Although this article is about early childhood education in Kansas, many other states are adding early education to their curriculum. Different states and individual school districts may vary greatly in the nature of programs, but they each have some common goals and features.
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Many of the school districts in Kansas are adding prekindergarten programs for children that begin at the age of three. Though the age of three may seem too early to begin a child's education, there is a growing interest in early childhood education.
A child's brain grows to about 90% of its capacity by the age of five. They are likened to a sponge, soaking up everything they see, hear, and experience. Children are adept at learning a language then, and many skills they need later in life build on those early experiences.
The first formal research in the US on early childhood education was in Minnesota in the 1960's. Two groups of children were randomly divided into an Experimental group, who received two years of early childhood education, and a Control group, who did not. The Experimental group was provided experiences that help children grow and thrive, such as stable and nurturing relationships with other children and adults, a language rich environment, experience with routines, and encouragement to explore through movement and their senses. They also learned to take turns, to lead and follow in play, to seek help when needed, to recognize emotions, and to control their impulses. In addition, they become familiar with numbers, the alphabet, and problem-solving skills.
Upon entering traditional school, the Experimental group members were more successful in the early grades, but it was found that by age 10 they performed about the same as their peers. The researchers were disappointed at first, but when they followed the Experimental group through school and into adulthood, they found many improvements.
The experimental group was less likely to repeat grades or need remedial classes, and they were more likely to graduate from high school and attend college. They were also more successful in their careers and less likely to experience health problems or be involved with the criminal justice system.