Kindergarteners who have not experienced formal Pre-K, preschool, or infant-toddler programs start out behind peers who have participated in these early learning opportunities; they may be delayed socially and academically, and it can be nearly impossible for them to catch up. Additionally, early learning programs vary widely in the quality of school preparatory experiences that they provide. Attempting to address this gap, some districts are able to offer free Pre-K programs, but participation rates may be low. Compounding this problem in some districts, a lack of funding only allows for half-day kindergarten programs, further hindering early learning. While districts want to connect early on with the children and families they serve by providing parenting support and educational services, they lack dedicated funding and staff to meet this goal.
In the Words of District Leaders
“As a district we have children arriving in kindergarten with a huge variety of backgrounds. We have some students who can just about or read when they’re starting kindergarten, and we have other students who don’t even know how to open a book.”
“We offer a pre-K program, but the state does not fully fund pre-K, so we’ve got a half-day program, which obviously makes it really tough for working parents to participate in. Our participation rate is really low.”
Ideas from the Field
- Connecting with families and children before they enter school is an approach rising in popularity. These initiatives include reaching out to families through the local hospital after they give birth, offering a 2 week “Kindergarten Jump Start” summer program for caregivers, families, and children so that everyone knows what to expect in the first days and weeks of kindergarten.
- Moving to all-day kindergarten, which districts see as important from an equity and learning perspective, is how some locales are addressing issues of kindergarten readiness.
- Some districts are using Title I dollars to open preschools in Title I schools, and working to specifically enroll children who would otherwise likely be unprepared for kindergarten.
Check out the following research-based resources for more information about supporting kindergarten readiness:
Early Learning Outcomes Framework: Ages Birth to Five – From Head Start, this framework shows the continuum of learning for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers; it is grounded in comprehensive research around what young children should know and be able to do during their early years.
Investing in Our Future: The Evidence Base on Preschool Education – This report from the Foundation for Child Development shows that large-scale public preschool programs can have substantial impacts on children’s early learning, which leads to future economic benefits that far outweigh the cost of providing this education.
How to Bring Early Learning and Family Engagement into the Digital Age – This site from New America offers resources for early childhood educators, media mentors, researchers, funders, and more to think about how best to support and implement a family engagement program focused on developing early learning skills with technology.
Reimagining School Readiness toolkit – From the Center for Childhood Creativity, this toolkit identifies the skills and conditions that matter most for a child’s success in school and life and provides resources for librarians, educators, and families to create supportive learning experiences and environments.
School Readiness – From NAEYC, this site provides school readiness resources for families of young children.