How well are we preparing young children to enter kindergarten ready to learn? Educators in K-12 school systems are faced with wide disparities in skill levels of entering kindergarteners, which means many children are already far behind many of their peers.

indings in developmental science point toward the importance of early-life experiences in shaping brain development. These findings suggest that if we knew how to provide these experiences in our early education programs, we could have a lifelong impact on children’s success.

The good news, according to numerous studies, is that children attending publicly funded pre-kindergarten programs are better prepared for kindergarten than similar children who have not attended pre-k.

While some studies have shown the advantages persist well into elementary school, two reports — one based not on pre-k but on Head Start, and one on the Tennessee Voluntary Pre-K program — have led some policymakers to question whether pre-k can provide the persistent effects that undergird an ambitious agenda for pre-kindergarten programs. Both studies found positive impacts on children’s skills at the end of the pre-k year, but not later in elementary school.

 

To answer questions about the likely impacts of pre-k programs and factors that distinguish effective early learning programs, a group of leading researchers came together to develop a comprehensive report and consensus statement about the state of knowledge on pre-k education.

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