Kindergarten Achievement Gap

teacher-590109_1280Family income and student achievement rise together.  You know that.  The Economic Policy Institute published its top graphs of 2015 showing it once again, but one chart focuses just on preschool.

If you compare kindergarten readiness for the lowest income groups to the highest, there is a full standard deviation difference.  I wondered how many children were in the lowest groups, and how much money it would take to improve preschool education.

In Florida, 24% of children live in poverty (below $23,624 for a family of four}; This amounts to almost one million children.  Of these, 351,272 are under age six.

About 77% of all Florida’s four year old children attend free voluntary prekindergarten (VPK).  This is  about 160,000 students, and the cost is nearly $400 million.  Governor Scott wanted that much in tax breaks for corporations last year.

Of those children who attended VPK, 82% achieved kindergarten  readiness compared to 52% of children who did not attend VPK.  There is a two fold challenge for four year old children.  First, is to enroll lower income children in full day preschool.  VPK pays for about three hours per day.  While many of these children may also attend daycare in the afternoons, the quality standards of these daycare programs  are much lower.

In this political environment that values more service for less cost, significant quality improvements are hard to come by.  It may be possible, however, to expand VPK to a full day program for low income students.  This would be a fraction of the current cost.  Would it be too much to expect a half day quality preschool program for low income three year old children?

Check the graph below.  The differences are real and compelling.  Note that the graph shows the achievement gap between the second lowest socio-economic group (low-middle) and the highest group.  We can do better.

ee gap



Posted in Achievement, Early Childhood Education, Florida, Public Education.

One Comment

  1. from Karen West

    Your laser focus on the pre-K graphs and text supplied to focus on Florida’s problem is excellent.

    I am a financial supporter of EPI – they certainly are doing a fine job of giving us usable data in excellent form. Today’s
    email from Robert Reich, one of my favorite thinkers, gave me some more background on the group:

    Back in 1986, I helped start EPI with a vision of addressing the needs of low- and middle-income workers and ensuring we are all part of the economic policy decisions being made in Washington. And nearly 30 years later, EPI’s research is at the forefront of the movement to Raise America’s Pay.

    In fact, I had emailed these graphs to our Tri-County Pre-K research committee.

    Lots of people don’t realize that Pre-K – even if it is state supported – is not very accessible to low income families unless coupled with high quality child care to complete the work day.

    Our Tri-County LWV President sent your blog on this subject out to our membership and January we have a whole meeting devoted to Pre-K education.

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