Add another voice — a rather loud one — to the growing chorus insisting that quality preschool makes a measurable difference in a host of later-in-life outcomes, particularly academic performance.
The Annie E. Casey Foundation has released its annual Kids Count report, a snapshot of the status of young Americans across the country, this year placing a special emphasis on the importance of early-childhood experiences.
Depending on how one views the report, it’s either a dire assessment — only 19 percent of third graders growing up in low-income families had age-appropriate skills — or welcome ammunition needed to make the case for funding early education.
“The First Eight Years: Giving Kids a Foundation for Lifetime Success” presents the results of a longitudinal study tracking 13,000 children who were kindergarteners in the 1998-99 school year. By third grade, the study found, only 36 percent were on track in cognitive knowledge and skills. And that’s without sifting the data for low-income kids.
In Washington state, 330,000 children are growing up in low-income homes, about 43 percent of kids statewide, and the vast majority of them are not enrolled in preschool. The Kids Count report found that between 2009-2011, Washington was on the high end nationally, reporting that 69 to 78 percent of its low-income children were not in preschool.
That number is likely changing, as legislators this year increased funding for free, full-day kindergarten by nearly $50 million, more than doubling the number of slots available statewide. But there’s still a long way to go.