State PreK Program
The Nevada state-funded Pre-Kindergarten program was first funded during the 2001 legislative session with the major goal being school readiness for Nevada’s prekindergarten children by providing high quality early education that also supports parent involvement as outlined in the original document Public Support of Pre-Kindergarten Education for School Readiness in Nevada (2000). This program was first funded at $3.5M serving 694 children, and today’s funding level is at $3.3M serving 1,353 children. Unfortunately, due to limited funding the program only serves 1.6% of the estimated 3 and 4-year old population in Nevada. Since the program began it has received only a slight decrease of funding, but continues to serve an increasing in number of children and families due to increased collaboration with Title I and other funding sources.
A rich body of research shows that pre-k can promote children’s success in kindergarten, diminish the achievement gap and facilitate long-term outcomes such as high school graduation and college entry. Facilitating connections between public education and early learning becomes easier once education leaders understand the contribution of pre-k experiences to later academic outcomes. National recommendations to support pre-k and state education reform include: Define an overarching vision that includes a strong role for pre-k; Improve the quality of the pre-k workforce and early learning assessments; Build connections with the Common Core; Improve state funding for pre-k; and integrate pre-k in school turnaround efforts (Using Pre-K to Advance Education Reform, 2011). Nevada was also highlighted in this recent article related to state early childhood advisory council activities and efforts to align practices from pre-k through third grade related initiatives and encouraging districts to support pre-k programs using Title I dollars.
The Nevada state pre-kindergarten program has a very strong longitudinal data system starting from 2002 that shows the significant impact that these early childhood programs have achieved for children into their school careers. The results from the most recent evaluation indicate that both Cohort 1 (now in grade 6) and Cohort 3 (now in grade 4) scored higher than the matched comparison groups of children who did not participate in the program on the Nevada CRT reading and math tests, and a larger percentage of these students were proficient. Additionally, the long term effects of the Nevada ECE program have maintained the significant learning gains they achieved in preschool through elementary school, which is consistent with national research results therefore reducing and/or even eliminating much of the achievement gap that exists prior to children entering school.
Nevada State PreK grants are awarded competitively every other year in which school districts and community organizations are eligible to apply.
Early Childhood Overview
The importance of early childhood education in Nevada is growing. The problem: 1) the range in student academic achievement persists, and in some cases widens, from kindergarten to high school. Research shows that students who start behind usually stay behind, year after year; 2) Remediation is expensive and ineffective. Schools spend twice as much on students who are behind as those who are at or above grade level; and 3) Students who start school below grade level form the largest cohort of dropouts, and they have less than a 6% chance of attending a four-year university.
National research indicates that over 70 percent of the achievement gap in math achievement is created before the beginning of second grade and most likely between birth and kindergarten. The NV State Legislature has invested approximately $3.3M/year since 2001 for prekindergarten programs across the state, serving approximately 1.6% of this population. The Nevada State Prekindergarten program is small, but highly effective and has over 10 years of longitudinal data that includes closing and/or eliminating these achievement gaps.