Have a Heart for Kids Day rally, 2015

Research Brief: Early Learning Improves Kindergarten Readiness for All and Dramatically Reduces Disparities for Kids of Color

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. Research has found quality early learning can give children the tools they need to thrive academically and emotionally throughout their young lives and beyond.

Research brief: Kids eligible for quality pre-K but currently unserved

In Washington state, the Department of Early Learning’s goal is to ensure that, by 2020, 90 percent of 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 Washington’s Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP), our state’s preschool program that serves families with incomes below 110 percent of the federal poverty line ($26,730 for a family of four in 2017). Yet there are currently 23,000 Washington children who are eligible for this program who aren’t enrolled, due to limited funding allocated by the state Legislature.

KIDS COUNT in Washington encourages legislators to allocate more resources to ECEAP. Doing so would give more of Washington’s young children access to the tools they need to thrive, while also bridging disparities in kindergarten readiness for children of color.

KIDS COUNT in Washington examined how expanding ECEAP to serve the 23,000 unserved eligible children could impact readiness for kindergarten. 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 for readiness 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.

While children would benefit across all race and ethnic groups, an ECEAP expansion could especially help many children of color who haven’t had equal access to opportunities that promote kindergarten readiness. Indeed, this expansion could help offset systemic inequities that make it harder for the families of many kids of color and kids who live in poverty to be able to afford high-quality early learning. Kindergarten readiness for Latino children
would grow 60 percent. For American Indians, the additional children ready for kindergarten would increase by 31 percent. For Black children, the share would grow by 24 percent.

Read the KIDS COUNT in Washington full research brief (PDF).