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The Influence Of Center-Based Preschool Education

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In today’s society, with its evolving academic demands, parents are confronted with the decision of how to best educate their young children. Since the formative years are critical to academic success, this decision becomes increasingly important (Ray & Smith, 2010). With a myriad of early learning opportunities accessible through parental and non-parental daycares and preschools, parents are perplexed with the dilemma of when and where to enroll their child. Previous research indicates that preschool education plays a significant role in school readiness (Henry, Gordon, Henderson, & Ponder, 2003). It provides the foundation for future success (Barnett, 2008).
In the state of Georgia, preschool programs are available in diverse settings,
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The appropriate timing of a child’s entry into a formal school setting is necessarily a complex issue. However, there are no clear answers for all children, due to the myriad influences involved in human growth (Kern & Friedman, 2008). Parental perceptions have at least as much influence as other factors that affect school outcomes. According to Barnett (2008) center-based preschool programs have gained popularity and support; nevertheless, participation is far from universal as policies and options vary across states.
Setting. The researcher is employed in a public school district in rural southern Georgia. The school district is located in a medium sized town and serves four adjourning communities. The median household income is $26,808. Eighty-four percent of the students served in the district are from low socioeconomic backgrounds (sumterschools.org). All students are eligible for participation in the free and reduced lunch program authorized by Title
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Head Start. Head Start is a federally funded program that promotes school readiness by enhancing the social and cognitive development of children by providing services to meet the educational, health and social needs of enrolled children and their families (Barnett, Brown & Shore, 2004). Head Start is a nationwide, comprehensive child-focused development program that serves children of low income families from birth to age 5 (Administration for Children and Families, 2012).
Preschool Education. Programs designed for children ages 3-5 that provide early education experiences to prepare them for school. Preschool is an early childhood program in which children combine learning with play in a program run by professionally trained adults. Most children are enrolled in preschool between the ages of three and five; however some enter as young as two years old. Preschools differ from traditional day care in that their focus is learning and development rather than enabling parents to work or pursue other activities (Early Childhood Education, n.d.).
School Readiness. Refers to a child’s attainment of the necessary
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