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The role of states and the federal government in promoting prekindergarten and kindergarten

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Foundation for Child Development working paper series
Mitchell, Anne W.
Publication Date: 
1 Apr 2001

Excerpts from abstract:

Our first national education goal is for all young children to start school ready to achieve and succeed as learners. Successful learners have intellectual, social and emotional competence. To reach that goal, all young children need to start life healthy, nurtured by loving families living in safe and caring communities. And all young children deserve access to a good preschool education.

The accumulated evidence from evaluations of high quality early education programs tells us children advance in intellectual, social and emotional competence in the short term, do better academically (in both reading and math) and socially in school, and generally live more productive lives as adults than children who have no preschool education or who have poor early educational experiences. All young children benefit from good preschool education, with disadvantaged children realizing greater gains. We know that the costs of providing good preschool education are outweighed by the benefits. All kinds of programs for young children have the potential to provide good early education, i.e., to promote social, emotional, intellectual, and physical development and learning. We also know that not all young children have opportunities to experience good early education, since the majority of what is offered does not meet accepted standards of quality.

The merits of investing in early education are well established, the national goal for school readiness has been set, and the gap between current reality and the goal is known. What we lack is a plan for putting into practice what we know so that we can close the gap and reach our goal. This paper presents options for federal and state policymaking to create incentives for states and communities to make preschool education available to all young children.