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Ladders of learning: Fighting fade-out by advancing PK-3 alignment

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Early Education Initiative, Issue Brief No. 2
Kauerz, Kristie
Publication Date: 
1 Jan 2006


There is an increasing body of evidence that shows that children's participation in high quality pre-kindergarten (PK) programs helps them begin kindergarten ready to succeed. Similarly, there is growing evidence that children who start kindergarten behind but participate in a full-day kindergarten (FDK) program catch up to their peers by the end one academic year. The bad news is these effects often appear to "fade out" over time. As children move through the primary grades (grades 1, 2, and 3), the progress they made in PK and FDK dissipates and they are, once again, lagging behind other children. This fadeout effect suggests that while participation in PK and FDK produces positive short-term outcomes, it may not be sufficient to inoculate children against future academic failure.

This paper outlines the importance of having strong, well aligned programs beginning in PK and extending through third grade (PK-3). It reviews the short term impact of PK and FDK programs, then summarizes the evidence that these impacts may "fade out" by the primary grades. To fight fade-out, PK-3 alignment is proffered as one means to enable children to maintain and expand upon the gains they make in early childhood education. PK-3 suggests that PK experiences should be aligned with kindergarten and that kindergarten should be aligned with early elementary education. The paper closes with federal policy recommendations that provide both models and incentives for the nation, states, and local school districts to institute and strengthen PK-3 alignment.

Entered Date: 
18 Apr 2008
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