Low kindergarten attendance tends to dig learning gaps and the Covid-19 pandemic has worsened the problem. In California, for example, thousands of families decided to keep their kids out of kindergarten during the past year, opting for other kinds of educational programs... or even no school at all!

This means that many young students will start first grade next year without having gone through kindergarten, worsening the situation of an already overwhelmed system. California is one of the 32 US states in which kindergarten is optional, a principle with which more and more experts disagree. Kids skipping kindergarten arrive generally in first grade behind their peers in essential areas such as math and language.

According to Anna Markowitz, an assistant professor of education in the School of Education and Information Studies at UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles), “Kindergarten and preschool programs help to equalize kids; without those experiences you are going to see a bigger stretch in their abilities. It will be academic but also experiences in a school-based setting, the practice of being in school.”

“Kindergartners are expected to learn a fair amount and the good news is they can,” says Deborah Stipek, the Judy Koch Professor of Education in the Stanford Graduate School of Education and a professor by courtesy of psychology. It seems that how much kindergartners could learn in early math and literacy was grossly underestimated before.

Picture: Children on the Hill (ChildUp.com)