State Representative Mike Villarreal
Texas House of Representatives
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 2, 2012
Contact: Peter Clark
Phone: 512-463-0532 (o), 512-417-9262 (c)
New Local & State Data Show Power of Pre-K Amid State Cuts
Higher TAKS Test Scores Among Low-income 3rd Graders with Benefit of Pre-k
San Antonio - New data from the Texas Education Agency on 3rd grade TAKS scores show that low-income children who enroll in public school pre-kindergarten significantly outperform low-income students who do not have the benefit of public pre-k. Data provided to State Rep. Mike Villarreal reveal that, prior to the legislature's 2011 decision to eliminate pre-k grants, only 12 percent of low-income 3rd graders with pre-k experience failed the state's reading TAKS test compared to 17 percent of those low-income 3rd graders who missed out on pre-k. Statewide and district-level data reveal that 3rd grade students who previously enrolled in Texas public school pre-k were also more likely to pass the math TAKS test and score at the higher Commended level on math and reading TAKS tests in 2010-2011.
"We now have timely evidence that pre-k narrows the achievement gap in Texas, and that the legislature was foolish to eliminate pre-k expansion grants," said Rep. Villarreal, who voted against the state's education cuts. "We know too many children start kindergarten behind their peers and fall farther behind with each passing year. But today, our research confirms that disadvantaged children that are fortunate to experience pre-k are beating the odds and succeeding in school. Behind all these numbers are hundreds of thousands of smiling children who now have a chance to make it. The choice could not be any clearer: invest in pre-k and see our children's educational achievement rise, or maintain the cuts to pre-k made by Governor Perry and see our children's educational achievement fall."
During the last state legislative session the legislature cut over $5 billion from public education, including the entire $200 million state grant program to support the extension of pre-k from half-day to full-day. The state funds half-day pre-k for eligible four-year-olds in all school districts. Rep. Villarreal filed legislation directing the state to pay for full-day pre-k in all districts, but it did not pass.
Pre-k closed nearly half of the achievement gap as measured by the difference in TAKS failure rates between low-income and higher-income students. Five percent of higher-income students failed the 3rd grade reading test compared to 17 percent of low-income kids who did not have the benefit of pre-k. Among low-income 3rd graders who had pre-k experience, just 12 percent failed the test. In other words, pre-k narrowed that achievement gap from 12 percentage points to just seven points. Similar improvements were made in math.
Pre-k also raised the number of low-income 3rd graders scoring at the higher Commended level on the math and reading tests. Of the state's 116,000 low-income 3rd graders who took the math TAKS test last year and had the benefit of pre-k, 28 percent scored at the Commended level, compared to 22 percent of the 104,000 who did not have pre-k.
The gains from pre-k were also evident, and often higher, in individual districts. For example, in San Antonio ISD 30 percent of low-income 3rd graders without pre-k failed the math TAKS test compared to 21 percent among those with the benefit of pre-k. Thirty-one percent of those low-income students with pre-k scored at the Commended level on reading compared to 22 percent for those without pre-k. In Harlandale ISD, 32 percent of those with low-income students in pre-k scored Commended on math compared to 19 percent for those without pre-k.
Some of the most impressive results come from the state's largest school districts. Among low-income 3rd graders in Houston ISD, 43 percent of those with pre-k scored Commended on reading compared to 31 percent of those without pre-k, and 34 percent of those with pre-k scored Commended on math compared to 23 percent for those without pre-k. Forty-two percent of Dallas ISD's low-income 3rd graders with pre-k scored Commended on reading compared to 30 percent among those without pre-k.
Four-year-old children are eligible for public school pre-k if they come from low-income or active-duty military families, are learning English, or spent time in the foster care system. For the purposes of pre-k eligibility and TEA's data on student performance, "low-income" refers to students eligible for free or reduced-price school meals. A student from a family of four, for example, is eligible if his or her family's annual pre-tax income is below $41,000.
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