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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Thursday, February 24, 2005

Report cites need for early education

By Karen Blakeman
Advertiser Staff Writer

Too many of Hawai'i's children don't have the basic skills they need to begin learning when they enter kindergarten, according to a recent study by the Hawaii School Readiness Task Force.

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"Early years are such an important time," said Alex Harris, policy director for Good Beginnings Alliance. "If children enter unprepared, many struggle to catch up.

"The bottom line," he said, "is that according to kindergarten teachers, four out of 10 children enter kindergarten unprepared."

Most Hawai'i parents take good physical care of their children, the assessment results show. Three of four kids come to school well groomed, fed and rested.

But many of the students are unable to perform basic skills, such as recognizing at least three numbers or three letters of the alphabet.

"Results of this assessment reflect Hawai'i's uneven investment in children under age 6," said Liz Chun, executive director of Good Beginnings Alliance.

The assessment was based on questionnaires developed by University of Hawai'i researchers and administered to kindergarten teachers and principals from 201 elementary schools across the state.

In addition to rating the readiness of the children, the assessment also looked at what the schools did to help parents prepare their kids.

Harris said that schools need to encourage parents to read and talk to their children daily, and the state needs to follow through with plans to invest more in preschool education.

State officials are becoming more supportive of early childhood education, and legislation, including a bill to provide preschool scholarships, is moving through the system, Harris said.

Gov. Linda Lingle yesterday expressed her support for early education.

"During a child's first five years," she said, "what we do will affect the way they learn, think and behave forever. As parents, educators and concerned citizens, it is our job to ensure that our youngest and most vulnerable residents are well prepared and ready to succeed."

Reach Karen Blakeman at kblakeman@honoluluadvertiser.com or 535-2430.