The NCSL Blog


By Matt Weyer

With state pre-K investments increasing to nearly $7 billion dollars nationally—up 12 percent from 2014-2015—states have been at the forefront of improving educational outcomes for 3- and 4-year-olds.

Kids in classroomIncreasing access and improving quality have been the foundational goals for this effort as high-quality pre-K increases students’ achievement compared to students not receiving high-quality pre-K, especially for those living in poverty and who are non-native English speakers.

But what about when these students enter kindergarten and beyond?

Fade-out effects can best be described as the “fading out” of the beneficial effects of high-quality pre-K once a student enters a K-3 grade system that is lacking in quality. Indicators of K-3 systems lacking in quality include half-day kindergarten, high student-to-teacher ratios and more.

For example, research demonstrates that children attending full-day kindergarten significantly outperform their peers who attend half-day. Currently, 14 states plus D.C. require full-day kindergarten.

Statistics such as these are the result of a new K-3 database and report from the Education Commission of the States (ECS) in partnership with NCSL and several other national leaders and organizations in the early childhood education field.

Other statistics reveal that states range in their teacher-to-student ratios in K-3 from 1-to-15 up to 1-to-33. Generally, ranges of 1-to15 to 1-to-20 are recommended for the best educational results. Facilitating transitions from pre-K to kindergarten have become increasingly important. Five states require pre-K providers to complete written transition plans, focusing on students’ strengths and weaknesses as they enter kindergarten.

This database and report are great resources for state legislators and legislative staff to better understand where their state stands on a variety of K-3 education policies and what states to look to for innovative practices and policies.

For more information, check out the Early Learning and Support webpage for links to policy briefs, legislative tracking, research, resources and news articles relating to pre-kindergarten through third grade education issues, and the Early Care and Education webpage for birth-pre-K coverage.

Matt Weyer is a policy specialist in NCSL’s Education Program.

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About the NCSL Blog

This blog offers updates on the National Conference of State Legislatures' research and training, the latest on federalism and the state legislative institution, and posts about state legislators and legislative staff. The blog is edited by NCSL staff and written primarily by NCSL's experts on public policy and the state legislative institution.