Early Care & Education

Closing Achievement Gap for Students Begins Before Kindergarten

A growing number of states, including Virginia, are opting out of mandates set by the No Child Left Behind law and in the process creating new goals for students that are sparking great controversy. NPR reports that Virginia has set “new education goals that are higher for white and Asian kids than for blacks, Latinos and students with disabilities.”

According to Virginia’s board of education, the new standards are based on students’ previous test scores in reading and math. Historically, minority, disabled and impoverished students have scored lower than their white, Asian, and wealthier counterparts on standardized tests and thus will be held to a different standard. Proponents of the plan say it will give underperforming students a chance to catch up.  Critics argue that the practice will lower standards for minority students and won’t narrow the achievement gap.

Efforts to close the achievement gap need to happen long before students take their first test. According to researchers at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, 37 percent of children enter kindergarten without the skills necessary for learning. And once they get behind, it’s incredibly difficult for them to catch up. Research shows a correlation between quality early care and education (ECE) and high school completion. Some studies even track the benefits of ECE into adulthood.

Access to high-quality ECE for all children is an effective tool that Washington Area Women’s Foundation is using to help close the achievement gap and put our community’s youngest residents on a path to prosperity early in life. Nationwide, investments in ECE will help mitigate the need to lower the bar for some students in the future and make for a better prepared workforce in the long term.

To learn more about The Women’s Foundation’s investments, please visit our Early Care and Education Funders Collaborative pages by clicking here.