Public Policy Forum Blog

MPS teachers link preschool to better performance in Kindergarten

Survey results released today by the Public Policy Forum conclude that MPS Kindergarten teachers feel high quality early childhood education can have positive impacts on school readiness and academic performance. The survey is part of the Forum's three-year research project investigating the impacts of high quality early childhood education on economic development.

Of the 77 five-year-old Kindergarten (K5) teachers surveyed, nearly all (97%) feel they can generally tell early in the school year which of their students attended preschool or four-year-old Kindergarten (K4), and a similar portion (93%) feel attending preschool or K4 better prepares students for K5. All teachers feel spending time in preschool or K4 prior to starting K5 is important.

With regard to the specific skills deemed necessary for Kindergarten, teachers report that the skills that are more difficult to impact during the K5 year are the skills that students are more likely to lack upon entering Kindergarten--skills pertaining to social/emotional development and cognition/general knowledge. However, teachers feel that high quality early childhood education can help children get ready for school in these hard-to-impact skills groups and believe the effects last through K5 and beyond.

When asked about their 2008-2009 class of K5 students, 45% of the teachers surveyed report having classrooms in which at least 80% of the students had attended preschool or K4, and 54% report that at least half of their students were adequately prepared for K5. However, teachers in schools with student poverty rates above the district average are significantly less likely than teachers in lower-poverty schools to report that the majority of their students had attended preschool or were adequately prepared for Kindergarten.

The survey’s reinforcement of the connection between the quality of early childhood education and school readiness suggests that policymakers seeking to improve academic performance in MPS may wish to consider ways to increase quality early childhood opportunities for Milwaukee children. Because there appear to be links between poverty and preschool attendance and between poverty and school readiness, another area of focus may be accessibility and affordability of high quality early childhood education specifically for low-income families, as well as the quality of programs currently available and affordable to these families.

The full report is available for download here.

Anneliese Dickman