The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s annual Kids Count report is out and shows that 53 percent of U.S. children who were 3 and 4-year-olds did not participate in preschool in the three years spanning 2008-2010.
While that means that fewer than half of our youngest learners were enrolled in a preschool program, that participation rate was an improvement over the previous three-year period, when 56 percent did not attend preschool, according to the report.
Each year, the Annie e. Casey Foundation publishes the KIDS COUNT Data Book, which tracks the well-being of our nation’s children, state by state.Here’s how they introduced the 2012 report:
As we release this year’s Data Book, our 23rd, America’s children and families face a crossroad. After the worst economic crisis since the great Depression, our economy has begun to slowly recover. Unemployment has declined and state revenues are trending upward. But the recovery is fragile. many families are still coping with hardship caused by a long and deep recession, and states and localities still face serious fiscal challenges.
So what did they find?
Not surprising, Latino children had the lowest participation rates, with 63 percent not attending preschool. Hispanic families have historically had the lowest enrollment rates in preschool programs.
Asian-American kids had the best preschool participation of any major racial and ethnic group, with more than half attending (48 percent were not enrolled). That was slightly better than the rates for African-American and white children. Both of those groups had non-participation rates of 50 percent, while 59 percent of American Indian children did not attend preschool.
New Jersey and Connecticut had the lowest numbers of children not enrolled in preschool programs, at 36 percent and 38 percent respectively.
While preschool participation overall has increased over the last decade—even through the recession years—public spending on such programs has taken a big hit and has raised numerous concerns about declining quality.
The idea that preschool is a vital part of a child’s education and that a high-quality preschool is crucial to academic success is supported by several studies. Ten years ago, Arthur Reynolds, a professor of social work at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, published the results of a 15-year-study of the highly regarded Child-Parent Centers of Chicago. Reynolds found that children from these preschools were nearly 30 percent more likely to graduate from high school, and about 40 percent less likely to repeat a grade, than other children.
A year earlier, the groundbreaking report Eager to Learn: Educating Our Preschoolers asserted that even before entering kindergarten, children can learn language and the fundamentals of reading, math and science to a far greater extent than previously thought.
Early childhood educators now believe a balance of both social/emotional learning and early academics is key to a child’s future success in school.
So it is disappointing to read that so many children are still deprived of a preschool education.
Of course, in many other countries, free preschool education is available to all.
What do you think? Should the US provide preschool education for all 3- and 4-year-olds?
Photo Credit: Jaroslav Chaninovic