TEXAS, USA — For any parents who have kids that haven't started school yet, maybe you're contemplating whether you'd put them in early childhood education.
The Texas Education Agency says you should to avoid gaps in their education. The age from zero to five are the most critical years of brain development.
Research even shows what a child learns is developed throughout those years. By the time a child is six-years-old, their brains are already 95-percent developed.
Whether it's learning how to read or write, it's always good to get an early start.
"If you think of Pre-K, think of a classroom, where kids come in and they may not know how to hold a pencil correctly. It's those small things," said Beatrice Mata, ECISD Director of Early Childhood Education. "There are kids who haven't had that exposure are opening our doors to having them come in and work on those social and emotional skills that are so crucial for success in kindergarten and beyond."
Texas fell behind these past few years thanks in large part, the fear of COVID-19.
In fact, almost 80,000 students in Texas did not go to Pre-k or even kindergarten during the last school year.
Midland and Ector county ISD know this is a problem, so they're joining forces to get more families to enroll their kids in preschool.
"I think so often our families do cross paths into each district, whether they're mobile and they move back and forth between our two districts or some families come to Midland for different things so we can share the word about ECISD Pre-K while they share the word about Midland ISD Pre-K," said Andrea Messick, MISD Director of Early Childhood Education. "It's important for us to work together and reach as many families as we can."
The good news is now that COVID numbers have dropped, student enrollment has gone up in both districts. With Pre-K in Texas, it's required that full-day Pre-K is offered. In the long run, you could see your child perform better.
"Most of the time, students who attended Pre-K end up performing better or at the same level of some of those higher students once they take their 3rd grade tests," said Messick.
Both districts have enrollment open, though the process differs for each.
In Midland, the application will be open until August 5.
To qualify, a child must turn four years old on or before September 1 of this year and meet the other criteria to receive free early childhood education.
State requirements for free pre-k classes include not being able to speak English, being homeless, being in the foster care system or being the child of a U.S. armed forces member, peace officer, firefighter or EMT.
ECISD has a screening process to determine if your child qualifies for the free classes.
For anyone who doesn't meet the requirements, the district offers tuition-based pre-k students who don't meet the requirements.
Both districts encourage parents to apply, even if you think your child won't get approved.
"We look at income, but we look at other criteria, so come in, let's talk. Fill out the screener, you never know," said Mata.