Why Early Childhood Education Matters
Students and families desperately need early childhood education (ECE) programs. These programs are crucial to preparing students for success in the K-12 systems and help close the achievement gap as it is first begins to form.
In the case of LAUSD, these programs also provide a significant return on investment. Access to quality ECE programs proves to lower dropout rates, decrease the amount of students that are held back a grade, decrease instances of special education placements, and increase test scores. As a result, LAUSD's early chilldhood education programs provide real monetary savings for the district, in addition to their primary outcome of helping students from all backgrounds succeed in school and in life.
Children who attend high quality preschool programs are more academically successful.
National research shows that children who attend high-quality preschool programs:
- Perform better on standardized tests in reading and math
- Are less likely to be placed in special education
- Are less likely to be held back a grade
- Are more likely to graduate from high school and attend college
Children who start behind, stay behind.
Research has shown that too many young children enter kindergarten unprepared, and low-income children fall behind their higher-income peers academically even before kindergarten entry.
- Twenty-percent of children entering kindergarten are not at all familiar with basic reading skills. Additionally, one out of three entering kindergartners is unable to recognize the letters of the alphabet, or don't know how to read left to right and top to bottom. Starting behind in this manner makes these children much more likely to stay behind.
- The readiness gap is especially apparent in the vocabularies of low-income children, which are severely lacking in comparison to their higher-income peers. At age 3, low-income children have average vocabularies of only about 500 words, while high-income children have average vocabularies of more than 1,100 words.
- High-quality early childhood education is a research-supported solution to closing the achievement gap and is a critical component of K-12 reform.
Early investments yield higher returns.
In cost-benefit analyses, economists have found high-quality early childhood education offers one of the highest returns of any public-investment - more than $7 for every dollar spent.
During the recession from 2008-2011, California cut funding for early care and education programs by $1.2 billion, resulting in the loss of access to vital early education programs for over 100,000 children across the state. In an era of scarce public resources, the state must spend wisely and prioritize investments that pay off. The maps in our report, Shrinking Investments Yield Smaller Returns, provides a concrete view of where and how our state has invested - and divested - in its children, and how it can re-deploy those resources in the future.