Resources for focusing on equity when promoting investments in pre-K:
To ensure that children and families in the most underserved populations have opportunities to take part in high-quality pre-K, policymakers and implementers will need to take stock of what disparities exist within their states and communities and ensure that new investments will help to fill those gaps. Without such a focus, leaders are at risk of not actually helping the children and families in greatest need, and in some cases may exacerbate inequities. In Mississippi, for example, a 2015 report from the Mississippi Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights showed that dollars offered in exchange for upgrading child care services were not easily accessible to many Black providers, who work primarily in low-income communities serving Black children, because they could not afford to cover the costs of improvement in the first place. This accentuated disparities in quality between the centers that enrolled predominately Black children from low-income communities and centers that could already afford the upgrades.
The following resources and toolkits are designed to help leaders gain a deeper awareness of the roots and legacies of disenfranchisement within their states and communities and ensure new policies and investments in quality pre-K can help to overcome them.
As the REAL initiative’s site states, this project “serves to strengthen local leaders’ knowledge and capacity to eliminate racial disparities, heal racial divisions and build more equitable communities.” Policy influencers, mayors, and other community leaders can use the guidebook to plan training meetings and pull in new voices for conversation throughout the city.
This resource from the Government Alliance on Race and Equity, which includes a network of 80 jurisdictions around the country, is designed to help government leaders make sure that racial equity is explicitly considered when operationalizing existing policy as well as when making decisions about new policies. It includes guidance on how to engage communities, use data, evaluate impact, and instill accountability.
The Education Trust has developed an interactive tool that includes state-by-state data on critical measures of educational opportunity and achievement, from pre-K through college. Policymakers can explore patterns in access to critical educational resources for students and families of color, low-income families, and other underserved communities. For example, the tool shows how pre-K enrollment compares across racial groups, using information drawn from the National Kids Count Data Center.
As part of its suite of materials on the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), this document from the Education Trust offers critical information and ideas about how to encourage school, district, and state leaders to expand access to high-quality early childhood programs with a focus on policies that help low-income families and families of color. It includes key questions to ask about how early childhood strategies will be included in school improvement efforts, ways to use ESSA to improve access to high-quality early childhood, and examples of states, districts, and schools that are prioritizing equitable access to high-quality early childhood.
For the state of California, the American Institutes of Research has developed a tool for creating customized reports about the early learning opportunities available in counties and legislative districts. For example, it can provide the number of English learners in a county and the number of children in that county who are estimated to be eligible for state-funded pre-K.
These comparison tools from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) help to pinpoint how school districts and states compare to each other on scores of literacy, math, science, and writing in 4th and 8th grades. While these grades are obviously later in a child’s life than pre-K, these scores can provide one data piece among many to help determine how well a community is preparing children to succeed as they go through school. By clicking on a particular state or district, a user can zoom in on student demographics and open up a state snapshot showing differences in proficiency between demographic subgroups.