New Report: Pre-K Program and Subsidized Center-based Child Care Show Benefits for Low-Income Latino Children

Miami-Dade County programs add to the growing evidence of investing in early child care and education

Bethesda, Md.–Low-income Latino children in Miami-Dade County who attended public school pre-K or subsidized center-based child care at age four entered kindergarten scoring above national averages in the areas of pre-academic and social behavioral skills, according to a new report released today. These benefits were sustained over time as the study found these students continued to perform well through the end of third grade on the state standardized test of reading comprehension and their earned GPAs.

The report was produced by the National Research Center on Hispanic Children and Families (the Center), led by Child Trends and Abt Associates, in partnership with several universities.  The report explores kindergarten readiness of low-income Latino children who participated in publicly subsidized early child care and education programs that were part of the Miami School Readiness Project (MSRP).

“Our report reveals promising new evidence about the potential benefits of early child care and education programs for children from low-income families, particularly Latino children who are dual-language learners,” said Michael López, Ph.D, co-principal investigator at the Center and Principal Associate at Abt Associates.  “This is important to note as educators and policymakers make critical decisions about the shape and future of America’s early care and education system for all children, especially for the large and fast-growing population of Latino children, so that all children enter kindergarten ready to succeed in school and in life.”

Key findings

The findings document several patterns of school readiness and subsequent academic performance among the low-income Latino children in the study sample.

School readiness skills at kindergarten entry:

  • On average, low-income Latino children who attended both public school pre-K and center-based child care in Miami-Dade County entered kindergarten scoring above national averages in the areas of pre-academic and social-behavioral skills.
  • Low-income Latino children who had attended public school pre-K in this community at age four, demonstrated somewhat higher pre-academic and social-behavioral skills at the start of kindergarten then did children who had been in center-based child care.
  • In addition, low-income Latino children classified as dual-language learners who attended public-school pre-K were more proficient in English than were their peers who had attended center-based child care during the prior year.

Academic performance in third grade:

  • On average, low-income Latino children who had attended either type of preschool program in Miami-Dade County fared well on: (a) third-grade tests of reading comprehension, with nine in ten passing the test and (b) their end of year GPAs, earning the grade equivalent of a B.
  • At the same time, on both these educational markers, low-income Latino children who had attended public school pre-K in this community performed somewhat better than children who had attended center-based child care the year before entering kindergarten.

Today, roughly one in four children entering kindergarten in the United States is of Hispanic or Latino origin.  However, preschool enrollment remains relatively low among Latino children; generally, less than half attend some form of pre-school immediately prior to kindergarten entry.

Prior research shows that when Latino children enter school, they tend to lag behind their non-Latino white classmates in areas of early language, literacy, and mathematics. In addition, Latino children often enter school less ready to learn than do their non-Latino white classmates; and this pattern seems to hold true regardless of the level of English fluency in their homes.

“Early child care and education are critical in closing the school readiness gap between young Latino students and their non-Latino white counterparts,” said Arya Ansari, co-author of the report and a recent Center research fellow from the University of Texas, Austin.  “By analyzing academic performance from kindergarten through third grade, we were able to highlight the long-term benefits realized from participation in early child care and education programs at age four.”

“This research validates our work at the Early Learning Coalition, which stands firmly on the premise that investments in high-quality Early Care and Education support the continued success of the children in our community by helping to close the achievement gap”, said Evelio Torres, President and CEO of the Early Learning Coalition of Miami Dade/Monroe.

The data used for the report comes from the MSRP, a large-scale, long-term study originally funded by the Early Learning Coalition of Miami-Dade/Monroe and The Children’s Trust, that to date has followed 41,339 children from preschool into the Miami-Dade County public school system.  The MSRP included almost the entire population of four-year-olds from low-income families who had applied for (and received) subsidies to attend center-based child care and those attending public school pre-K programs between the 2002 and 2006 school years.

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About the Center

The National Research Center on Hispanic Children and Families (www.hispanicresearchcenter.org) is a hub of research to improve the lives of low-income Hispanics across three priority areas- poverty reduction and self-sufficiency, healthy marriage and responsible fatherhood, and early care and education. It’s comprised of a team of national experts in Hispanic issues, led by Child Trends and Abt Associates along with university partners (University of Maryland-College Park, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and the Institute for Human Development and Social Change at New York University). The Center was established in 2013 by a five-year cooperative agreement from the Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation within the Administration for Children and Families in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

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