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Early Childhood - Title I Preschool

What is a Title I preschool program?

For the purpose of Title I, a preschool program is a program of educational services for eligible children below the age at which the LEA provides elementary education and is focused on raising the academic achievement of children once they reach school age.

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What ages does a Title I preschool program serve?

For the purpose of Title I, a Federal program, Wisconsin uses the Federal definition of “school-age,” or children ages 5 – 17. Thus, preschool programs can serve children from birth through age 4, including 4K programs.

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What is the purpose of a Title I preschool program? 

Title I preschool programs provide young children with the early learning experiences that will enable them to meet academic standards throughout elementary and secondary school.   Research has consistently shown that children in poverty lag behind their more affluent counterparts in academic achievement.  The 1998 report, School Poverty and Academic Performance: NAEP Achievement in High-Poverty Schools -- A Special Evaluation Report for the National Assessment of Title I, reported that the average math score for a nine year old enrolled in a high-poverty school was more than two grade levels behind those of an average nine year old enrolled in low-poverty schools.  More critically, reading scores showed an astounding three-to-four year gap in achievement between the same groups.  Gaps in academic achievement between poor and disadvantaged elementary school children and their more well-to-do counterparts can often be traced back to their earliest encounters with formal instruction.  Many simply start out so far behind that they never catch up with the expectations of the school (Entwisle, Alexander, & Olson, 2000).  One of the purposes of Title I is to narrow and eventually eliminate this gap.

Preschool can play a major role in this effort.  Research has found that intensive, high-quality preschool programs can close much of the early achievement gap for lower-income children (Barnett, 1998).  Title I recognizes the value of early intervention through proven approaches.  Section 1112(c)(1)(F) of the ESEA requires LEAs, when developing their plans, to provide an assurance that they will take into account the experience of model programs for the educationally disadvantaged, and the findings of relevant scientifically-based research indicating that services may be most effective if focused on students in the earliest grades at Title I schools.  Supporting children’s growth, development, and learning in the early years, particularly for children who face significant challenges to successful learning, is an important strategy for preventing school failure and preparing children to demonstrate reading proficiency by the end of third grade. 

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Don’t young children naturally develop the skills they need for school success?

Children are able to learn a great deal by simply exploring their environment independently and by interacting with people, given that some knowledge is naturally discoverable.  Some knowledge, as well as many skills, however, are not naturally discoverable through independent exploration or through typical interactions with others, and these skills must be explicitly taught.  Scientifically-based reading research has identified specific skills that young children need to acquire a foundation for reading success.  (Adams, 1997; Bryant, 1990; Dickinson & Smith, 1994; Dickinson & Tabors, 2001; Karweit & Wasik, 1996; Snow, et al., 1998; Sulzby, 1985)

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What are the benefits of a high-quality preschool experience?

All children can benefit from high-quality early education programs, but the benefits are especially strong for children from low-income families.  Research over the last 20 years has provided convincing evidence that children who have attended high-quality pre-kindergarten programs (Reynolds, 2000) —

  • perform better in reading and math throughout the elementary grades;
  • are less likely to be held back a grade;
  • are less likely to require special education;
  • are less likely to present discipline problems; and
  • are more likely to be enthusiastic about school and have good school attendance. 

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Have Wisconsin Title I preschools experienced positive student outcomes?

Yes. During phone interviews, staff across districts described participating students’ increased readiness for Kindergarten, improved behavior and social skills, and decreased need for interventions and special education services. Additionally, staff noted that specific student populations experienced increased success. For example, English language learners and migrant students participating in preschool programs experienced greater success than their counterparts. Also, district staff reported that the achievement gap for students participating in preschool programs began to close as at-risk students attending the programs experienced levels of achievement similar to or above their peers in later grades.

Several districts also reported successful involvement of parents in preschool programs which resulted in positive relationships and increased communication between parents and staff, parent training which helped parents learn to support their child’s education in the home, and adult education which supported parents’ own continued education.

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For questions about this information, contact Title I and School Support Team (608) 267-3721