Children who participate in an early education program are more prepared for success when starting kindergarten, especially those from low-income families. Two recent studies show Indiana’s On My Way Pre-K program is delivering results in a big way.
On My Way Pre-K provides grants for low-income families to enroll their children in local early learning programs. To qualify, a child must be 4 years old by Aug. 1 of the current school year or plan to start kindergarten in the next school year. They also must live in a household with income below 127% of the federal poverty level, and have parents or guardians who are working, attending school or job training, or looking for work.
A 2021 study conducted by the Center for Early Learning at Purdue University showed children enrolled in On My Way Pre-K gained more skills in school readiness, language and literacy than those with similar household incomes who attended lower-quality childcare or pre-K programs. The study, which followed a sample of nearly 400 children over multiple years, also showed those in On My Way Pre-K outperforming their peers on standardized tests in the third and fourth grades.
The other study was a Kindergarten Readiness Indicators assessment by the University of Chicago conducted in 2021. Researchers measured oral language, literacy and math skills in over half of On My Way Pre-K students statewide last spring. Their findings showed these children, on average, scoring at or above national target levels on 29% of language and literacy skills, and 40% of math skills in the KRI assessment.
On My Way Pre-K can be a lifeline for Hoosier children from low-income households who are more vulnerable to falling behind their peers academically. Often in these cases, learning gaps can persist into middle school. Early learning programs are critical to developing skills like teamwork and following directions, and set children on a more assured path toward graduation and a successful adulthood. Investing in these children now is better than paying for education remediation later.
As chair of the House Education Committee, I championed legislation establishing Indiana’s On My Way Pre-K as a pilot program in 2015, then authored a law in 2019 to make it statewide. So far, more than 15,000 Hoosier students have benefitted from On My Way Pre-K since its launch. For more information on program enrollment and providers, visit OnMyWayPreK.org.