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Since the beginning of the school year, Cleburne ISD has offered full-day pre-kindergarten for students who qualify at all seven of its elementary campuses. 

Local officials said they are already seeing positive results from the young students who are enrolled in the program.  

A new study in the journal Nature Communications looked at students who participated in the Abecedarian project, a large longitudinal study of pre-K programs in the 1970s, and found that early childhood educational investment produces positive effects on cognitive and non-cognitive skills, health and socioeconomic success. 

The Abecedarian project enrolled newborns from low income, multi-risk families in Orange County, North Carolina between 1972-77 and provided intensive early childhood education intervention from the first few months of their lives until they entered school, according to the study.

“Follow-up studies have provided mounting evidence for positive cognitive, educational, economic and physical health outcomes into adulthood for participants who were exposed to this intervention,” according to the study. “However, possible effects of early childhood interventions on social decision-making strategies have not yet been investigated in this population. 

“This is an important issue as certain social decision-making strategies could benefit an individual, including later financial, educational, social and health outcomes. One such strategy is to choose actions that enforce social norms such as equality.”

CISD piloted full-day pre-K at three of its elementary schools last year and decided to implement it at all of the campuses after analyzing data collected from both students and teachers. 

Pre-K is open to students who are 4 on or before Sept. 1, and who meet one of the following eligibility standards:

• Federal free/reduced price lunch guidelines.

• Unable to speak or comprehend English.

• Currently or have been in foster care.

• Homeless as defined by 42 U.S.C. Section 1143a.

• Have a parent who is an active duty member of the U.S. armed forces or whose parent was injured or killed while serving on active duty as a member of the U.S. armed forces. 

Jennifer Rigoulot, Coleman Elementary School pre-K teacher, said she agrees that pre-K is beneficial for students.

“The years of early childhood are a time when a child’s brain develops so rapidly, and they soak the world around them in like a sponge,” Rigoulot said. “In an early childhood program, children are being provided with a foundation to gain skills not just academically but in many other areas. 

“They are given opportunities to learn about self control and impulse control, teamwork and perseverance. We are able to see needs that a child may have that families are unable to provide for and get resources in place to help make that child successful. 

“All of these combined will hopefully contribute to making each child prepared for the world around them and give them a foundation for becoming a productive, successful students and members of society.”

Pre-K focuses on the “whole child,” she said.

“It prepares students in not just academic areas but social and emotional development, which are so important,” she said. “Students are given opportunities to learn through play, which often means interacting with their peers in ways they haven’t done before. 

“They are given opportunities to figure out why their friend upset them, how it makes them feel and then discover healthy ways to act on their feelings. 

“Participating in a pre-K program gives a child exposure to the school setting so that when they enter kindergarten the achievement gap is smaller than it would have been.”

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