The "State" of Preschool in New Jersey | Addressing the Kindergarten Readiness Gap
The Kindergarten Readiness Gap. When a child enters Kindergarten ready for school, there is an 82% chance that child will master basic skills by age 11, compared with a 45% chance for children who are not school ready.
A child’s socioeconomic status is the single largest factor influencing their preparedness for Kindergarten, which is determined by age-appropriate cognitive and character skills needed to do well in school and in life.
Investments in high-quality (keyword!) early education programs help lay the foundation for school readiness and, in turn, help to narrow the academic achievement gap. However, access to such programs is not created equal, and when programs are available, enrollment is lacking.
The Down Low. New Jersey has one of the most aggressive public preschool expansion efforts in the country, seeking to expand access to Head Start (4-year-olds), Early Head Start (3-year-olds), and other district-based preschool programs. However, the National Institute for Early Education Research reported that nationally, while there are more Black children than white children enrolled in public preschool programs, Head Start funding per child is lower in states that enroll a higher percentage of Black children and performance measures are also lower.
The State of Things. In New Jersey, (only) 34% of eligible Black children in poverty are enrolled in Head Start, which is the highest proportion of any race in the state. Yet, New Jersey's federal funding per child is among the lowest in the country when it’s adjusted for cost of living.
Less funding = less resources = limited ability for programs to deliver high-quality services to students.
Mind the Gap. 100% of students who attend Horizons Newark qualify for free-and-reduced lunch and 71% are Black, and when considering the facts above, are the least likely to be ready for Kindergarten. Horizons Newark is bridging the gap from pre-K - Kindergarten for its students by providing a high-quality academic and enrichment program for 4-year-olds during the months leading up to their first day of K. Programming will target what the First Five Years Fund lists to be the indicators of school preparedness, which are:
· Physical wellbeing and motor development
· Social and emotional development
· Cognitive skills
· Language and developing literacy
· Ability to listen and follow directions
Through child-centered developmentally appropriate programming in literacy, math, STEM, healthy living and physical fitness, social-emotional learning, and the arts, Horizons Newark will provide rising Kindergarteners with the necessary experiences to build the skills they need to begin school in September prepared, confident, and excited to learn!
A few Kindergarteners from Horizons Newark Summer 2022.