Study: 41 percent of Central Texas kids ready for kindergarten


The percentage of Central Texas students who have the skills they need to succeed when they enter kindergarten plummeted from 53 to 41 percent between 2014 and 2015, a decrease that education advocates say was caused by deeper poverty and the lingering impact of Texas’ 2011 education cuts.

The $4 billion cut from schools that year led many districts to trim early education programs, and funding from other government agencies for Austin-area early childhood services also was slashed.

The cuts prompted a local coalition to put together a school readiness action plan and work on increasing services in Central Texas, said Sue Carpenter, senior director of United Way for Greater Austin’s Success by 6 Initiative.

The dive in readiness rates, as reported in a study by the E3 Alliance, was expected because the children who were entering kindergarten in 2015 were those who had fewer prekindergarten services available to them in their early years, Carpenter said. Eligibility requirements also tightened.

The E3 Alliance is a local nonprofit that researches education trends.

Though Gov. Greg Abbott and the Legislature upped the state’s prekindergarten funding of $800 million a year by offering $118 million in grants over a two-year period, the money is still less than before the 2011 cuts were made.

“It’s sad for the community that fewer than half the kiddos are ready for kindergarten,” Carpenter said. She said she expects “there will be a few more down years before the arrow comes back up” and the results of the group’s efforts to expand access to pre-K3 over the past few years begin showing.

News of the drop in readiness rates comes as the Austin school district partners with United Way for Greater Austin and University of Texas researchers to study the effectiveness of its prekindergarten program for 3-year-olds.

“We believe having that extra year of pre-K3 (means) more of our kids are ready by the time they get to kindergarten,” said Jacquie Porter, the Austin district’s director of early childhood. “If that’s not the case, we want to be able to tweak the outcomes to make sure the kids are successful for kindergarten. The study will not only give us the information of where we are, but also the strategies of where to improve.”

Over the past two years, the Austin district has expanded the number of prekindergarten classes offered to 3-year-olds to boost enrollment and increase school readiness rates.

For the Austin district program study, the UT researchers will begin their pro bono work in early October, conducting assessments on 800 students through 2017-18.

Austin is one of the few districts that offers a full-day prekindergarten program to 3-year-olds. As districts across Texas and the country consider expanding such programs, the results of the evaluation are likely to inform their policy decisions, district officials said.

“I’m always excited to see an external evaluation of our programs, so that’s great,” board President Kendall Pace said. “We can impact what’s working and not working.”



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

Police: Man lured his boss outside of house and shot at him in Austin
Police: Man lured his boss outside of house and shot at him in Austin

A man angry at his boss fired a gun four times at the man and the man’s house in South Austin on Valentine’s Day after saying he was coming over to get some tax documents, an arrest affidavit said. Victor Smith, 30, was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, a second-degree felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison. Smith...
Woman accused of punching stranger at bus stop for not giving her $1
Woman accused of punching stranger at bus stop for not giving her $1

A woman is accused of punching a stranger who declined to give her a dollar at a bus stop in North Austin and then continuing the attack on the bus, according to an arrest affidavit. April Miller, 37, was charged with assault with injury, a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail. The victim told police she was at a bus stop at North...
Cyclist Andrew Tilin, author of ‘The Doper Next Door,’ dies in wreck
Cyclist Andrew Tilin, author of ‘The Doper Next Door,’ dies in wreck

An Austin cyclist who had written a book about how supplemental testosterone affected his bike racing performance died Saturday after he was struck by a truck while changing a flat tire on the side of the road. Andrew Tilin, who wrote “The Doper Next Door,” was riding with a group of cyclists from Grupo VOP, a cycling club, along RM 620...
New mural unveiled at 12th and Chicon in Austin
New mural unveiled at 12th and Chicon in Austin

People passing by the mural at 12th and Chicon streets used to be greeted by the immense images of famous black legends Michael Jackson, James Brown and Tupac Shakur. Now, a new mural at the same spot features all of them, plus such Austin household names as musician Gary Clark Jr., East Austin hip hop artist Charles “Nook” Turner and Latin...
Man arrested in stabbing in Southwest Austin, police said
Man arrested in stabbing in Southwest Austin, police said

Update 4:30 p.m.: Austin police have arrested a man accused of stabbing another person during a family disturbance at an apartment complex on Monterey Oaks Boulevard in southwest Austin. The victim, who was male, was taken to the hospital and received life-threatening injuries, said Austin Senior Police Officer Jeremy Bohannon. Police were notified...
More Stories