A couple of weeks ago I attended Dr. Peisner-Feinberg’s presentation on the evaluation of North Carolina’s Pre-K programs over the last several years. Overall, the evaluation showed how beneficial Pre-k has demonstrated to be for students going further with their academics. Dr. Peisner-Feinberg displayed correlations between reading and math achievement levels and Pre-K attendance, showing that students who had attended Pre-K had higher achievement levels. Reading and math achievement levels also seemed to have a correlation with those on free or reduced lunch for grades K-12. Dr. Peisner-Feinberg mentioned that 95% of students on free or reduced lunch are below proficient reading and math levels, meaning those struggling to afford lunch are most likely struggling to attend Pre-K as well. Luckily North Carolina began a state-funded Pre-K program in 2001. One significant evaluation that I found the most interesting was how few Pre-K teachers seemed to actually be qualified to teach in that they did not have a teaching license or other important qualifications. As the Pre-K teachers improved, so did the academic achievement level of the students.
I attended preschool before entering Kindergarten, and at the time assumed everyone had done the same. Having attended preschool for several years up until I was 4 years old, it was not necessary for me to then do Pre-K. For most of the people I knew, Pre-K was for those with odd timing birthdays that did not want to be especially young for their grade, so they did an extra year before entering Kindergarten. With my birthday in February, I was the perfect age to go straight into Kindergarten and already had solid preparation the past few years. Many children, however, did not have the opportunity to attend several years of preschool prior to entering Kindergarten, and could find Pre-K extremely useful.
In The Significant Benefits of Pre-K Alan Cohen, who oversees Dallas school district’s Pre-K programs says “a wide achievement gap develops between children who attend pre-K programs, and those who don’t” and “a lack of kindergarten readiness leads to an achievement gap by the time children reach the third grade.”
The article also discusses how the earlier learning of instructional time helps children take part in greater learning as well as understanding a curriculum that includes literacy, math and reading even if it is play-based.
While it may seem surprising how crucial Pre-K is for some students, when you think about how drastic of a change entering Kindergarten can be for a child who has not had any schooling whatsoever, the necessity of Pre-K seems more understandable. A full 6-7 hour school day, little free time, and obeying the rules of someone that is not a parent can all be major transitions for five year olds. However, if having previously attended Pre-K, a transition would still be there, just not quite as drastic leaving students significantly more prepared for the year to come. While the state-funded Pre-K program in North Carolina could make improvements, it has demonstrated to be beneficial to rising Kindergarteners in our state.