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Roundtable 2017: Leading for Equity

June 9, 2017

While progress has been made in the US, policy makers seeking to increase equity of access to early educational opportunity still face daunting challenges.

Over the past decade, substantial sums have been spent to increase enrollment in state preschool programs.  However, this does not appear to have increased enrollment in preschool programs overall.  This suggests enrollment has largely been shifted from private programs and Head Start programs to state-funded programs (which may still be private).

That in turn raises several questions, such as why haven’t we made more headway in enrolling children, particularly those in low-income families? And if we are shifting enrollment, has this increased the quality of the programs children attend?

This is a key question because research does indicate that only high-quality programs can significantly reduce inequalities in skills at kindergarten entry that underlie the achievement gap for Black and Hispanic children. To provide leadership toward more equal early educational opportunity, states will need better data on who gets what in the years before kindergarten entry.

Unfortunately, in many states it is not possible to obtain data on the quality of classrooms or on enrollment by ethnicity and home language.  Speaking to state early childhood leaders and advocates during the 2017 Roundtable, NIEER Director Steve Barnett Ph.D. identified data needs to support leading for equity along, with steps to meet those needs.

SB Leading for equity in ECE