Kentucky has one of the top 10 best early education systems in America. According to a recent study by WalletHub, the Commonwealth had the most resource and economic support and ranked well in other categories across the board.
WallHub compared all 50 states across three key dimensions — access, quality and resources and economic support.
Quality of early education in Kentucky:
16th – Share of 3- and 4-year-olds enrolled in pre-K, pre-K special education and head start programs
17th – Income requirement for state pre-K eligibility
12th – Total reported spending per child enrolled in preschool
13th – Total state head start program spending per child enrolled in preschool
1st – Share of school districts that offer state pre-K program
Chris Westerfield, preschool coordinator for Daviess County Public Schools, said like the study shows, there are a multitude of factors that influence a child’s education, including family dynamics, poverty, and exposure to learning experiences.
“The development of our youngest learners are strongly influenced by their families and through their interactions with other people and environments before they begin attending school,” he said.
The priority of the Daviess County Public Schools preschool program is to provide an environment where children are nurtured, safe, and have an opportunity to develop relationships and learn.
“We encourage children to develop skills and knowledge by providing planned activities for exploration and experimentation,” Westerfield said. “These activities are provided in large and small groups throughout the day.”
In the DCPS preschool program, children learn kindergarten readiness skills such as numbers, shapes, letters, phonics, science and social skills.
Westerfield said the teachers use the child’s interest to keep them involved and learning in an atmosphere that allows them to feel like they are playing while they are learning.
While Westerfield said education spending is correlated to quality early childhood education, it is not the only indicator of a quality preschool program.
“The primary area of investment in our preschool program focuses on staffing,” he said. “The DCPS Preschool Program attracts and retains quality early childhood education professionals, which ensures a stable program where children can grow and learn. An instructional coach provides ongoing professional development and feedback for all of our staff.”
For the last two years, the program has operated with a declining budget due to limited state funds, but Westerfield said they have not sacrificed the value they are providing to children.
“We evaluate our classrooms annually with the Early Childhood Environmental Rating Scale 3, which is specifically designed to identify quality programs,” he said. “Our program has consistently scored at the high end of the scale.”
Daviess County Public Schools have 17 preschool classrooms in 12 elementary schools across the district, serving 4-year-old children whose families meet income guidelines and children ages 3 and 4 who have been identified with an educational disability. They also offer fee-based services for 3- and 4-year-olds, depending on the available space. DCPS also houses three Head Start classrooms.