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POLICY 51

Healthy Pre-K Development: Prioritize pathways to healthy development, early learning and school success for all children ages birth to 5.

Support for babies and toddlers is critical to healthy development and lays a foundation for future successes in school and adulthood. Research demonstrates that developmental disparities among babies can be measured by as early as 18 months of age, and they widen over time. By the time children are two years old, there is already a six-month gap in language comprehension between infants from higher-income families and lower-income families. This early learning gap is the strongest predictor of the persistent achievement gap in educational attainment.                                                                                           

Years later, this achievement gap becomes apparent. In Minneapolis significant disparities exist in high school graduation. Approximately 22 percent of American Indian students graduate, slightly over 34 percent of Hispanic students graduate, and 36 percent of black students graduate. Thirty-eight percent of all low-income students, regardless of race, graduate. It is foolish to ignore the fact that these trends show up long before graduation; disparities begin at birth and grow wider over time. Income-based achievement gaps open up between the ages of 0 and 5 and stay stable or shrink during K-12, while race-based gaps are very apparent at age 5 and grow modestly at later ages. This suggests that the best opportunity to close or even prevent these achievement gaps is by focusing investment toward the earliest stages of life. The entire community will benefit when babies, toddlers and young children are on a path to healthy development, early learning and school success.

ACTION STEPS

The City will seek to accomplish the following action steps to prioritize pathways to healthy development, early learning and school success for all children ages birth to 5.

  1. Increase early childhood screening before or at age 3.
  2. Improve mental health services for children ages birth to 5.
  3. Decrease language disparities among children ages birth to 5 by promoting the importance of reading, talking and singing to babies and young children.
  4. Increase access to prenatal care and targeted home-visit services for new parents, including fathers.
  5. Increase resources and support for low-income families to foster economic stability and access to healthy and safe housing.
  6. Increase resources for low-income families to access high-quality early learning programs to promote kindergarten readiness.
  7. Increase the number of high-quality child care slots in Minneapolis.
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