Heeding research that attending pre-K increases children’s kindergarten readiness, many states are making concerted efforts to expand access to public pre-K programs.
At the same time, studies show the benefits of pre-K may drop off sometime between kindergarten and third grade, a phenomenon known as pre-K fade-out.
“We know that pre-K benefits the most economically disadvantaged families,” says Francis Pearman, assistant professor at Stanford Graduate School of Education (GSE). “But what are the conditions under which pre-K effects persist over time?”
On this episode of School’s In, Pearman joins GSE Dean Dan Schwartz and Senior Lecturer Denise Pope to talk about the impact of pre-K education, especially in low-income communities, and the importance of examining the educational continuum.
Pearman says the conversation around early childhood education needs to be more expansive, describing findings from a study he recently conducted on a statewide rollout of public pre-K in Tennessee. “Only a small fraction of low-income children in Tennessee went on to experience high-quality [elementary] teachers and schools; the majority went on to low-quality learning experiences,” says Pearman, whose research examines social inequality, racial stratification, and educational disparities in U.S. cities.
The conversation around early childhood education and the effort to prevent pre-k fade-out should take a broader focus that includes the years that follow, he says. “Pre-K is a great first leg in a relay race,” he says. “We need to also be thinking about the third and fourth legs in that race.”
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