Early Childhood Education and School Readiness
What is School Readiness?
School readiness is defined as the preparedness of young children to enter kindergarten and the preparedness of schools to receive young children into public educational settings. Current school readiness trends take a broad approach to preparedness which looks at contributions of communities, schools, and families to children’s readiness to learn across developmental domains.
As a result, there is little consistency across school readiness initiatives. Various strategies, including comprehensive health and social services to young children, early learning programs for disadvantaged children, pre-academic skill assessments of children, and efforts to smooth a child’s transition into kindergarten, have all been identified with “school readiness.” This brief synthesizes the research and practices relative to early education and care which are most closely tied to children’s developmental and academic preparedness to succeed in kindergarten and beyond.
The Impact of Early Education & Care on School Readiness
An evaluation of state-funded pre-k programs by the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) found that children who attend highquality state-funded preschool programs in Michigan, New Jersey, Oklahoma, South Carolina and West Virginia increase their school readiness in language, literacy and mathematical development. According to NIEER, children who attend statefunded pre-k programs experience a 31% growth in vocabulary skills, a 44% growth in early math skills, and an 85% increase in print awareness. The programs in Michigan, New Jersey and South Carolina target at-risk children while Oklahoma has a universal program and West Virginia is phasing in a universal program by 2012. While each statefunded pre-k program is unique, a cross-program strategy strongly associated with positive outcomes for children is high teacher qualifications. Almost all the programs require teachers to have a four-year college degree with specialization in early childhood education.
School readiness gains made by young children who attend high-quality early childhood education programs persist as they progress in school. Nineyear- olds nationwide have greatly increased their math and reading scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) since 1999. Recent research shows that these gains are closely associated with the increased availability and quality of preschool programs.
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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