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Education strategies to improve kindergarten readiness

Education strategies can provide children aged 3-5 with social and cognitive development opportunities, early reading and math preparation, and safe, reliable care.

Children who enter kindergarten ready to learn are more likely to experience positive outcomes through elementary and middle school, graduate from high school, and complete post-secondary education.

How does kindergarten readiness affect economic mobility?

Children who enter kindergarten ready to learn are more likely to experience subsequent academic success. 1 2 3

Children who enter kindergarten ready to learn have an 82 percent chance of mastering basic academic and social skills by age 11, compared to a 45 percent chance for children who enter kindergarten unprepared.

Children who enter kindergarten ready to learn are less likely to repeat a grade, be placed in special education, or be arrested later in life. They are more likely to graduate from high school, receive a post-secondary degree, see better employment outcomes, and experience better health outcomes.

Readiness for kindergarten is particularly important for low-income children’s chances of upward economic mobility. 4

Low-income children who enter kindergarten unprepared are 25 percent more likely to drop out of high school, 40 percent more likely to become parents as teenagers, and 60 percent less likely to attend college than children who enter kindergarten prepared.

Investments in kindergarten readiness produce significant social returns. 5

Investments in kindergarten readiness for low-income children are estimated to yield benefit-cost ratios between 2:1 and 4:1.

Other estimates demonstrate a 7-10 percent return on investment due to better education, health, social, and economic outcomes; increased workforce productivity, and reduced reliance on public programs.

Categories of successful interventions

  • Early childhood quality rankings systems: Local- or state-level assessment systems that publicly rank childcare or preschool providers. Many rankings systems include supports for providers and financial incentives for improvement
  • Parent training and support: Center- or home-based programs that provide parents with skills and strategies to support the healthy development of their child. Many programs provide connections to health, nutrition, and family support services
  • Preschool: Center-based educational programs that prepare children for kindergarten. Generally for 4 year olds, though some programs serve 3 year olds. Many programs provide additional health, nutrition, and family support services

Evidence-based interventions

Intervention Type Category Evidence Level
Building Blocks Pre-K Program
  • Evidence-based childhood curricula
Proven (highest tier)
Child-Parent Centers Program
  • Parent training and support
  • Preschool
Strong (second-highest tier)
Daisy Quest Program
  • Evidence-based childhood curricula
Strong (second-highest tier)
Doors to Discovery Program
  • Evidence-based childhood curricula
Strong (second-highest tier)
Early Head Start Program
  • Parent training and support
  • Preschool
Strong (second-highest tier)
Head Start Program
  • Parent training and support
  • Preschool
Strong (second-highest tier)
Headsprout Early Reading Program
  • Evidence-based childhood curricula
Strong (second-highest tier)
HighScope Program
  • Evidence-based childhood curricula
  • Parent training and support
Strong (second-highest tier)
Literacy Express Program
  • Evidence-based childhood curricula
Proven (highest tier)
Preschool Policy
  • Preschool
Proven (highest tier)
Preschool With Family Support Services Strategy
  • Parent training and support
  • Preschool
Proven (highest tier)
Reach Out and Read Program
  • Parent training and support
Proven (highest tier)
The Incredible Years Program
  • Evidence-based childhood curricula
  • Parent training and support
Proven (highest tier)
Footnotes
  1. Pritzker, Bradach, and Kaufmann, "The Early Childhood Challenge for Philanthropists," Bridgespan 2015
    https://www.bridgespan.org/insights/library/children-youth-and-families/the-early-childhood-challenge-for-philanthropists
  2. Bettencourt, Gross, Ho, and Perrin, "The Costly Consequences of not Being Socially and Behaviorally Ready to Learn by Kindergarten in Baltimore City," Journal of Urban Health 2018
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5862700/
  3. Isaacs, "Starting School at a Disadvantage: The School Readiness of Poor Children," Brookings Institution 2012
    https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/0319_school_disadvantage_isaacs.pdf
  4. Pritzker, Bradach, and Kaufmann, "The Early Childhood Challenge for Philanthropists," Bridgespan 2015
    https://www.bridgespan.org/insights/library/children-youth-and-families/the-early-childhood-challenge-for-philanthropists
  5. Karoly, "The Economic Returns to Early Childhood Education," RAND 2016
    https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1118537.pdf