In California, the state with the largest population of Hispanic students in the country, the achievement gap starts early—long before children enter school.
Hispanic children are much less likely to enroll in preschool than white or black children, and begin kindergarten more than half a year behind their white counterparts. First-generation immigrant students, many who speak only Spanish, start out more than a year behind. One way to combat this problem, educators argue, is enrolling more Hispanic children in preschool, where they can learn to count, say the alphabet and practice the other pre-reading and math skills they will need later on.
But is simply expanding the number of kids in preschool enough to solve the problem? Increasingly, preschool advocates are saying no. California, which has increased the budget for preschool in recent years so more children can attend, but where the achievement gap has remained largely stagnant, is a stark example of why not.
Children who go to preschool, says Deborah Kong, a spokesperson for the nonprofit advocacy group, Preschool California, “are less likely to drop out of high school, to be placed in special education, to be held back a grade, and they scored better on reading and math tests.” Yet just expanding preschool access, while important, is not the key to closing the achievement gap, she says, noting that only 13 percent of children enrolled in California preschools are enrolled in “high-quality” programs.
Author: Sarah Garland
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