Special from the Alabama School Readiness Alliance

A new report demonstrates that the expansion of state-funded, high-quality, pre-K can yield significant gains in school readiness and student achievement. The report, “Pre-K Access to Success,” was issued by the Arkansas Advocates for Children and also found that these gains in student achievement persisted through the early grades.

Like Alabama, which currently serves only six percent of four-year-olds in state-funded pre-k, Arkansas started small, reaching only 3% of 3-yr-olds and 6% of four-yr-olds in 2002.  Since then, state leaders gradually expanded ABC Pre-K to reach 10% of three-year-olds and 44% of four-year-olds by 2011.

The new report highlighted preliminary research from Rutgers University and the University of Arkansas for Medical Studies that tracked Arkansas preschoolers from 2005-2011 and found that:

  • ABC Pre-K students scored higher in language at the end of kindergarten and achieved better math and early literacy scores at the end of first grade.
  • Attending the ABC program at age four yields 31% more growth in children’s vocabulary at kindergarten entry, compared to preschool education experiences they would have had without attending ABC.
  • Children who participated in ABC scored higher on a test of their early math skills—with 37% more growth at kindergarten entry.
  • The ABC program also had a positive impact on children’s understanding of print concepts, more than doubling growth over the year (116%) in print awareness scores.

The researchers also found that the positive impacts of quality pre-k carry into elementary school, as indicated by improved benchmark exam scores for all Arkansas students. Notably, the percentage of third-graders with an advanced score on the math benchmark exam increased 37 percent (from 23 percent to 60 percent) between 2005 and 2011.

While Alabama has worked hard to improve early reading proficiency throughout the last decade, research suggests that early math scores are actually a stronger predictor of later achievement.  The new Arkansas report shows that by combining Alabama’s strong focus on early literacy with an expansion of our state-funded First Class pre-k program, we could transform elementary education and significantly reduce the early achievement gap.

Allison de la Torre
Executive Director, ASRA