Protect More At Four, An Effective Investment in North Carolina’s Future
By Louisa Warren
Senior Policy Advocate
March 15, 2011
- More at Four, North Carolina’s award-winning pre-kindergarten program, has helped improve education for 167,000 kids. This high-quality, precisely-targeted program benefits the children of working families most, since 90 percent of students are on free or reduced lunch.
- Ten years of independent research shows that More At Four, which is at risk of losing funding altogether in the current budget crisis, improves academic performance and readiness in four-year-old children from low-income and disadvantaged families.
- The program pays for itself many times over, as research shows dollars spent on high-quality pre-kindergarten programs saves dollars later in welfare, education and health costs. In short, it is one of the cornerstones of public education in North Carolina – and an investment that benefits every single person in our state.
North Carolina is justly proud of More at Four, our award-winning pre-kindergarten program providing education for 4-year-olds. This state-funded initiative is designed to help our kids be more successful when they enter elementary school. More at Four has a proven record of boosting educational outcomes for children, especially at-risk youngsters.
About 167,000 kids have benefited from More at Four’s well-designed, precisely-targeted program. Now is not the time to cut this vital investment in North Carolina’s future.
More At Four, which is at risk of losing funding altogether in the current budget crisis, improves academic performance and readiness in four-year-old children from low-income and disadvantaged families. The program pays for itself many times over, as research shows dollars spent on high-quality pre-kindergarten programs saves dollars later in welfare, education and health costs.
In short, it is one of the cornerstones of public education in North Carolina – and an investment that benefits every single person in our state.
It’s time for North Carolina’s lawmakers to reaffirm the state’s commitment to one of the most fundamental public investments in the state. Let’s look at some of the reasons More at Four is one of the most cost-effective and forward-thinking programs we have.
More at Four ensures that children arrive to kindergarten ready to learn instead of arriving years behind in cognitive development. More at Four most often serves kids who did not have the opportunity early on — in those critical 0-3 years of brain development — to receive quality early childhood education.
Without More at Four, they would start off that first day of Kindergarten light years behind their peers. It’s a final intervention before a child enters the K-12 educational system that can mean the difference between whether a low-income child beats the odds and goes on to college or gets frustrated with failure and drops out of high school. This can make the difference between a productive member of North Carolina’s workforce and society or someone who has turned to a life of crime because they have no other options.
More at Four offers high quality, classroom-based education during the year prior to kindergarten. Ten years of independent evaluations have demonstrated that More at Four is educationally rigorous, prepares kids well for success, and does especially well in its mission to assist low-income and otherwise disadvantaged students.
It is these vulnerable kids for whom More at Four is uniquely valuable. Since 2002, 90 percent of the children served in More at Four have qualified for free or reduced-price lunch. Other risk factors can also determine eligibility for the program, such as disability, chronic health condition, educational or developmental need, or low English proficiency. More at Four does a fantastic job of identifying the children who need help – and offering that help in a way that has proven highly effective.
A decade-long set of evaluations has shown More at Four to be among the best investments North Carolina has made. Since the program’s first full year in 2002, More at Four has been closely evaluated by independent researchers at the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute at UNC-Chapel Hill.
These researchers have consistently found that classroom education quality in More at Four is high; that this high-quality classroom environment assists with learning growth; and that the children most at risk of later academic failure exhibit the highest rates of learning growth in More at Four.
For example, when evaluated four years later, children who went through More at Four and who receive a free or reduced lunch in third grade, did much better on tests than comparable free or reduced lunch kids who did not attend More at Four.
These results from study of third graders also show that More at Four narrowed the achievement gap by up to 40 percent at third grade.
What does this tell us? Clearly, More at Four does a great job of helping all students, especially those most in need of assistance. This means more productive citizens, healthier communities, and a North Carolina that is better-prepared for the future.
Besides the educational aspects of the program, let’s not forget about the economic aspects. Cutting More At Four and similar programs would also mean the loss of jobs for those working in early childhood education, and it would hurt the thousands of parents who are able to work full-time thanks to child care programs. This benefits no one in North Carolina, now or in the future.
To slash funding for More at Four would sever an essential limb of the public education system, one that protects child welfare and builds a critical foundation for children who would otherwise be at risk of falling behind.
Protecting More at Four means nothing less than protecting North Carolina’s children and future. This is an investment we can’t afford not to make.