Children’s brains do not automatically switch on at age 5 when the U.S. public school system finally gets around to educating them. In fact, quite to the contrary, studies indicate that children start learning from the day they are born. Which means that children have about 2,000 days before kindergarten kicks off to learn the social, emotional and pre-academic skills that will put them on track for later success in school — and in life.
However, not all pre-kindergarten-age children — especially not kids growing up in low-income homes — are acquiring the skills they need in order to be prepared for school.
Take two children, one from a low-income family and another from the middle class, and let them run around doing their kid things in their respective homes for five years, and then enroll them in kindergarten.
On the first day of school, research shows, the low-income student will already be as many as 1.5 years behind grade level in language, prereading and premath skills. The middle-class student will be as many as 1.5 years ahead. That means that by the time the children start school, there is already an achievement gap as large as three years between them.
In an effort to close that gap and improve the quality of preschool in the U.S., the Pew Charitable Trusts launched a 10-year, $100 million initiative called Pre-K Now. In concluding its decade of research, the nonprofit organization released a report complete with several hard-boiled recommendations for how to fix pre-K.
TIME got an early look at the report and compiled a list of its highlights as well as a handicapper’s guide to the chances of implementing these reforms. Read the whole story here.