I n recent YEARS, enrollment growth has been a foreign concept for the Youngstown City Schools, which has seen its student count fall by about 10,000 since the early 1990s.
But sustained growth is precisely what’s happening amid one key district demographic: preschool students. Thanks to a state grant, the city district is enrolling more disadvantaged preschoolers in its pre-kindergarten programs. The grant and growth are expected next school year, when the closed Volney Rogers school will reopen for specialty elementary-grade programs, freeing up space in the district for an influx of more preschoolers.
The state-grant program gets high marks on two fronts. First, it gives 3- and 4-year-olds a jump-start on learning. Children who participate in quality early learning and development programs demonstrate better language skills and improved reading and math skills through third grade, the state education department reports.
What’s more, teachers can target students who exhibit behavioral or emotional problems for help before those problems become barriers to learning key knowledge in elementary school.
In the long-term, stronger preparedness among the youngest of students can work to keep more and more of them in the classroom longer, increase graduation rates and boost enrollment numbers for students at all grade levels in the city school district.