New Study Reports Prekindergarten (PK) Classes More Likely in Public Schools Where Children Are Eligible for Free or Reduced Lunches

WASHINGTON, DC—Over half (51 percent) of public elementary schools with 75 percent or more of all students eligible for free or reduced-price lunches had prekindergarten classes in 2000- 2001, reports Child Trends in its latest DataBank indicator. The study finds that, in contrast, one-quarter of public elementary schools with less than 35 percent of students eligible for free or reduced-priced lunch offered prekindergarten classes to its students.


Additional Facts

  • According to Child Trends’ study, 35 percent of public elementary schools offered prekindergarten classes and 15 percent offered prekindergarten classes with special education in 2000-2001.
  • Schools with high levels of minority enrollment were more likely than schools with low minority enrollment levels to offer prekindergarten classes. Nearly half (47 percent) of schools with 50 percent or more minority enrollment had prekindergarten classes compared with 28 percent for those schools with less than 6 percent minority enrollment.
  • Schools with higher overall student enrollment were more likely to offer special educationprekindergarten classes than schools of smaller size. Twenty percent of schools with 600 or more students in 2000-2001 had special education prekindergarten compared with 12 percent of schools with less than 300 students.

The Importance

  • Prekindergarten classes in public elementary schools are an essential component of the PK-3 approach to early education. PK-3 stresses the importance of continuity and integration of early learning experiences to produce better educational outcomes for young children.
  • Research has shown that early education can have a positive influence on later academic achievement. The alignment of prekindergarten and K-3 (through, for example, continuity of services and curricula) is important for children to maximize all of the benefits of the prekindergarten experience. Prekindergarten in public schools may also ease the transition of children to kindergarten.  Because they are often located in the same schools as kindergarten classes, children become familiar with the school building and environment.
  • Funding allotments toward public prekindergarten programs have increased, and this trend may be beneficial for school readiness among children in low-income families.
  • Positive relationships between prekindergarten programs and children’s language and cognitive test scores have been confirmed.

     About Child Trends – Child Trends is a nonprofit, nonpartisan research center serving those dedicated to creating better lives for children and youth.