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What We Stand For: Pre-Kindergarten

Quality Pre-K: Starting Early to Close Achievement Gaps and Boost Student Achievement

A White Paper by Sara Mead for Stand for Children Leadership Center

Research shows that young children’s earliest learning experiences can have powerful long-term effects on their cognitive and emotional development, school achievement, and later life outcomes. Decades of research in brain development and cognitive science have shown that young children are constantly learning and are capable of learning much more than previously believed.

Unfortunately, research also shows that many American preschoolers do not have access to high-quality early-learning opportunities, that there are significant disparities in children’s early-learning experiences, and that these disparities result in large achievement gaps even before children enter school.

Pre-kindergarten programs that provide high-quality early-learning experiences for young children, followed by full-day kindergarten and other elementary reforms that sustain early learning gains, are a critical tool for improving student achievement and narrowing achievement gaps.

This paper discusses the contribution of early-learning disparities to achievement gaps. It reviews the evidence that high-quality pre-K programs can narrow early-learning gaps and improve education and life outcomes for all children, and explains the key features of high-quality early-learning programs. It also outlines the importance of linking high-quality early-learning programs with quality kindergarten and early-elementary programs to provide a high-quality Pre-K–third grade early-learning experience. And it offers examples of high-quality early-learning and Pre-K–third grade initiatives.

The rest of the paper is available as a PDF download:


Sara Mead is an associate partner with Bellwether Education Partners.

About Stand for Children Leadership Center

Stand for Children Leadership Center is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that provides leadership development and training to everyday citizens. Our mission is to ensure that all children, regardless of their background, graduate from high school prepared for, and with access to, college and career training. To make that happen, we:

  • Educate and empower parents, teachers, and community members to demand excellent public schools.
  • Advocate for effective local, state and national education policies and investments.

  • Ensure the policies and funding we advocate for reach classrooms and help students.

Why Stand?

A message from Stand Leadership Center board member John Legend.

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