State Efforts to Help Children Prepare for School

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The economic and social benefits of preschool education programs have long been discussed among economists and education researchers. Some have found links between participation in such programs and lower crime rates, higher educational attainment, and better wages later in life. Others have even argued that preschool attendance has the potential to boost economic growth and increase tax revenues.

Proponents of preschool stress that states should promote school readiness for all children, but especially for children considered at high risk for academic failure or social problems ("Early Intervention on a Large Scale," Quality Counts, January 4, 2007). This Stat of the Week looks at the number of states with policies addressing school readiness.

The 2007 edition of Education Week's Quality Counts reports on three types of state policies related to school readiness: (1) formal definitions of school readiness; (2) requirements for school readiness assessments; and (3) programs for children not meeting school-readiness expectations. Typical factors considered in such policies include children's language development, cognitive skills, social and emotional development, approach towards learning, and physical health and well-being.

The report found that in the 2006-07 school year thirteen states had formal definitions of school readiness; sixteen states required districts to assess readiness of entering students; and eighteen states had programs for children not meeting school readiness expectations. Overall, only four states—Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, and Maryland had all three types of policies in place. Two of those, Florida and Georgia, had universal preschool. On the other hand, twenty-two states and the District of Columbia had none of the policies.

Despite the advocacy for promoting school readiness, (for example, Congress recently received three different proposals on early-childhood education), it would appear that many states are not ready to address this issue through policy actions ("Congress Weighs Bills on Early-Childhood Education," Education Week, October 3, 2007).

For more information about state policies on early-childhood education, please see the EPE Research Center's Education Counts database.

Number of School Readiness Policies by State in 2006-07

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