The NCSL Blog


By Alison May

School readiness "includes the readiness of the individual child, the school’s readiness for children, and the ability of family and community to support optimal early child development," according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.Child with blocks

States are considering updating school readiness definitions to include brain research and the importance of noncognitive skills.

These noncognitive skills are often referred to as executive function skills and are defined by the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University as “the mental processes that enable us to plan, focus attention, remember instructions, and juggle multiple tasks successfully.” Children aren’t born with these skills—they are born with the potential to develop them. Executive function skills are shown to have a positive impact on a students’ academic success.  

Research has demonstrated that low-income students are nearly 20 months behind their more affluent peers when entering kindergarten at age 5. For some minority students, reading and math proficiency lags behind other nonminority peers between six and 11 months. Research shows that these early learning gaps often continue to grow and persist through a students’ educational career.  

Fortunately there is some good news. Increasing access to high-quality prekindergarten has been shown to reverse or eliminate many of these educational gaps by the time students enter kindergarten.    

NCSL has created a school readiness and transitions webpage to assist policymakers understand the breadth and depth of this issue. There are five main defined categories explained through maps and text related to school readiness and transitions. The categories include:

  • Prekindergarten access.
  • Funding.
  • Length of the prekindergarten day.
  • Transitions to kindergarten.
  • Social-emotional development leading to suspension and expulsion.

The school readiness and transitions webpage includes examples of 2017 introduced legislation from each of the five topical categories. As the 2017 legislative session continues the legislation highlighted on this webpage will be updated.

The webpage concludes with a short list of resources both from NCSL and other researchers in the field. Bookmark and enjoy the information presented on the school readiness and transitions webpage. Email the NCSL Early Care and Education staff  with any questions.   

Alison May is a staff coordinator in NCSL’s Children and Families 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.