Early Childhood Education
“The achievement gap can be considerably minimized with exposure to high-quality pre-kindergarten.”
Closing Achievement Gaps: Future of Children Policy Brief, Spring 2005
The achievement gap refers to a significant disparity in educational success between groups of children: lowincome and minority children as compared to higher-income and non-minority children. The achievement gap exists when children enter kindergarten. Current educational policy has focused on measures in K-12 education to alleviate the achievement gap such as high curriculum standards, reduced class sizes, higher teacher quality, and test-based accountability. However, the achievement gap continues to persist. On a national level, the National Assessment of Educational Progress’ National Report Card shows that white and high-income children have consistently outperformed minority and low-income children on math and reading tests from 1992 to 2005.1 Research demonstrates that high-quality pre-kindergarten and full-day kindergarten are promising strategies to reduce this achievement gap in order to improve student achievement, reduce remedial education costs, strengthen schools, and increase district performance.
The Key to Closing the Achievement Gap is Closing the Readiness Gap
The latest research shows that the achievement gap has deep roots that begin long before school entry.2 Forty-six percent of kindergarten teachers report that over half of the children in their classrooms have problems following directions and working in a group.3 Children from lowincome families score lower on academic tests prior to kindergarten than children from high-income families.4 Similarly, minority children, who are three times more likely than their peers to grow up in poverty5, score lower on academic tests prior to kindergarten than their peers. In addition, low-income children are more likely to face environmental and health risk factors which present obstacles to school readiness.6
Research shows that the achievement gap that exists in kindergarten tends to widen through the school years: young children who enter school behind their peers are unlikely to ever catch up7, resulting in a persistent “achievement gap.”
These findings have led many states to focus their efforts to close the achievement gap on investing in high-quality prekindergarten. Currently, three states have universal prekindergarten and 14 states are moving toward it. In FY07, 31 states increased investments in pre-kindergarten education totaling nearly $1 billion.
Early Education Benefits All Children and Helps Narrow the Achievement Gap for Low-Income and Minority Children
Research demonstrates that high-quality early education improves the school readiness of children from all ethnic, racial and economic backgrounds, with disproportionate benefits to low-income and minority children.8 Several studies have found that well-funded, well-designed, and well-staffed pre-kindergarten programs can improve the academic achievement and long-term outcomes of lowincome and minority children.
Reprinted with the permission of the Early Education for All Campaign. © Strategies for Children / Early Education for All. All rights reserved.
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