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  • Policy Monitor

Analyses of State Policy in Pre-K and K

Nell Duke
by Nell Duke
University of Michigan
April 16, 2013

The Education Commission of the States has recently released analyses of state policy in Pre-K and K. Given the importance of these years of emergent literacy development, this analyses may be of strong interest to IRA members.

In State Pre-K Funding: 2012-13 School Year (PDF) by Michael Griffith, we learn that despite state budgets growing only 2.2% and many cuts to K – 12 schooling, 24 states increased funding for Pre-K in 2012-13, most by percentages in the double digits. Eight states maintained their previous funding levels and only 8 decreased funding.

Increased state funding: Alabama, Alaska, California, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, and Wisconsin

Maintained funding: Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Kentucky, Minnesota, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Washington

Decreased state funding: Georgia, Illinois, Missouri, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Texas, and West Virginia

Eleven states still do not provide funding for Pre-K—Arizona, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, Wyoming—despite strong evidence of its positive impacts, though Griffith notes some forthcoming changes in some of those states. Further, President Obama’s pledge in the State of the Union address to work with states to “make high-quality preschool available to every single child in America” may result in further increases in funding for Pre-K.

For the literacy education community, the challenge is to take fullest advantage of this increased support for Pre-K through instruction that fosters literacy development and motivation in ways that are appropriate for this age group and respectful of the need for attention to other areas of academic and social-emotional development.

Inequalities at the Starting Line: State Kindergarten Policies (PDF) by Emily Workman presents findings on six key aspects of state policy around kindergarten: availability, length of day, student assessment, quality of instruction, standards and curriculum, and funding. The major finding is that there is considerable variation across and within states in policies related to kindergarten, which may exacerbate inequity in educational opportunities. For example, despite research supporting the impact of quality, full-day kindergarten, many states require only half-day kindergarten, and five states require no kindergarten. Moreover, what constitutes full-day or half-day varies within and across states. Minimum requirements for half-day programs can be as little as two hours or as much as 3.75 hours, depending on the state, and requirements for full-day programs can be as little as four hours or as much as seven hours depending on the state. Similarly, despite research support for small class sizes for young children and students of low-socioeconomic status (SES), some states allowed teacher-student ratios of 30 to 1 in kindergarten, while others require ratios as low as 15 to 1. There is also within-state variation in teacher-student ratios, with students of low-SES sometimes experiencing higher average teacher-student ratios.

For the literacy education community, there is good reason to advocate for kindergarten policies and practice that result in the most robust growth for children and that address inequities in educational opportunities and outcomes.

For discussion of pre-K and K and the larger context of literacy policy, please see Literacy Challenges for the Twenty-First Century, an issue of the Future of Children, Volume 22, Number 2, Fall 2012.


Reader response is welcomed. Email your comments to LRP@reading.org

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