Mississippi Should Invest in Mississippi Building Blocks

Mississippi Building Blocks (MBB) provides a cost-effective way to address the lack of school readiness that plagues so many of our children and which contributes heavily to Mississippi’s low ranking in student achievement. Better still, it does so without creating an additional bureaucracy or adding another year of public school.

MBB works within the existing childcare system – where the great majority of Mississippi children spend their days – to provide:

mentoring to improve the skills of existing childcare workers

two hours per classroom per day of developmentally-appropriate pre-literacy and numeracy instruction for the children

$3,000 per classroom in books, manipulatives, and developmentally appropriate materials based upon the needs of the individual classroom

business advice to improve the efficacy of the childcare facility

By working within the existing system, MBB avoids the brick-and-mortar costs associated with adding another grade in the K-12 system, as well as those associated with transportation, utilities, and most other fixed costs associated with schools. Additionally, this program provides highly effective cognitive and social-emotional development for the children without threatening the viability of existing childcare centers. (Because infants and toddlers require a much higher teacher:child ratio than four-year-olds, the four-year-olds help to keep down the cost of childcare for all children in a center. A four-year-old program in the K-12 system would remove many in that age group from childcare centers and drive up considerably the cost of childcare for the remaining children, making childcare prohibitively expensive for many low-income working families.) 

MBB Works

In 2009, Mississippi business leaders and private investors launched MBB as a research project in an effort to find a cost-effective way to improve the school readiness of Mississippi children. The goal was to develop an affordable and effective model and to seek state funding to scale up the pilot program if it worked. The project has been evaluated annually by independent experts from out of state, and the model has been successful. Children in MBB classrooms improved significantly in their cognitive and in their social-emotional development. 

MBB is Cost-effective

At a cost of $2,000 per child, MBB costs less than half of the national average of $4,151 per child that states invested in pre-k last year, and yet the outcomes are as impressive. This is possible because the program works within the existing childcare infrastructure, sending a trained teacher into each classroom for two hours per day. This allows one teacher to work in three different classrooms each day, yielding tremendous savings on certified staff in addition to the brick-and-mortar savings mentioned earlier. 

MBB is a Win, Win, Win, Win, Win 

Children win because they start public school ready – an important psychological and academic milestone that will provide benefits throughout their schooling. Parents win because they can keep their children in the centers that provide them flexibility in childcare while their children benefit from better cognitive and social-emotional stimulation. Schools win because students arrive in kindergarten school-ready, requiring less remediation and improving the schools’ overall performance. Childcare centers win because they are able to keep their four-year-olds, keep their costs down, and provide significantly improved outcomes for the children they serve. And Mississippi wins because student achievement will improve sharply, driving economic development. 

Now, that’s a good deal!

Click here for more details on the Mississippi Building Blocks program.

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