Program aims to help poor kids overcome education obstacles



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OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Six Omaha-area school districts next year will test a new concept in early childhood education that is aimed at helping kids from poor families surmount educational obstacles.

Officials of the Douglas and Sarpy county Learning Community are expected to release more details of the plan on Friday, the Omaha World-Herald said (http://bit.ly/1A6eNxm ).

It will include home visits for children from birth to age 3, high-quality preschool for 3- and 4-year-olds and consistent curriculum and support for children in kindergarten through third grade.

Gretna Public Schools Superintendent Kevin Riley said the program — a collaboration between the district superintendents, the Learning Community and the Buffett Early Childhood Institute — provides "an opportunity to build something special."

Sam Meisels, the institute's founding executive director, said the program takes the best practices of early childhood education and applies them during a child's most impressionable years. The program is aimed at eliminating or reducing social and achievement gaps between children in poor families and their better-off peers.

"This is not a guarantee, but this is our best shot," Meisels said.

Kids living in poverty can lack prenatal care, health care, housing and food. They often miss out on the richer vocabulary environment of children from families with higher incomes, Meisels said, and they often don't get quality time with their parents.

With a program running from birth through third grade, he said, there is "a high probability that what kids learn in that period will serve them well for really decades to come."

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Information from: Omaha World-Herald, http://www.omaha.com

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The Associated Press

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