Upcoming roundtable to focus on ways to improve early education in Dayton

DAYTON, Ohio — An upcoming roundtable conversation aims to address ways to improve access to early education in Dayton by eliminating social and economic barriers.

What You Need To Know

  • Improvements to early education is the focus of an upcoming roundtable discussion in Dayton
  • More than 100 invited guests will discuss pre-kindergarten learning options
  • The event sponsor is Waterford.org, a nonprofit focused on providing online early education tools
  • A goal is to find a way to blend Waterford.org tools into existing resources in Dayton, the organization said

The “Partnering to Provide More Access to Early Childhood Education” event will take place Tuesday, Sept. 27 at Eichelberger Pavilion at Carillon Historical Park. The discussion — sponsored by early education nonprofit Waterford.org — goes from 8:30 to 10 a.m.

Utah-based Waterford.org uses a mix of state, federal and philanthropic funds to set up online early education programs in communities across the country.

Attendees of the invitation-only event will include a mix of elected officials, educators and community leaders. The conversation centers on identifying and overcoming barriers preventing children from equitably accessing high-quality learning experiences at an early age.

Dayton Mayor Jeffrey J. Mims Jr., who will be part of the main panel, emphasized the importance of creating a high-quality life for residents as young as 3 and 4 years of age.

“We have to make sure we’re doing everything we can to send our youngest learners to school ready to engage academically and socially,” he added. “In order to do that, we have to explore all the possibilities in a multifaceted way, and the community roundtable will have the right people in one room for informed dialogue toward real, practical solutions.”

Research shows that a child’s brain grows more than 85% to 90% of adult size by the time they’re 5 years old — before they’ve ever stepped foot in a kindergarten classroom, according to the organization First Things First.

“Their brains are like sponges in those first five years of life. Anything we can do to get them on the right track before they enter school is going to be a positive thing,” said Kim Fischer, national spokesperson for Waterford.org.

The goal of early education, she said, is to set a foundation for young children, between 3 and 5 years old, to excel not only in kindergarten but throughout their academic careers. 

“To get those things like letter recognition, number recognition, knowing letter sounds, is going to have that child walk into their kindergarten classroom with a foundation,” Fischer said. “That’s not only going to allow them to learn more quickly, but it’s going to give them confidence, and competence.”

Fischer noted research showing that when children have confidence, they do better in school. But some students are coming into kindergarten far behind their peers from an intellectual development standpoint, which makes it difficult for them to catch up.

“You have some children who are already starting to read, beginning to string letters together and make words, and then you have other children who don’t even have letter recognition yet,” Fischer said.

“That makes it very difficult for a kindergarten teacher to know who to teach to,” she added. “It’s those moments where a child doesn’t feel confident, that they don’t feel like they can raise their hand, that you start to see them fall back academically.”

Earlier this month, Dayton Public Schools received low scores on its report card from the Ohio Department of Education.

On a five-star scale, Dayton Public Schools received one star in three categories — achievement, graduation and early literacy. The early literacy component measures the reading improvement and proficiency of students in kindergarten through third grade.

While 99.8% of the district’s third graders met the reading requirements for promotion to fourth grade, only 39.5% of them scored proficient on the reading segment of the state English language arts test, according to the report card.

The Department of Education noted the school district needs “significant support to meet state standards” in each of those areas.

DPS received two stars in progress and “closing the gap,” which looks at the district’s success in eliminating educational disparities between subgroups of students. The district’s graduation rate is 71.4%.


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