Have a Heart for Kids Day 2020

The achievement gap starts before kindergarten

Ruth 07/17/09

preschooler readingA report released this week by the U.S. Education Department shows the achievement gap in the United States between white and African-American students is still depressingly wide and shows few signs of narrowing. In our state, the gap between the math and reading scores of black and white children has been increasing at both the 4th and 8th grade levels. That gap is widest for fourth-grade math.

A lot of research supports the idea that the achievement gap is actually a preparation gap. Kids who enter kindergarten without the skills they need—from identifying colors to being able to sit still—have to play a difficult and frustrating game of catch-up.

So what’s being done about it? In this state, mainly, a lot of committees have been created. Earlier this month, the legislature appointed a committee to address the achievement gap, focusing on helping teachers increase their cultural competence. Last December, another legislative committee released a report suggesting strategies to narrow the educational achievement gap between African Americans and whites. (Reports were also issued about the Native, Asian-American, and Latino gaps.)

As a KING 5 blogger wrote, “Nowhere in the report was the suggestion that yet another committee be appointed to study the issue.” What was in the report was a recommendation that the state’s definition of basic education be expanded to include early learning for three- to five-year-olds at risk of not meeting state learning standards. This year, the Legislature’s basic education reform bill included a measure to do just that. However, the Governor vetoed that section when she signed the bill.

As we’ve blogged before, one of the most effective ways to address the educational achievement gap is through high-quality preschool targeted at the most disadvantaged.

We take heart in the Governor’s veto statement, in which said she was committed to making high-quality preschool available to all children. The Governor has since directed the state’s Superintendent of Public Instruction, Randy Dorn, and Betty Hyde, who heads the Department of Early Learning, to develop a legislative proposal by the end of this year.

Read Superintendent Dorn's press release about the report.

photo by cafemama