The Southeast Missouri State University Board of Regents today approved an amendment to the charter of the Lift for Life Academy in St. Louis, Missouri, to expand the school’s services to include pre-kindergarten.
The Lift for Life Academy currently serves students in kindergarten through 12th grade. The amendment would add pre-kindergarten services as part of a St. Louis area charter school Early Childhood Education Cooperative.
The cooperative is focused on providing greater access to free, high-quality pre-kindergarten education for three- and four-year olds, said Dr. Mike Godard, Southeast provost.
Current data, he said, estimates that only 40% of residents in the city of St. Louis have access to free early childhood education.
By establishing a cooperative with various charter Learning Education Authorities, the cooperative hopes to access those funds in a way that might be inaccessible for a single institution to navigate on its own. The effort also aligns with Lift for Life Academy’s mission to empower students to maximize their full potential as students and citizens.
Early childhood education is extremely important for the Lift for Life Academy in achieving its goals. If students have an opportunity to start in a quality pre-kindergarten program, their literacy rates before entering kindergarten are expected to improve and they will be better prepared for academic success, Godard added.
According to statistics reviewed by the school, he said children from low-income families currently enter school below grade level because they do not have adequate learning experiences prior to kindergarten. Children without these experiences also have broader gaps in academic and social-emotional skills than their peers who attended pre-kindergarten.
The goal is to begin working with these low-income students before the achievement gap is augmented by lack of early childhood education, Godard said.
The amendment, Godard said, will not negatively impact Lift for Life Academy’s current expansion plans nor will it have any budget impacts.
Lift for Life Academy’s Board of Directors in April authorized amending its charter, subject to approval by the Southeast Board of Regents. Lift for Life Academy, whose charter was initially approved by the Board of Regents in April 2000, serves an at-risk population in urban St. Louis.