Pre-K: The Importance of High Quality
It is a well-established national goal that children across the United States enter school ready to learn. And pre-K is an important investment for a state to make to help children prepare for school – and lifelong – success.
High-quality pre-K provides children with the social and emotional skills that they need to thrive – as well as stronger language, literacy, and math skills. It also helps to improve high school graduation rates – and expanded access to post-secondary education and employment.
High-quality pre-K is also an investment in a state’s – and the nation’s – social and economic future. Children that participate in a high quality pre-K program are less likely to be placed in special education during primary and secondary school or involved with the criminal justice system.
The quality of children’s pre-K experiences can vary widely, however. BUILD is working intensively with states to ensure that the following components are in place for a stronger and more effective pre-K system:
- A curriculum geared toward school readiness
- Qualified and certified teachers and assistants in every classroom
- Maximum class size of 15 students
- Adequate space and supplies
- Supplemental services, such as transportation, dental, health, and other social services
In his State of the Union address on February 12, 2013, President Obama echoed the actions of so many of the nation’s governors by calling on Congress to expand access to high-quality preschool to every child in America. The President’s plan would provide high-quality pre-K for all low and moderate-income four-year-olds while also expanding these programs to reach additional children from middle class families and incentivizing full-day kindergarten policies.
This investment, financed through a cost-sharing model with states, would help close the United State’s school readiness gap and ensure that children have the chance to enter kindergarten ready for success. BUILD has joined with early childhood champions from across the nation to enhance the likelihood that Congress will implement these important proposals.
New Jersey, a BUILD state, is nationally recognized for its high quality pre-K program. In 2013, a longitudinal study on the program estimated the effects of preschool education programs on academic skills in language arts and literacy, mathematics, and science based on standardized tests given to all New Jersey children in 4th and 5th grade. The study found persistent gains in all tested subjects on the state assessments, with larger test score gains for children who participated in two years of preschool. In addition, Abbott Preschool Program participation was linked to lower retention rates and fewer children needing special education.