The state has given early education grants to four southwestern Pennsylvania agencies. The grants are for $75,000 a year for three years.
The organizations received the money to continue work they’ve already started in reducing the student achievement gap for children in at-risk communities.
According to the U.S. Department of Education's Nation's Report Card, the achievement gap between low income and not low income students in Pennsylvania is 32 percentage points in math scores and 30 percentage points in reading. The same report shows the gap between black and white students in Pennsylvania is 38 percentage points in math and 33 in reading.
Barbara Minzenberg, Pennsylvania’s deputy secretary of the Office of Child Development and Early Learning, said these organizations are fostering more holistic approaches to working with young children and families and getting them ready for kindergarten.
Some of those initiatives involve providing parents with teaching tools they can use at home and utilizing technology so parents and children can stay connected throughout the day and home visits from educators.
“It's not just about a curriculum for example or an assessment, we need to surround children with the proper supports," Minzenberg said Wednesday in a small ceremony where she lauded the organizations that won the grants. "Do they have a medical home, a dental home, are they properly immunized, housing, social emotional issues – all of those community connections are important as well.”
The grants went to Community Action Southwest, which works in Greene and Washington counties, Pittsburgh Association for the Education of Young Children in Allegheny County, Pittsburgh Public Schools and Private Industry Council of Westmoreland/Fayette Inc., which works in Fayette and Beaver counties.
“The return on investment is extraordinary," Minzenberg said. "Our goal is to prepare children so they are ready for kindergarten and life success."
Recipients of the grant toured Crescent Early Childhood/Early Head Start Center in Homewood on Wednesday morning.