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Study: Preschool Children Better Prepared for Kindergarten Than Peers Without Preschool

Associated Press, March 29 2004

Children who attend preschool for two years are twice as likely as children with no preschool experience to have the language, literacy and math skills needed to be ready for kindergarten, a state study to be released Monday says.

The legislature's Education Committee requested the study, which was overseen by the state Commission on Children and supported by the state Department of Education and the Connecticut Center for School Change. The aim was to determine how many children in the state's poorest school districts entered kindergarten with the necessary skills.

Researchers surveyed 400 kindergarten teachers in "priority" school districts. The teachers rated 3,295 children in the needy districts, which included Bridgeport, Danbury, Hartford, Meriden, New Britain, New Haven, New London, Norwalk, Stamford, Waterbury and Windham.

The study, conducted by Kristine Mika of Marlborough, found that more than 65 percent of children with two years of preschool had most or all the language and literacy skills needed to be ready kindergarten. Of children with no preschool experience, 25 percent had the needed skills.

Sixty-seven percent of preschool children had the necessary math skills, compared with 30 percent of non-preschool children.

The study also found that:

- Preschool children were 11/2 times more likely that non-preschool children to have the social, emotional and fine motor skills needed to be ready for kindergarten.

- Predominantly Spanish-speaking children with two years of preschool experience fared significantly better in language, literacy, math, social, emotional and fine motor skills than Spanish-speaking children with one year of preschool.

- 87 percent of parents of children who went to preschool for two years were seen as highly involved in their children's education.

- Many children are entering kindergarten with health problems. Sixty-five percent of teachers identified problems that included asthma, skin rashes, ringworm and lack of physical exams.

"These findings come at a crucial time when state leaders are deciding how much to invest in school readiness, and whether to expand school readiness programs for the 18,000 low-income children waiting for preschool openings," said Elaine Zimmerman, executive director of the Commission on Children.

The study makes several recommendations on how the state can narrow the achievement gap between poor and non-poor students and reach other goals.

Some of the recommendations include ensuring full access to preschool programs in poor school districts, providing two years of preschool rather than one, ensuring health care access for poor families and maximizing federal funding of health care for the poor.