Kindergarten Readiness - Challenge Map

Kindergarten Readiness

Kindergarten Readiness

The Challenge

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.

Challenge Stats


Elementary school staff responded this challenge is urgent


Elementary school staff responded they experience this challenge often


Elementary school staff responded their schools have made progress on this challenge

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 two-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.

In the Words of District Staff

The impact of COVID-19 closings on young children could be significant as they make the transition to formal education, especially since virtual approaches may be more challenging to meet the SEL and academic readiness needs of our youngest learners.
Early childhood educator
Spring 2020

“If a student starts out in kindergarten one, two years behind their peers, then we're always in catch up mode.”

“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.”


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.

School Readiness - From NAEYC, this site provides school readiness resources for families of young children.

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.

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