Eliminating the Racial Gap in Educational Readiness in Preschool Children

A new report from the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, shows that educational gaps between Whites and Blacks emerge at a very early age.

The study found that by the time they enter kindergarten, Black children are on average nearly nine months behind in math and almost seven months behind in reading compared to their White non-Hispanic peers. Math and reading abilities at kindergarten entry are powerful predictors of later school success, and children who enter kindergarten behind are unlikely to catch up, according to the authors of the report.

The report finds that Black and White children are enrolled in early childhood education programs at nearly the same rate. But they note that White children are far more likely to be enrolled in high-quality programs.

The authors state that one year of universal high-quality pre-K could practically eliminate the Black-White reading skills gap at kindergarten entry — from nearly seven months to almost zero — and cut the math skills gap almost in half — from about nine months to five months.

But the authors warn that “providing all Black children access to high-quality preschool will not be a small task. It will require raising quality standards, expanding enrollment, and, of course, more funding. The budget problems states currently face could well lead to the exact opposite: lower standards, decreased enrollment, and less spending. We saw this happen in the Great Recession. If we again roll back progress in access and quality, racial inequalities will worsen.”


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