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Is Pre-K Important?

Oklahoma's free, universal pre-kindergarten program offers long-term benefits.

Summer time is almost here and for parents that means it’s time to think about…next school year! In all seriousness, while I love summer swimming, vacations and outdoor fun, entertaining kiddos and stressing over summer camps is not my favorite activity. By August, I’m more than ready to get back to routine.

This school year will be even more exciting because my youngest is starting pre-k! Watching his sister scoot out the door to kindergarten each day and hearing her talk about all the “big kid” fun has my son itching to join the world of formal education. I couldn’t be happier to see his joyful anticipation for school. Another thing I’m happy about is our state’s free universal pre-k that gives kids like my son this early learning opportunity.

Oklahoma has caught a lot of flak lately for its lack of educational funding, but, as a parent, I’m thankful that this is one thing it’s gotten right. In fact, Oklahoma is one of just three states that offers free universal pre-kindergarten. However, leaders with a local community partnership called ImpactTulsa say not every parent takes advantage of this hidden gem or understands the importance of a pre-k curriculum.

“Research shows children who attend pre-k read at higher levels, have better attendance, are less likely to repeat grades, and are more likely to graduate high school than kids who do not attend pre-k,” says Kathy Seibold, ImpactTulsa executive director.  

Seibold also has the numbers and science to back her up. With studies showing that 90 percent of brain development occurs by age 5, she says it’s important for children to start gaining academic and social experiences early. One of the best roads to start on this journey is pre-k. 

An in-depth report published by ImpactTulsa notes that children who attend pre-k gain literal brain-shaping knowledge. Research shows that both academic and formative experiences influence and shape brain development in the early years. This is especially important for low-income children who may not have access to pre-k without the state’s free programs.

“Through data measurement and the close relationship we have with Tulsa area school districts, we know learning spans a pipeline from early childhood to postsecondary education,” explains Seibold. “Through our most recent research, we found that 46 percent of low-income kindergarten students who completed pre-k were reading-ready compared with 41 percent who did not. Pre-K truly makes a difference in the preparedness for our kids to be ready to learn and succeed.” 
ImpactTulsa says the main message of their research is short and sweet – students who enroll in pre-k outperform those who do not. It’s a message Tulsa Public Schools says it echoes to parents.

“We see firsthand that children who complete pre-k are better prepared for long-term academic success,” says Devin Fletcher, TPS chief learning officer. “Despite the many challenges facing public education in Oklahoma, our early childhood education programs give kids a head start on learning that has lifelong benefits. We encourage all parents to take advantage of the excellent pre-k programs that are available for Oklahoma children and families.”

Come fall, my son will be joining the pre-k crowd, and I hope it’s the largest crowd of early learners that our state has ever seen. Because pre-k is more than important, pre-k is crucial —not only to the individual success of our children, but to the future success of our state. 

To find out how to enroll your child, visit impacttulsa.org to find your district. 

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