Decades of research on early child development has determined that “When it comes to early care and education programs, quality is critical,” (Wechsler, Melnick, Maier & Bishop, 2016, p.1). It is suggested that thoughtfully designed preschool programs can impact and influence a child’s future learning outcomes. Not only are there short-term benefits, based on data collected from quantitative research projects (e.g. Perry Preschool, the Abecedarian Project, and the Chicago Child-Parent Centers), there are long-term benefits as well. More specifically, children from low-income homes who attended high-quality preschool programs showed higher achievement scores - especially in math and reading, as compared to their counterparts who were not able to attend a quality preschool. Furthermore, children who were enrolled in high-quality programs were less likely to be placed in special education, less likely to be retained or held back a grade, and it was noted that they were more likely to graduate from high school.
Unfortunately, due to limited funding opportunities and financial restraints, there are many families who cannot afford to send their child to a high-quality preschool. “This lack of access to high-quality early childhood education perpetuates the achievement gap, evidenced by the fact that only 48 percent of low-income children are ready for kindergarten, compared to 75 percent of moderated – or high-income children” (p. 3 Center for American Progress). This data reveals that the achievement gap is problematic on many levels. Moving forward we must consider how we, as advocates and educators, can lessen the achievement gap so that all children, no matter their socioeconomic status, can get a smart start. To find possible solutions to this dilemma, let’s take a closer look at and compare standard industry practices to what the field of early care and education regards as high-quality practices.