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Children are Ready to Enter School

Below is the research for each indicators we have chosen for the result: Students are ready to enter school.

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Indicator: Immunization rates

Immunizations protect children from vaccine-preventable diseases that can cause students to be absent from school and limit children’s ability to achieve academically1.

The measles epidemic of the early 1990s, for example would have been preventable with more widespread immunization of children in the U.S. A 1992 report of the National Vaccine Advisory Committee pointed out that the majority of the cases of measles occurred among un-immunized preschool children who came primarily from minority communities in inner cities . That report indicated that the principal cause of this rise in childhood measles was that children had not received immunizations on time2.

Indicator: Blood lead levels

Elevated levels of lead in the blood adversely affect children’s cognitive development. Data from the Centers for Disease Control show that the average blood lead levels in children have decreased eighty percent since the late 1970s. While many of the sources of lead contaminants are no longer used in new constructions, the primary remaining sources of childhood lead exposure are deteriorated leaded paint and the soil and dust it contaminates in old housing. Elevated blood lead levels have remained more common among low-income children, urban children, and children living in older housing. The CDC recommends local screening efforts to determine blood lead levels of children in given communities3.

Indicator: Parents read to children

Children who live in homes where reading and writing are common and valued tend to develop literacy skills with more ease than children who do not. Children especially benefit when parents read to them at an early age. The Child Trends Data Bank summarizes the benefits of reading to young children in this way: "By reading aloud to their young children, parents can help them acquire the prerequisite skills they will need to learn to read in school. Being read to has been identified as a source of children’s early literacy development, including knowledge about the alphabet, print, and characteristics of written language. In addition, shared parent-child book reading during children’s preschool years leads to higher reading achievement in elementary school."4

Low-income and immigrant households may face significant challenges to exposing children to literacy5. In low-income or homes of recent non-English speaking immigrants, families may not be able to afford books, not have time to read to children, or parents may not be proficient English readers themselves.

Indicator: Children attend early childhood programs

Early education is an important contributor to children’s readiness to learn in schools. Research shows that children’s brains develop rapidly before age three, significant support for the position that very young children need education rather than only custodial care. High quality early education programs have produced short-term gains in cognitive functioning and longer-term gains in school achievement and social adjustment, research has shown. Studies by the University of Wisconsin and the Rand Institute indicate that early interventions produced significant positive results, especially among disadvantaged children. Such results included, improved school achievement, lower grade retention, fewer special education courses, and reduced crime. The positive effects of developmental preschool last into adulthood, according to a 2001 report of the Chicago Child-Parent Center. The study, which focused on low-income, mostly African-American children, found that compared with similar children who had not participated in the preschool curriculum, participants had higher educational attainment up to age twenty. Participants also stayed in school slightly longer and were more likely to graduate from high school6.

Indicator: Receptive vocabulary level

The preschool years are a time of rapid brain growth and cognitive development. An essential part of this period is to lay the foundation for vocabulary knowledge and development. Research has shown that possessing a strong vocabulary is an important component of effective communication, and plays a vital role in reading comprehension7. The words that a child knows by the time he begins literacy education in primary school are a significant indicator of the level of success that he will have when learning to read.

Hart and Risley’s seminal study found that children enter school with significant differences in vocabulary level. These differences were directly correlated with children’s economic class and were found to be accurate predictors of a child’s level of literacy later in life.

Indicator: Families are connected to support networks & services

Within neighborhoods, families support one another and are supported in a variety of ways. Neighborhoods develop their own social capital by the informal networks by which families look out for one another and work together toward common goals such as health and public safety.

Formal services join these informal networks to promote family well-being. Health services are one such example necessary to children’s and families’ health and well-being. Research indicates that women in low-income neighborhoods have less access to prenatal and neonatal care, accounting for the significantly greater rates of infant mortality and lower infant birth weights in lower-income communities. Physical inaccessibility and inability to pay for treatment are primary reasons why low-income families do not receive the medical care that they need. A recent study by the Open Society Institute found that low-income Maryland residents are accumulating deep debt from medical treatment; to cope, residents are delaying medical treatment or denying themselves continual care. Other studies support this conclusion8.

Childcare services are another of the many support services important to families’ success. A large pool of research has linked childcare services to employment outcomes. A recent survey of low-income Los Angeles parents identified childcare as the most frequent barrier to employment. Over sixty percent of parents surveyed identified childcare services as an important priority for helping them to remain economically self-sufficient. Yet, due to supply and to cost factors, working parents had a difficult time obtaining quality childcare. Poor families, those earning less than $14,000 per year, spend an average of twenty-five percent of their income on childcare, according to the Census Bureau. In 1997, the government estimated the proportion of eligible low-income children receiving federal childcare subsidies at roughly ten percent; most preschool and early education remains privately funded, however9.
1 "School Readiness: Helping Communities Get Children Ready for School and Schools Ready for Children,"
2 "Healthy Children Ready to Learn: An Essential Collaboration between Health and Education," Antonia C. Novello, Christopher Degraw, and Dushanka V. Kleinman; Public Health Reports, Vol. 107, 1992,
3 "Blood Lead Levels in Young Children --- United States and Selected States, 1996—1999," MMWR Weekly, December 22, 2000, Centers for Disease Control, on
4 Child Trends cites Catherine E. Snow, M. Susan Burns, and Peg Griffin (Eds.) Preventing Reading Difficulties in Young Children, National Research Council; in "Parsing the Achievement Gap: Baselines for Tracking Progress," Paul Barton, Policy Information Report, Educational Testing Service, on
5 "School Readiness,"
6 "A Summary of the Research Rationale for Making Connections’ Outcomes and Indicators," Making Connections, August, 2003, The Annie E. Casey Foundation,
7 "Expressive and Receptive Vocabulary Skills Related to Story Comprehension in Preschool Children," Stephanie Glasney, NICHD study, 2000,
8 "Summary of Research Rationale," Making Connections
9 Ibid.
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