Children start school with a wide variety of experiences, depending on their family environment and the kind of parenting they received during their early years. Thus, their levels of school readiness can be very different by age five. These disparities have led to the idea that attending high-quality preschools would help kids achieve better at school while diminishing the educational gaps. But how big are those discrepancies, what are their causes, and how strong is their impact on students' long-term success?

Generally, pre-K programs are very heterogeneous, and their quality matters a lot. Research has shown that young students born in low-income households are less likely to be school ready than their more advantaged peers, with wide inequalities depending on ethnicity. One problem is that programs aimed at low-income children may be of lower quality than universal programs. Studies have also revealed that across all ethnic groups, girls are more likely to be school ready than boys at age five, the gender gap being wider for children from low-income families.

Now, it's good to know that kids who are school ready at age five are most likely to succeed in later grades, graduate from high school, and get BA degrees, as well as have higher earnings during their professional careers. However, some of these effects occur because many of these kids are raised in more advantaged backgrounds. Therefore, their success cannot be attributed only to their sheer school readiness.

Among many other very interesting questions, the following was investigated in this study: Which measures of school readiness matter most for later success? And the answer that might deserve the greatest attention from both early childhood educators and parents is this: "Cognitive abilities are more important than behavioral measures, and math skills are much more important than reading."

Picture: A School for Boys and Girls, by Jan Steen (Google Art Project - Wikimedia Commons)