Stateline educators focus in on early childhood brain development

Published: Oct. 27, 2022 at 5:51 PM CDT
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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - Educators across the stateline received new data Thursday on how lifestyle changes during the pandemic affected the developing brains of the youngest population.

Last school year, Harlem and Rockford School Districts participated in the Early Development Instrument, a questionnaire that measures if kindergartners are on the right track when it comes to brain development.

The EDI measures 5 categories:

  • Physical Health
  • Emotional Maturity
  • Social Competence
  • Language and Cognitive Skills
  • Communication Skills and General Knowledge

Among the findings, the EDI study showed that children in thesStateline scored 10% higher in the at-risk and vulnerable categories when compared with the national average.

Emily Klonicki, Executive Director with Alignment Rockford, an organization whose mission is to align community resources in support of public-school strategies, says brain development in children 0-5 is critical.

“Study after study has shown that the experiences a child has from birth to age five directly influence their ability to learn, achieve and succeed over their entire lifetime,” she said.

So on Thursday, leaders from around the area met at Rockford University to discuss how to best improve. Including making sure parents and caregivers have the necessary resources available to them.

“Parents and caregivers of young children are the first teachers, and many are not connected with a system of support or structure of resources,” Klonicki said.

Educators think the switch to online learning may have affected the results.

“We were like ok, academics, academics, academics, we gotta catch them up. But it was more about learning how to even walk in a line, play with each other at recess, be in groups together again,” said Dr. Terrell Yarbrough, Superintendent of Harlem School District.

Yarbrough thinks improving these scores goes beyond the classroom.

“When you think about it, our students are with us nine hours out of the day, and the rest of it they’re looking for areas to go to not only continue their education but also social emotional type of activities,” he told 23 News.

With the use of this data, leaders not just in education, but in all areas, plan to work together to shift conditions in the region for transformative, systemic change for the youngest of Illinois residents.