A Study of Differential Pre-K Readiness Across Racial/Socioeconomic Lines in Evanston/Skokie School District 65
Ackerman and Barnett (2005) suggest that “future academic success is dependent on being ready to learn and participate in a successful kindergarten experience” (p. 1). More importantly, a quality preschool experience has the potential to reduce gaps in achievement and the reproduction of socioeconomic inequalities that persist among disadvantaged families (Crosnoe, Purtell, Davis-Kean, Ansari, & Benner, 2016). Research has also indicated that students from low socioeconomic backgrounds are at a disadvantage, as they begin school with fewer academic skills and greater gaps in cognitive and academic competencies than their more advantaged peers (Stipek & Ryan, 1997). According to Magnuson, Meyers, Ruhm, and Waldfogel (2004), “differences in children’s childhood experiences play a formative role in shaping school readiness and largely explain the skill gaps at school entry” (2004, p. 117). The Evanston/Skokie School District 65 in Evanston, Illinois is situated in a uniquely diverse community with a host of racial, socioeconomic, linguistic identities. Consequently, the district has directed its focus on enhancing the levels of equity among its students. Recognizing gaps in achievement in its minority population, the district narrowed its scope to address the early childhood experiences among its students, particularly minorities. Despite the fact that 95% of its incoming kindergarten class had some form of preschool experience, gaps were observed in kindergarten readiness between black and white students, leading to achievement gaps in later years. In order to improve outcomes for its disadvantaged and minority students, the district sought to better understand possible reasons for these gaps. This capstone project was designed to analyze and address both the types of services rendered by early education program providers, as well as the parents’ perspectives on education, to learn about the nature and quality of the educational experiences these children have had before entering school.