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Data Deep Dive on Expanding Pre-K

Child drawing with crayons

Pre-kindergarten education (Pre-K) is increasingly recognized as an integral part of efforts to help close the achievement gaps that exist at the time children enter kindergarten and can persist until they enter the workforce. Whether a third grader reads at grade level is predictive of whether that child will graduate from high school, enroll in education and training after high school, and develop high-level job skills. At the halfway point between birth and grade three, pre-K for children age four is one effort receiving a lot of attention by policymakers, parents, education researchers, and brain scientists. The state of North Carolina supports a targeted program for children age four called “NC Pre-K” that was ranked first nationally in quality but 41st in access by U.S. News & World Report in 2016.

It is not surprising, then, that state and local officials are focused on expanding pre-K as a way to ensure more of North Carolina’s children are ready for kindergarten and the challenges beyond. In fact, the state budget for 2017-19 included funding to serve an estimated 1,725 additional children in NC Pre-K in 2017-18 and about twice as many in 2018-19. However, many local school districts declined these additional funds for various reasons including inadequate funding for a local match, lack of physical spaces to expand offerings, and lack of qualified personnel to teach the classes.

The North Carolina Association of County Commissioners, North Carolina School Boards Association, and the ncIMPACT Initiative collaborated to offer a unique “data deep dive” on pre-K designed for local policymakers. Participants learned from experts in the field and engaged in work to help them apply what they learned in their local context.