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Arkansas Better Chance (ABC) shrinks gap in kindergarten readiness for economically disadvantaged students


Early childhood education is a powerful tool in closing the achievement gap. Research on early childhood education is abundant and universally shows that early childhood education has positive impacts for students, as well as economic gains for the nation. Children who participate in pre-K programs require less special education and are less likely to repeat a grade. High-quality early childhood education also reduces the cost of educating children in the K-12 system. One important reason early childhood education contributes to the overall success of students in the K-12 system is that it helps students start kindergarten better prepared. Every kindergartener entering a public school in Arkansas is given the Qualls Early Learning Inventory (QELI). This is a developmentally appropriate assessment that observes known cognitive knowledge and classroom behaviors that are linked to success in school. It also provides a snapshot of how prepared students are entering kindergarten. The QELI has six areas of assessment: General Knowledge, Oral Communication, Written Language, Math Concepts, Work Habits, and Attentive Behaviors. Through a series of observations and questions, teachers determine if the student is Not Developed, Developing, or Developed in each of the six areas. QELI scores for 130,583 students from 2008-2012 were used in this study. This report will also use the federal school lunch program meal status as a proxy for economic status. Students who receive free and reduced lunch (F/R) will be characterized as economically disadvantaged, while students who do not receive the subsidy and pay full price (Full) will be characterized as economically advantaged. The bright line for distinguishing between comparison groups is 185% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL), which is $43,568 for a family of four. (author abstract)

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United States
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