Early learning improves kindergarten readiness and reduces disparities for kids of color

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Early learning improves kindergarten readiness and reduces disparities for kids of color

By - April 4, 2017

We all have a stake in making sure that from the day they’re born, kids can have the enriching experiences they need to get off to a great start in life. Quality early learning can give children the tools they need to thrive academically and emotionally throughout their entire lives.

This new KIDS COUNT in Washington research brief demonstrates why legislators need to make greater investments in the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP) – our state’s preschool program that serves children from families living in poverty. Expanding this program to ensure all eligible kids can participate could help more of Washington’s kids show up to kindergarten ready to learn. It could especially help many children of color who haven’t had equal access to opportunities that promote kindergarten readiness.

ECEAP, which serves families with incomes below 110 percent of the federal poverty line ($26,730 for a family of four in 2017), offers many of our state’s most vulnerable children quality early-childhood learning experiences. It has a proven record of improving kindergarten readiness and impacting their long-term academic success. Yet because of inadequate state investments in this program, there are currently about 23,000 unserved children eligible for ECEAP in Washington, 62 percent of whom we estimate are children of color.

KIDS COUNT in Washington, which is a partnership between the Budget & Policy Center and the Children’s Alliance, examined how expanding ECEAP to serve the 23,000 unserved eligible children could impact readiness for kindergarten across the state and help bridge disparities in access to opportunities that promote kindergarten readiness. Our analysis concluded:

  • Kindergarten readiness in Washington overall could increase by 20 percent (to 56 percent from 47 percent);
  • 7,900 more children could be ready for kindergarten on all six
    indicators of readiness
    ¹ by the end of their year in ECEAP; and
  • The share of Latino, American Indian, and Black children ready for kindergarten could have the largest increases (See chart for more details).
Click on image to enlarge.
Bar graph compares current (2016) to estimated percent of kindergarten ready children with ECEAP expansion by race and ethnicity.

Expanding ECEAP would create the greatest gains of children who are ready for kindergarten for kids who are Latino (30 percent to 49), American Indian (32 percent to 42) and Black (41 percent to 51).

The Washington State Department of Early Learning has set a goal of ensuring that, by 2020, 90 percent of Washington children enter kindergarten prepared to learn, with race and family income no longer a predictor of kindergarten readiness. A key to delivering on that promise is to make sure all eligible children have access to ECEAP.

See our full research brief for more information on how expanding ECEAP could improve kindergarten readiness for all kids in Washington state and help bridge disparities for kids of color.

For more detailed technical information on our analysis, please contact jennifert@budgetandpolicy.org for a copy of our Data and Methods document.

1.) The six indicators of readiness refer to an assessment by educators and teachers to measure kindergarten readiness on six developmental domains: social-emotional, physical, language, cognitive, literacy, and mathematics. See the full brief for more information on how the indicators are measured.

About the author

Jennifer’s research at the Budget & Policy Center focuses on social and health policy. She oversees the Center’s Progress in Washington series, which tracks our state’s progress and identifies policy solutions to build a more inclusive economy.

Read more about Jennifer