Latino Children Who Attend Preschool Fare Better

Declan Hart, 4, left, and Isis Morton, 4, right, work with scissors and colored pencils at a desk in a Pre-Kindergarten class at the Community Day Center for Children, during class Tuesday, Oct. 21, 2014, in Seattle. Two Seattle ballot proposals that could both benefit thousands of preschool children are competing against each other for votes in the upcoming November election. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

The bad news: Latino chil­dren are not only less likely to be en­rolled in preschool, they’re also less likely to be pre­pared for kinder­garten.

The good news: New re­search con­duc­ted in Miami shows that early-child­hood edu­ca­tion can close that skills gap for low-in­come Latino stu­dents, both at the kinder­garten level and through the end of third grade.

Na­tion­ally, Latino chil­dren rep­res­ent a quarter of all kinder­garten­ers, ac­cord­ing to the Census Bur­eau. That ra­tio is only ex­pec­ted to grow in the com­ing years. Un­less they ar­rive ready to learn, the po­ten­tial skills gap could have far-reach­ing im­plic­a­tions, the au­thors of a re­port from the Na­tion­al Re­search Cen­ter on His­pan­ic Chil­dren and Fam­il­ies warn.

“Giv­en these demo­graph­ic trends, and what we know about their eco­nom­ic char­ac­ter­ist­ics, how His­pan­ic chil­dren fare is go­ing to have a lot to say about the fu­ture of our coun­try,” says Lina Guz­man, who leads re­search for the cen­ter.

Us­ing data from the Miami School Read­i­ness Pro­ject, Guz­man and her col­leagues fol­lowed nearly 12,000 low-in­come Latino preschool­ers who at­ten­ded either a pub­lic pre-k or a sub­sid­ized cen­ter-based pro­gram, the two most pop­u­lar preschool op­tions among Latino fam­il­ies in Miami.

By and large, those stu­dents were more pre­pared for kinder­garten com­pared to na­tion­al av­er­ages. The chil­dren later also scored well on third-grade state read­ing as­sess­ments, with more than 90 per­cent earn­ing a passing score. On av­er­age, third-graders who had at­ten­ded a pub­lic pre-K pro­gram earned an av­er­age GPA of 3.23; stu­dents at­tend­ing a cen­ter-based preschool earned about a 3.0.

The be­ne­fits were also pro­nounced for bi­lin­gual stu­dents (or dual-lan­guage learners). Al­most three-quar­ters of low-in­come bi­lin­gual stu­dents entered kinder­garten with either an ad­vanced or pro­fi­cient com­mand of Eng­lish.

“These [res­ults] are con­sist­ent with the grow­ing body of re­search that shows the be­ne­fits of early-care and edu­ca­tion pro­grams,” Guz­man said. “I would ex­pect that, as we see more ex­pan­sion na­tion­ally at the preschool level, that we’ll have grow­ing evid­ence that will con­tin­ue to show that.”

EduNa­tion­wide, Latino preschool­ers lag be­hind their white, black, and Asi­an peers on every meas­ure of edu­ca­tion­al read­i­ness, as the fol­low­ing chart shows. Ex­pand­ing ac­cess to pre-K edu­ca­tion seems to be the solu­tion to clos­ing those gaps, es­pe­cially for the low-in­come Latino stu­dents the re­port stud­ied.

“The fact that these kids are scor­ing above na­tion­al av­er­ages is really prom­ising,” says Arya An­sari, coau­thor of the re­port. “It’s really about get­ting these chil­dren ready to learn so we set the found­a­tion so they can suc­ceed when they enter kinder­garten. That’s what we’re see­ing here in Miami.”

Al­though the study is spe­cif­ic to Miami-Dade County, the re­search does sug­gest that early in­ter­ven­tion could im­prove long-term edu­ca­tion out­comes for low-in­come Latino stu­dents na­tion­ally. From here, the find­ings may pave the way for fol­low-up re­search in oth­er metro areas with grow­ing Latino pop­u­la­tions.

Latino Children Who Attend Preschool Fare Better by Latinos Ready To Vote

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