Ensuring that our community’s children have high-quality teachers and schools is absolutely critical to student success. However, children are not just products of their schools, but also of their families and communities.
We know that children from impoverished backgrounds are at risk for poor school performance. From early childhood through adolescence, this performance gap only grows wider as children progress through school. Teachers and schools are left battling the headwinds of poor out-of-school developmental and educational support for their students as this performance gap continually widens. Children from poverty often do not have the same family or community support that many middle-income children have.
Therefore, policies to improve educational (as well as health) outcomes must also address family and community factors. High quality pre-kindergarten is vitally important for young children, especially those from at-risk backgrounds. However, when high quality pre-kindergarten is combined with strong home and community “wrap-around” services, the benefits are only magnified. Organizations that advocate for a holistic civic infrastructure that supports children from cradle-to-career understand how important family and community are to children’s success in school, career, and life.
Research shows us that success builds upon success. However, we can’t expect schools to “go it alone.” To foster success among our children, we must hold ourselves, our families, and our communities as accountable as we hold our teachers and schools.
Pre-kindergarten refers to programs that provide a year of education prior to entry into kindergarten. Universal programs are voluntary state programs that are open to all age-eligible children. Currently, the majority of state-funded Pre-K programs are targeted programs that primarily serve at-risk children (usually based on low family income).
Research shows that Pre-K programs are typically of higher quality than other preschools or center-based programs and that Pre-K children are better prepared for school (Barnett 2008, Magnuson 2007).
The benefits of Pre-K are not limited to test scores.
Children who receive high-quality Pre-K have:
Literacy is context specific.
Literacy is necessary for college and career readiness and success.
Many Shelby County Schools (SCS) students are not college ready in reading.
Low-income youth are less likely to be proficient in reading.
Some groups of low-income students are doing much better than others.
Young adults’ literacy levels reflect early learning, school environments, and family and community factors.
Stronger, individual-level measures of literacy level need to be part of any literacy intervention.
These research findings are based on state-funded pre-kindergarten programs and high quality early childhood programs such as High Scope Perry Preschool, Chicago Child-Parent, and Abecedarian Project.
Brief: The Benefits of Pre-K: What the Research Shows
Download full brief (PDF, 07/2014)