Covering the Land of Lincoln

‘Our youngest children are definitely in need’

Students in the Rockford region are at higher risk than the national average in five key areas of early childhood development, according to new research.

The Early Development Instrument study, which was conducted during the 2021-22 academic year, measured early childhood development across physical health, emotional maturity, social competence, language and cognitive skills and communication skills/general knowledge.

Kindergarten teachers from 26 schools in Rockford and Loves Park completed a 103-question survey on each of their students.

“Our youngest children are definitely in need,” said Alignment Rockford Executive Director Emily Klonicki. “We need to escalate the importance of focusing on early childhood and focusing on supporting the parents and caregivers who are working with our youngest children during their most critical developmental time and find ways so this community can provide good support and good resources to wrap around that part of our community.”

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The Early Development Instrument data is mapped by neighborhoods using the US Census-designated boundaries that show the geographic areas in which children are doing well or may be experiencing challenges.

“Despite the difficulties from the health crisis and shutdown, we are proud that we took steps to minimize that negative impact and offered in-person instruction to maintain strong student connections,” Rockford Public Schools Superintendent Ehren Jarrett said in a statement. “The results of the EDI provide additional, critical information about our families and community so we can drive specific support to our students through aligned resources for families and neighborhoods.”

The UCLA-led Early Development Instrument is designed to monitor the well being of young children to improve their potential for lifetime success by working to shift conditions in the environment for systemic change. Research shows the first five years of human development are critical to future well being and academic achievement.

Alignment Rockford is a collective impact organization whose mission is to align community resources in support of public school strategies.

The organization’s Ready to Learn team introduced the Early Development Instrument to Rockford in 2019 and conducted a second wave of EDI data in March.

Ken DeCoster covers business news and features. Contact him at 815-987-1391, [email protected] or @DeCosterKen.

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