California Kindergarteners Need to Pick Up the Pace

This caught my eye in the LA Times this morning:

When students enter school in California, they learn at a pace on par with — if not better than — those in other states. The problem is that they arrive far behind their national peers, and they never catch up.

This conclusion, from a sweeping research project aimed at charting future education policy, focuses new attention on what is often overlooked: infant and toddler care, parenting skills, preschool and early childhood education. The researchers argue that if California wants to improve student achievement in schools, it has to start much earlier so that children are prepared when they show up for kindergarten.

I’m a fan of early childhood education, but I was surprised that a new report finds that California children arrive in kindergarten “far behind” their national peers. Here’s how California’s kindergarten students stack up compared to the rest of the country:

The white line is California while the yellow line is the US average. As you can see, kids in poor districts arrive at kindergarten with scores about a third of a standard deviation below kids in poor districts elsewhere in the country, both in reading and math. Speaking very roughly, this is a difference of around one grade level. However, once they start school, they progress pretty well:

Poor students actually progress a little better in California compared to the rest of the country. In fact, poor students progress about one-eighth of a grade level faster than average, which means that by the end of elementary school they’ve pretty much caught up to poor students in the rest of the country.

I’m still in favor of good early childhood programs, but I’m not sure this data provides much evidence for it. Even if weak ECE participation is responsible for the lagging performance of California’s kindergarten students, it’s a smallish lag that seems to be made up after a few years. It’s hard to draw very strong conclusions from any of this.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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