Former Illinois Governor Quinn announced In December that Illinois was one of thirty-six states to compete for funds from the Preschool Development Grants competition, led in part to President Obama’s recent early childhood education initiatives. This grant is targeted for districts/schools with families who are 200% below the poverty line, where access to quality pre-K education may not be possible. Illinois received the maximum award possible for the Expansion Grant, and will receive $20M in funds over four years. This grant is coupled with Quinn’s recent initiative Birth to Five, where he planned on investing $1.5 billion toward early childhood education. In order to better find, create, and evaluate quality childhood education, a new program, ExceleRate Illinois, will monitor the success and quality of provided educational services. New governor, Bruce Rauner, has outlined initiatives for education reform in the link below. His wife, Diana, is the president of an early childhood education public-private partnership.
To see which districts will receive these funds, please click on this link:
Research and Implications for ELA:
This grant and the recent focus for early childhood education strongly connect to the ELA community. The first few years of a child’s life are most impressionable, with research indicating that “ninety percent of a typical child’s brain is developed by the age of 5,” making early childhood education that much more important. Early literacy is a predictor for future success for the rest of a child’s education. Research also indicates to us that without early language exposure and instruction, the vocabulary gap between those who have access and those who do not, widens. This directly impacts reading levels, test scores, and down the line, motivation in schools. According to the Take Care Net, by age 3, high socioeconomic status (SES) children have average vocabularies of 1,100 words, middles SES children have average vocabularies of 750 words, and low SES children have average vocabularies of 480 words. This grant would help attempt to decrease this vocabulary gap, as funds ares specifically used for low SES districts and neighborhoods.
According to NCTE’s Principles of Adolescent Literacy Reform, “Over 8 million students in grades 4–12 read below grade level, and 3,000 students with limited literacy skills drop out of high school every school day” (2006). It is likely that had these students received a head start with quality early childhood education that they may be on/above grade level in reading, and may be less likely to drop out. This grant allows those who may not have access to these services to gain a high quality education. Furthermore, this grant encourages many best practices in pre-k education, such as home visits and parental involvement in order to create a system-wide support system for young students.