April 21, 2016

High-Quality Early Childhood Education Can Narrow the Achievement Gaps for African American and Hispanic Children

Implementing a universal high-quality prekindergarten program has the potential to substantially narrow racial/ethnic disparities in academic readiness at kindergarten entry, according to a recent blog, How much can high-quality Universal Pre-K reduce achievement gaps? by the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER).

The key term is “high-quality.” Estimates by the researchers were based on the results of two of the most impressive public preschool programs nationwide: Tulsa, Oklahoma and Boston, Massachusetts. These programs are similar in that they both are considered high-quality and universal, both have had rigorous evaluations, and both studies estimated impacts for subgroups by income and ethnicity.


Wisconsin has nearly universal four-year-old kindergarten and a growing YoungStar quality rating and improvement system for child care. Do these programs reach the quality level of Tulsa and Boston?

With Wisconsin’s serious achievement gap between black and Hispanic children and white children in schools, an effective early learning effort could make a significant difference. In the midst of battles about the effectiveness of early education, it’s worth taking a look.

I envision the day when we will no longer see headlines like this: “Black students near bottom in nation on benchmark math, reading test.

Dave Edie
Early Education Policy Analyst