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The academic journal Child Development Research recently ran an article entitled Economic Disparities: SPARK Ohio and Narrowing the Kindergarten Readiness Gap. The authors examined assessment scores of new kindergarteners to gauge the school readiness of SPARK and non-SPARK children from varying socioeconomic backgrounds. Their conclusion? "Children living in economically disadvantaged environments perform better on a kindergarten literacy readiness assessment when they participated in...the SPARK Ohio program compared to peers who did not participate in the program." The authors further suggest that supporting SPARK may be a way for schools to use their Title I funds to reduce economically induced disparities in readiness.
What Difference Are We Making?
In the Ohio Business Roundtable’s latest assessment of the state of early learning in Ohio, the Roundtable declares that “The case for investing in young children has been clearly made,” and discusses how implementing programs like the SPARK kindergarten readiness program can help the state of Ohio “go bold” to help our youngest children succeed.
The International Journal of Early Childhood Learning is a peer-reviewed journal offering an international perspective on early childhood care and education. The journal recently published an article entitled SPARK Ohio: An Early Childhood Intervention Program Description and Evaluation.
The article, written by current and former members of the team that has independently evaluated the SPARK program, discusses how SPARK addresses the educational challenges faced by Ohio’s at-risk children. The article provides an in-depth analysis of the program’s positive influence on school readiness, as evidenced by the significantly higher kindergarten readiness assessment scores of SPARK children versus their non-SPARK peers.
Because of SPARK’s strong positive influence in preparing children for kindergarten, the authors suggest that policymakers and school district administrators might wish to investigate funding SPARK as an early investment that leads to long-term academic gain.
At the start of 2016, we were thrilled to hear SPARK sites across the state would receive $1 million over two years to serve even more Ohio families. Funds will flow through the Early Childhood Resource Center, which handles SPARK management and operations.
In addition, $200,000 of the state funding will be used to help get three new SPARK sites up and running, in Ross, Ashland and Ottawa counties.
With its increased funding, SPARK expects to serve more than 1,700 Ohio families in 2016. On behalf of Ohio’s families, the Early Childhood Resource Center is truly grateful for all of SPARK’s supporters and advocates.