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Report faults region's early education

Thursday, December 12, 2002

By Carmen J. Lee, Post-Gazette Education Writer

A regional education agency has once again criticized the lack of quality instruction for younger children in southwestern Pennsylvania.

In its fourth annual "state of education" report for the region, the Education Policy & Issues Center also linked inconsistent early childhood education to the lackluster academic performance of many students later in school.

Karen McIntyre, EPI-Center president, said a number of youngsters in the region, particularly those considered "at risk," enter school without the skills they need to be successful in school.

"Full-day kindergarten, a leg up for most children and a near necessity for those considered at-risk, is available in less than half of our communities," she said. "Virtually none of our school districts have formal, active plans for transitioning youngsters into the kindergarten classroom."

Pennsylvania also remains one of only nine states that do not mandate kindergarten or provide any direct funding to early care and education centers, McIntyre added.

For the past four years, the EPI-Center, a nonprofit organization that links education and business in the region, has been monitoring educational progress in 11 Pennsylvania counties: Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Fayette, Greene, Indiana, Lawrence, Mercer, Washington and Westmoreland. This year's report looked at 411,701 kindergarten through 12th-grade students who attend 792 public schools.

The study found that while some schools and districts have done an exceptional job of educating youngsters, the region overall has made little progress in achieving education excellence.

To support its position, the report highlighted results from this year's Pennsylvania System of Student Assessment, released last month.

McIntyre said, according to the results, nearly 40 percent of fifth-graders and 40 percent of 11th-graders were not proficient in reading while 44 percent of fifth-graders and nearly 50 percent of 11th-graders are not proficient in math.

Murry Gerber, president and chief executive officer of Equitable Resources and chairman of the EPI-Center's board, said such results not only fall short of the center's standards but also show how far the region has to go to meet federal No Child Left Behind Act mandates that every child be proficient in reading and math by 2014.

For more information, visit www.epi-center.org


Carmen Lee can be reached at clee@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1884.

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