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Study to examine how Arkansas prepares students

Posted on April 3, 2018


LITTLE ROCK (AP) — A new study will examine how Arkansas is readying preschool-age children for success in school.

The study was commissioned by the Walton Family Foundation and will research the features of the Arkansas Better Chance program that best prepare children for kindergarten success. The statewide program is funded through an appropriation of the Arkansas Department of Education.

Kathy Smith is the senior program adviser for the foundation. She told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that the study comes after some legislators questioned how the program "is performing in terms of kindergarten readiness."

"We didn't have those answers," Smith said. "That's not really the data that had been collected."

Previous studies have shown that children in kindergarten and higher grades from low-income and from middle/higher-income families start school with significant gaps between them. Smith said that's because there's sometimes a lack educational experiences available to some children with limited resources.

Researcher Diana Schaack said she hopes the study's results will lead to identification of preschool components that policymakers and foundations might want to support.

"We are getting to the point in our knowledge base that we understand that high quality preschool is a really important mechanism to support children's emotional, social and cognitive development, and it plays a really important role in helping to narrow the achievement gap," Schaack said.

The Arkansas Better Chance program was established by state law in 1991. It serves children from families whose gross income doesn't exceed 200 percent of the federal poverty level.