Early Childhood Care and Education: Effects on Ethnic and Racial Gaps in School Readiness
Magnuson, Katherine A.
Princeton, NJ and Washington, DC: Princeton University and Brookings
The Future of Children 15 1, 2005 Spring
Compares the effectiveness of the main types of early childhood care and education with respect to school readiness and suggests ways to narrow racial and ethnic gaps in school readiness and achievement. Research reveals that children in center care or preschool programs tend to have higher reading and math scores than those in parental care or informal family care; however, the programs that minority children attend often are of lesser quality or less academically focused than those of their white peers. A promising approach to closing racial and ethnic gaps in school readiness involves simultaneously boosting Hispanic and black enrollment rates in center care and preschool programs beyond that of white children and improving the quality of both center care that Hispanic and black children receive and Head Start programs that they attend. Universal enrollment in higher-quality center care or preschools for low-income children could close a substantial portion of school readiness gaps, and, in particular, could narrow significantly the minority reading gaps at school entry. Since the benefits of even the best of early childhood interventions tend to fade over time, preschool programs need to be followed up with interventions for school-age children.