National studies show children who fail to read at grade level by the third grade are more likely to drop out of high school, highlighting the importance of early learning opportunities.
Ensuring the early education of children means increasing the odds they graduate high school and go on to higher education, which in turn can decrease the likelihood of poverty. Despite the research that shows how crucial early learning is to a child’s development, Idaho is one of only five states where 3- and 4-year-olds do not have access to state-funded preschool, as cited in United Way's 2017 Community Assessment.
With limited access to preschool, only about 67% of children in Ada County, 40% of children in Gem County and 38% of children in Canyon County enter kindergarten ready to read. Across Idaho, only about 51 percent of children enter kindergarten ready to read, according to the Idaho State Department of Education.
United Way of Treasure Valley understands the importance of early learning opportunities and preschool. That’s why United Way uses donations and grants to provide funding for preschool programs across the Treasure Valley, focusing on areas with the greatest need.
The Boise Pre-K Project in the Vista neighborhood and the Caldwell P16 Education Project have already proven their success. Tracking data has shown graduates of these programs exceedingly outscore their classmates in benchmark testing.
Recent research findings from the Idaho Policy Institute/Boise State University suggest that the Boise Pre-K Project, which began in 2015, is preparing children to succeed in kindergarten. "When they got into kindergarten, 86% of them were achieving at or above benchmarks for kindergarten students, when it came to the Idaho statewide test. Whereas compared to their peers, those peers were only achieving benchmark at a 53% level. So quite a significant difference there,” IPI researcher Vanessa Fry said, according to reporting from Boise State Public Radio.
The Caldwell P16 Education Project is on a similar path, helping prepare Caldwell’s youngest learners for the future.
"Anytime I see a preschooler walk into my building, whether it's a cousin or a little brother or sister, I almost always ask the parents 'are they in preschool? Are they three or four?' Because I want as many of our kids to get into preschool because I know it benefits that kid down the road,” Sacajawea Elementary School principal Paul Webster told KBOI 2 News.