A Late Start

Critical to healthy development, early education puts children firmly on the path to success. In high-quality preschool, they build essential knowledge, skills and social connections. Yet many of Orange County’s youngest miss this crucial first step of the education process, putting them at significant disadvantage compared to their peers.

There are only enough spots for half of preschool-aged children in Orange County.
Source: Orange County Department of Education
 
Boy walking up to school. 

Research shows that children who attend high-quality preschool before beginning kindergarten are ahead in early reading and math skills, an advantage that continues through their K-12 schooling and into adulthood.

High-quality preschools and childcare programs also provide settings for children to learn valuable life lessons such as responsibility, cooperation and interpersonal skills. By gaining this early practice, children are prepared for peer interaction and making good choices, both in and out of school.

But in Orange County, there are only 43,341 licensed, center-based preschool spaces to accommodate 82,613 children (3–4 years old)—meaning that approximately 50 percent do not receive critical early childhood education.

By the Numbers: 82,613 children age 3-4 and 43,341 licensed, center-based preschool spots
Source: Orange County Department of Education

Students who start school significantly behind their peers may never close the gap, and in fact fall further behind as their education continues. The 2011 California Standards Test (CST) showed that approximately half of all OC third graders were not at a proficient reading level, which impairs their ability to learn in all other subject areas. These early academic setbacks increase chances of truancy, drop-out rates and risky health behaviors as children enter adolescence.