Early Childhood Development / For Legislators

“The good news about educational inequality” is that the gap is narrowing

The school readiness gap between high- and low-income children is narrowing, partly because of better access to quality early childhood education programs and greater parental involvement, according to The New York Times. 

The gap between the number of high- and low-income kindergartners who had basic math and reading skills–like identifying shapes. colors, and letters and counting–reduced by 10 and 16 percent, respectively, between 1998 and 2010:

It’s worth noting that the gap in school readiness narrowed because of relatively rapid improvements in the skills of low-income children, not because the skills of children from high-income families declined.

These improvements appear to persist at least into the fourth grade. Data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress show that by 2015, when those kindergartners were in fourth grade, their math and reading skills were roughly two-thirds of a grade level higher than those of their counterparts 12 years earlier.

What’s behind these surprising developments? One possibility is that school readiness gaps have narrowed because it is easier now for poor families to find high-quality, publicly funded preschool programs for their children. 

It is unlikely, however, that preschool enrollment is the primary explanation… We suspect this happened in part because of the widespread diffusion of a single powerful idea: that the first few years of a child’s life are the most consequential for cognitive development. 

Currently, the Granite State doesn’t ensure equal access to early childhood programs like pre-Kindergarten. Some districts, like the White Mountains Regional School District, took it upon themselves to offer universal pre-K to all of their students, saying: “There must be equitable learning opportunities for all preschoolers!”

Read the full article here.

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