spends approximately $836 million in its K-12 public education system, with an annual cost of more than $10,000 per pupil per academic year. In general, the public investment in elementary and secondary education pays dividends as Nebraska ranks among the top states in the nation for high school completion.
And yet, public expenditures associated with special/remedial education services and grade retention continue to climb as more children struggle to advance in the K-12 system. In spite of these later interventions, slightly more than 2 in 10 students in Nebraska either fail to graduate on time or drop out of school completely.
In many cases, these children and young adults began their lives in the context of risk factors - including poverty, high crime communities, and unstable home environments - that undermine the development of healthy cognitive and behavioral skills. Children who enter the K-12 system lacking the basic skills needed to learn effectively in the classroom will most likely stay behind their peers throughout the rest of their time in school.
Making the Connection
The 11 Counties that account for 64 percent of all at-risk children between the ages of 0 and 5 also account for 70 percent of the state's total high school dropouts.
Click here to download the map (PDF).
Ready to Learn, Motivated to Achieve
High quality early care and learning programs are known to offset the risk factors associated with low student performance and school dropout. They allow parents to create richer, more stimulating experiences for young children, and increase access to high quality services outside the home. Such environments and experiences can improve children’s cognitive ability, but perhaps more importantly they promote the behavioral and emotional traits essential for classroom learning. In fact, long-term analyses of model early childhood programs targeting at-risk populations have shown:
High quality early childhood programs can’t overcome all of the factors that put our students at risk, but they can have a real impact on the results we see from our K-12 education investment.
Impacts of Early Childhood Programs (Brookings Institution, First Focus - pdf).
Ready for Success - What Families Want to Know About Starting School in Nebraska (Nebraska Department of Education, Office of Early Childhood - pdf).
Education and the Economy: Boosting Nebraska’s Economy by Improving High School Graduation Rates (Alliance for Excellent Education - pdf).
Header Photo Credit: iStockPhoto