Pottstown Mercury: Guest Column: Pre-K Counts Continues to Make a Difference
February 16, 2021 by Jeff Sparagana

After 23 years of serving the School District of Pottstown and the Pottstown community at-large, I could not be more proud of our work in creating and sustaining a community based school readiness initiative.

In 2006, the Pottstown School District invited community child care providers, community agencies, private businesses and area funders to begin discussions related to improving the school readiness of children entering kindergarten. As result of this unique collaboration of the school district and community partner’s, Pottstown Early Action for Kindergarten Readiness (PEAK) was created for the purpose of supporting young children to increase school readiness and partner with families to facilitate a positive transition to kindergarten.

In 2007, we received one of the initial PA Pre-K Count’s grants which enabled the PEAK partnership to implement high quality, full day Pre-K Counts classrooms in our community partner sites. Today, 15 years later the PEAK Partnership is thriving and serving 300 children with 8 full day Pre-K Counts classrooms in Pottstown School District and 7 full day Pre-K Counts classrooms in our community partner sites. In Pottstown, Pre-K Counts classrooms continue to make a significant difference in our children’s lives.

A recent report by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill shows the positive impacts on children who attended one of Pennsylvania’s Pre-K Counts high-quality programs. In this report, the bottom line is that children who are fortunate enough to access pre-k through Pennsylvania’s Pre-K Counts program are succeeding in kindergarten classes.

In language and math skills, the study showed that these kids outperformed the other students who did not have access to this once-in-a-lifetime early learning experience — an advantage that equated to four to five months of learning gains, which is a substantial difference in development at that age. These outcomes are significant, because language and math skills have been shown to be the school readiness skills that most strongly predict later academic achievement.

The investment that Pennsylvania has already made into publicly funded pre-k is making an impact on the children who participate in high-quality pre-k programs. I personally got to see this happen in our PEAK classrooms over the years as superintendent. This investment in young children is one of the most important the commonwealth can make.

Jeff Sparagana, Ed.D, is a board member of Public Citizens for Children & Youth, a Pennsylvania-based advocacy group that works to improve the lives of children by developing initiatives and advocating for quality health care, child care, public education and family stability.

Read the full Guest Column here.