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Two Public Preschool Programs Close the Achievement Gap

Nearly 95 percent of 4-year-olds in two St. Paul public preschool programs are ready for school or well on their way when kindergarten rolls around, according to the first study of school readiness in the district.

The study, which looked at data from the district's community kindergarten and school readiness programs over the past four years, also found "no difference in level of proficiency" among Asian, Hispanic, black and white students.

Research has shown that if kids are behind in kindergarten, Heinrichs said, "they never catch up." What the district's study indicates, she said, is that with some good programming for 4-year-olds, "we have the opportunity to turn that around."

There are few comparable statistics on early education nationwide, said Sharon Lynn Kagan, professor of early childhood and family policy at Teachers College at Columbia University in New York, but she called the St. Paul results "impressive."

She added: "If St. Paul is reducing the achievement gap across ethnic groups, I think that is good news."

This article, written by Doug Belden, appeared in the March 29th, 2005 publication of Pioneer Press.

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