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Marketing Research Plan: Childcare Choices for Kindergarten Readiness

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Learner: Bonnie Rice
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Marketing Research Plan:
Childcare Choices for Kindergarten Readiness
Bonnie Rice
Northcentral University

In order to analyze what factors affect the ability for parents to access quality childcare choices that prepare preschoolers for kindergarten, the author’s research plan will discuss applicable marketing theories relating to the issue and results of the hypothesis testing from responses to her questionnaire. The author will also discuss future research and marketing research applications.
Keywords: high-quality childcare, Early Childhood Environmental Rating Scale (ECERS), Survey of Income and Program Participation – Event History Calendar (SIPP-EHC), TK/JK (transitional or junior kindergarten, reference parent, kindergarten readiness, retention

Marketing Research Plan: Childcare Choices for Kindergarten Readiness
As the number of mothers working outside of the home has increased dramatically over the past two decades, finding childcare that is affordable and readies children for kindergarten and further academic success has become progressively difficult. Policy makers, researchers and parents have focused increasingly over the past several decades on the education of young children and their readiness when entering kindergarten. Early education within a childcare setting is an important aspect of this preparation. More and more parents rely on relatives as childcare costs increase. However, childcare provided by relatives is not always reliable and young children can miss opportunities to increase academic skills.
Traditionally, high-quality childcare has been described as affordable, in a good location, and convenient in terms of hours of availability and work-schedule (Sandstrom & Chaudry, 2012). Early childcare experiences in the development of children and high-quality childcare promotes school readiness and leads to better social and academic skills (Sandstrom & Chaudry, 2012). Yet supply has not kept up with demand in many communities. The need for childcare programs for both pre-school age and school-age children in the general population has grown faster than the available supply of programs, in spite of large federal investments (Montes & Halterman, 2010). Many parents, especially in Hispanic communities, rely more and more on relatives to care for children, which is not always a stable environment for learning.
A successful transition to school cushions a child’s future academic and behavioral development and early childhood intervention programs have been found to be successful in improving the developmental outcomes of children in poverty (Winsler, Tran, Hartman, Madigan, Manfrab, & Bleikerb, 2008). Looking at what criteria impacts parents when making childcare decisions for their children is essential in understanding the decline in childcare enrollment and how that may affect kindergarten readiness.
Many issues affect the ability of a parent to obtain quality childcare services. The changing dynamics of a neighborhood and its needs can impact where a childcare facility is located and what services are desired by local parents. Nearly half of American households with young or school-age children experience childcare problems (Montes & Halterman, 2010). Childcare subsidies paid to employed low-income parents can lead to improved labor market outcomes in the future and lower lifetime subsidies than welfare assistance paid currently and in the future (Blau and Tekin, 2007). Great educational benefits can be derived from well-thought out daycare programs that prepare children for school. Readiness for kindergarten is the dependent variable in this current study of childcare choices.
Marketing theory and practice Research suggests people are continuously producing predictions of the environment and that thoughts and behavior are guided by mental scripts developed from experiences and stored memory (Rindell, 2010). Qualitative researchers are looking throughout the entire research process at whether the right questions are being asked. This allows them to change the questions whenever it seems appropriate, to challenge basic assumptions, and to see things from as many different perspectives as possible (Sinkovics & Alfoldi, 2012). Marketing research includes a responsibility to the communities it serves to provide answers for public questions and concerns. One of the key strengths of observational, or qualitative, field research is the comprehensive perspective it can give researchers through recognition of nuances that might escape them using other methods (Babbie, 2010). It is an appropriate method for studying attitudes and behaviors that may not be apparent in quantitative methods.
Practices, episodes, encounters, roles, personal relationships, cliques, organizations, social worlds, and subcultures are elements of social life that, when studied through field research, can reveal much more than would be apparent from numbers alone (Babbie, 2010). Politicization of science can undermine the independent functioning of scientific research, while an awareness of ideological considerations enriches the study and practice of social research methods (Babbie, 2010). Qualitative research is generally used to develop a deeper understanding of a subject and generate new insights, while quantitative research is used for confirmatory studies, such as theory testing (Venkatesh, Brown & Bala, 2013). Mixed-method research is an approach that combines quantitative and qualitative research methods to assist in developing richer insights that cannot be fully understood using only a quantitative or a qualitative method alone. Researchers are now looking at combining qualitative and quantitative data. This allows researchers to address both exploratory and confirmatory questions within the same research inquiry (Venkatesh, et al., 2013).
When researchers encounter a breakdown in either qualitative or quantitative strands in mixed methods research, they solve the mystery within the findings by developing meta-inferences through bridging, the process of developing a consensus between qualitative and quantitative findings (Venkatesh, et al., 2013). Bridging helps a researcher understand transitions and boundary conditions associated with the research model. The meta-inferences offer mechanisms for discovery by allowing researchers to not only extract components related to a phenomenon, but also to unveil interrelated mechanisms and boundary conditions (Venkatesh, et al., 2013). Using computer assisted qualitative data analysis software (CAQDAS) in a research project can enhance systematization, trustworthiness, reflexivity and operational effectiveness in qualitative research (Sinkovics & Alfoldi, 2012). With the new tools and technology available to researchers, qualitative research moves ever closer to acceptance by the wider scientific community as a rigorous approach to answering the questions businesses and communities alike are asking.
Defining quality childcare
Childcare is defined broadly, including standard child care arrangements and school enrichment activities or programs before and after school, as well as babysitters or nannies. Standard childcare arrangements are a regularly attended program, activity, or arrangement that occurs at least once a week. Childcare encompasses a wide range of services. It can include home-based care by a child's mother or father, care by a grandparent or other relative, care by a nanny, or care by an organized licensed facility or family center (Laughlin, 2013). It can also involve early childhood education such as that offered by nursery schools, Montessori schools, and kindergarten programs. Accessibility is determined by whether childcare is available when and where parents need it. Center-based care is any program that is authorized to provide child care services in a non-residential setting. Quality of care is often cited as the most important reason parents in the study selected their current arrangement, followed by a preference for care by a relative, convenience of location, and cost, hours, and availability of care (Sandstrom & Chaudry, 2012). Quality of care means different things to different parents. Aspects of quality include child-staff ratios, provider-related characteristics such as a warm and loving teaching style or training and experience), and program-related characteristics, such as preparation for school or instruction in the family's own culture, and facility-related characteristics such as availability of materials and equipment, as well as health and safety issues (Sandstrom & Chaudry, 2012).
While being highly trained to work with young children and being state licensed and accredited is important, parents also consider specific credentials and work experience as well in deciding if the care provided is quality care (Sandstrom & Chaudry, 2012). Studies have also shown that a mother's work schedule, educational level, family income, subsidy receipt, presence of both parents and other siblings at home, and family's immigration status are the factors associated with childcare selection (Yesil-Dagli, 2011). Parents sometimes have difficulty determining quality at a center, even when they incur substantial search costs to learn about providers (Xiao, 2011). Parents may not be able to spend enough time observing a childcare operation’s various dimensions. Parents receive much of their information about a provider from informal sources, such as family, neighbors, friends, and coworkers. The 1990 National Childcare Survey Parents Study indicated that over 60 percent of parents reported they learned of their providers from friends, neighbors or relatives, while thirteen percent used advertisements and only nine percent relied on resource and referral agencies (Xiao, 2011).
Focus for kindergarten readiness
With new and more rigorous standards being applied, the focus in kindergarten has turned from the development of social skills to skills that are more academic in nature (Mugurussa, 2013). If a child is unable to pass state testing in certain grades, they will be retained and required to repeat the grade, and this applies to kindergarten as well. Kindergarten can be overwhelming for students who are not ready. Kindergarten retention has been linked to various risk factors such as poverty, low maternal education, single parent status, minority status, English language learner (ELL) status, and male gender (Winsler, Hutchison, De Feyter, Manfra, Bleiker, Hartman & Levitt, 2012).
Marital status and childcare choices
In 2011, three percent of preschoolers lived only with their father; the remainder lived with both their mother and father or only with their mother (Laughlin, 2013). Grandparents were an important source of child care for father-only families, providing care for one-third of preschoolers. Employed mothers relied significantly on their relatives to act as child care providers. Relatives regularly provided child care to almost half of the more than 20 million preschoolers in the spring of 2011 (Laughlin, 2013).The likelihood of using relative care may depend on current family living arrangements such as being in a multi-generational household or in an extended family. Migration and residence patterns can also affect the convenience of relatives to serve as childcare providers. In the spring of 2011, 39 percent of American children under the age of five years had no regular childcare arrangement (Laughlin, 2013).
Among fathers with an employed wife, 34 percent were a regular source of care for their preschooler in 2011, compared to 29 percent in 2005 (Laughlin, 2013). An increase in father-provided childcare is often required due to changes in the family and economic issues. The recent recession and the drop in male employment may have created circumstances where families relinquish paid childcare and have fathers provide child care while their wives are working. Multiple arrangements during work hours may indicate instability in childcare arrangements or difficulty in identifying regular use (Laughlin, 2013).
Income and childcare choices
Access to high quality childcare varies by income status but not always in ways expected. High-income families have the economic level to obtain quality center care and low-income families qualify for childcare assistance subsidies to help find higher quality childcare. Working-poor families, who do not qualify for financial assistance for childcare and do not have unlimited financial flexibility, are the families who are more likely to use lower quality center-based childcare (Winsler, et al., 2008). Early research on childcare and on children's transition to school was drawn primarily from white, middle class samples of children and families. In 2011, eighty-three percent of preschoolers with no regular arrangement lived with a reference parent who was not employed and were most likely under the supervision of their parent during the day (Laughlin, 2013).

According to the US Census Bureau, childcare costs have nearly doubled since the mid-1980s but the portion of families paying for childcare has declined. Adjusting for inflation, families with employed mothers spent on average $84 per week on child care in 1985and in 2011 the average child care payment increased to $143 per week, while the average cost of child care for families with an employed mother increased from $124 in 2005 to $142 in 2010 (Laughlin, 2013). Although the cost of child care increased, the percent of family monthly income spent on child care stayed constant between 1997 and 2011, at around 7 percent (Laughlin, 2013). The average amount of time preschoolers spent in selected child care arrangements depended on the employment status of the mother. On average, children with employed mothers spent fifteen more hours in childcare than children with non-employed mothers (Laughlin, 2013). If time in parental care is excluded, preschoolers of employed mothers spent, on average, 26 hours per week in care. Care averaged $143 per week for children with an employed mother, compared with $84 a week (in 2011 dollars) in 1985 but the share of families using paid childcare at all dropped to 32 percent in 2011 from 42 percent in 1985, with the monthly share of family income overall spent on childcare remaining constant since 1997 (Laughlin, 2013). Children in poverty with an employed mother relied on grandparents and on fathers more than on day care centers or family day care providers for their care. Children in families above the poverty line were less likely to be cared for by a sibling but more likely to be cared for in a day care center or nursery school than were children in poverty. This trend may be due to the higher costs related with licensed and structured care.
Childcare Availability and Accessibility
Childcare subsidies are intended to help low-income families afford childcare, access higher quality childcare, and maximize childcare choice in their communities. Families can choose state-registered childcare providers, who are required to meet all state licensing or regulatory requirements to receive federal assistance, but parents can also select unregistered providers who are not required to meet state licensing requirements. The need for childcare programs for both pre-school age and school-age children in the general population has grown faster than the available supply of programs, in spite of large federal investments (Montes & Halterman, 2010). Families living in deep poverty pay 30 percent of their income for childcare and families who are below poverty level rely heavily on government subsidies to afford childcare (Laughlin, 2013). Those types of subsidies’ budgets continue to face cuts as lawmakers look for ways to cut spending.
A lack of stable childcare impacts the ability of a parent to work. While many families choose a relative to care for a child, relative care is not always a stable source. Low-income working parents are often forced into accepting care for their child that they can afford, not for the care they would rather obtain. The National Study of Child Care for Low-Income Families found that families living at or below the federal poverty level that paid for childcare chose their childcare arrangements primarily because of the lower cost, spending an average of 22 percent of their total monthly income on childcare expenses (Sandstrom & Chaudry, 2012). When families have a subsidy, the quality of care assessment of the provider and the care environment, not the cost of the care, are the primary reasons for selecting a childcare provider (Sandstrom & Chaudry, 2012). Immigrant families face additional barriers. Many immigrant families are unaware of the childcare and early education programs available in their communities (Sandstrom & Chaudry, 2012). Evaluation research has been conducted for decades on the effectiveness and availability of childcare services across the country. Issues range from the economic impact on parents (Blau & Tekin, 2001) to the influence of household support, ethnicity and parental practices on family selection of child care centers (Montes & Halterman, 2010). A childcare decision-making framework which includes flexibility in both employment and child care arrangements has the essential factors for parents to balance work, family life, and childcare (Emlen, 2010).
Subsidized programs
There are four types of early childhood programs or subsidized childcare services available to low-income children whose potential for promoting school readiness has been studied to various degrees:
1. Individual comprehensive research-based initiatives that include high-quality educational services often coupled with other economic and social services
2. Head Start, a large-scale multi-dimensional intervention specifically targeted at impoverished populations
3. State-funded public school pre-K programs
4. Community-based childcare settings (Winsler, et al., 2008).
Educational services from individual initiatives show improvement in performance within the academic and cognitive domains, as well as areas of socio-emotional skills and adaptive behavior, with positive effects of intervention in some cases shown to last throughout adolescence (Winsler, et al., 2008). Head Start, while improving kindergarten readiness, reaches about 50% of eligible preschool-age children from low-income families (Children's Defense Fund, 2005). The majority of preschoolers in poverty in the United States attend childcare/preschool programs, namely state-funded pre-K programs or community-based childcare centers (Winsler, et al., 2008). Eighty-six percent of school-based teachers in pre-K programs have four-year college degrees and earn salaries proportionate with that of elementary school teachers (Winsler, et al., 2008). Compared to childcare programs typically attended by low-income children, public school pre-K programs provide significant and positive effects.
In single-parent families, the resident parent is the reference parent. If neither parent is in the household, the guardian is the reference parent. Reference parents include biological, step- and adoptive parents, or other relatives and non-relatives acting as a guardian in the absence of parents. Children with a reference parent who was Black were more likely than other children to receive government help to pay for child care and preschoolers with an unmarried parent were more likely than those with a married parent to receive government help to pay for childcare (Laughlin, 2013). This reflects the higher rates of poverty among Black mothers and unmarried mothers.
Race and childcare choices
Latinos are the largest and fastest growing minority group in the United States. In 2003, children of Hispanic origin made up 34 percent of all children from low-income families and 21.4 percent of children under the age of five in the U.S (Winsler, et. al, 2012). Hispanic children are not faring well in the American school system. Hispanic students are more likely to be retained, compared with non-Hispanic white students, and Hispanic/Latino students have the highest rates of school non-completion of any ethnic group (Winsler, et. al, 2012). With the growing population of Hispanic children in Washington State, it is important to look more closely at what factors are affecting Hispanic children and their ability to thrive in school. Anecdotal evidence has shown that, where families are encouraged to hold children back a year due to low scores on assessments and/or screeners, the children are more likely to be black or Hispanic, rather than white (Winsler, et. al, 2012).
Childcare statistics
Center-based care in 2010 was at its highest percentage in the past twenty years for the population in general, but at a lower level for women under the poverty level. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in a typical week during Spring 2011, 12.5 million, or 61 percent, of the 20.4 million children under 5 years of age were in some type of regular child care arrangement at least once a week (Laughlin, 2013). Preschoolers receiving care were more likely to be cared for by a relative (42 percent) than by a nonrelative (33 percent), while 12 percent were regularly cared for by both and another 39 percent had no regular child care arrangement (Laughlin, 2013). Working mothers and single fathers depended more on grandparent care. Grandparent care is found to be highest in the South and a higher percentage of Hispanic grandparents care for children while mothers work. Family members, especially grandparents, are important sources of childcare for Black, non-Hispanic White, and Hispanic non-employed mothers. More children are in after-school programs as funding for them has increased over the past ten years (Laughlin, 2013). It is not known how much of an effect the rising cost of childcare adds to finding affordable childcare, but the number of families overall using paid childcare dropped to 32 percent from 42 percent (Laughlin, 2013). Resources available to pay for childcare usually depend on whether or not a mother is married. While married families might have access to two incomes, state and federal welfare programs generally provide higher levels of assistance to single mothers (Fitzpatrick, 2012). A significant number of preschoolers with non-employed mothers, 72 percent, were not in a regular child care arrangement in 2011 than were the twelve percent of preschoolers with working mothers (Laughlin, 2013). For preschoolers with an employed reference parent, not having a regular child care can indicate instability in childcare arrangements or difficulty in finding regular childcare.
Both income and ethnicity can moderate childcare and pre-K program effects. Attendance in early childhood education programs has been shown to impact kindergarten readiness and retention. In general, attendance at a high-quality childcare or preschool program improves cognitive skills. Public school pre-K programs subsidized by Title 1 in Florida have a number of important structural features (certified programs, higher paid and more educated teachers, certified teaching assistants, and use of a standard curriculum) which suggest that such pre-K programs provide higher quality care than that received by children in center-based community childcare (Winsler, et. al, 2008).
Kindergarten readiness and retention results
Based on results from U.S. Census Bureau statistics, enrollment rates for children age 3-17 from information gathered from CPS and SIPP-EHC differ slightly. The estimates differ for ages 3-4, when attendance is not mandatory, and for ages 14-17, when some young adults face a higher risk of dropout. The estimates also differ for ages 5-6 years, possibly reflecting the fact that SIPP-EHC respondents are mostly drawn from low-income populations where young children are less likely to be enrolled in formal nursery school or pre-Kindergarten programs, and young adults are more likely to drop out of high school than children from more advantaged backgrounds (Ewert & Crissey, 2012).
Study findings from the Miami School Readiness Project showed that although children from all types of programs made considerable school readiness gains, in most areas children attending public school pre-K programs made somewhat greater gains in the areas of cognitive and language development (Winsler, et al., 2008). Results suggested that center-based childcare programs in the community could be beneficial for fostering school readiness within ethnically diverse children in poverty, and that public school pre-K programs could show even greater gains in some areas. When the demographic variables of child ethnicity, gender, free lunch, and ELL status were entered together to predict kindergarten retention, only gender and free/reduced lunch status were significant, and those in poverty had significantly greater odds of being retained than did those who did not qualify for a free/reduced lunch in kindergarten (Winsler, et al., 2012).
Sampling for Study
The purpose of this author’s research is to determine if independent variables of race, income, and marital status adversely impact childcare choices and a child’s readiness for entering kindergarten. This study will look at the results of questions posed to parents about their childcare needs, what might obstruct them from finding the childcare they want, and if their child’s readiness for kindergarten was adversely impacted. Many parents, whether married or single, select childcare arrangements that meet their logistical needs. The ideal arrangement has been described as affordable, in a good location, and convenient in terms of hours of availability and work-schedule (Sandstrom & Chaudry, 2012). The author’s study uses household-level sampling from the nationally representative random digit dial survey Gallup panel. The Gallup panel is constructed to be nationally representative of the non-institutionalized US population with ongoing recruitment. This study sample was a subset of households who met eligibility criteria (having a child aged 0-13 years and living in the State of Washington) and participated in a survey regarding child care, race, marital status, and employment. This data source is part of an ongoing longitudinal study. At the end of the grant period, the data will become publicly available to the research community.
Quantitative information will be gathered from household questionnaires with questions regarding variables such as income level, marital status, and race. Qualitative information will be gathered from teacher questionnaires relating to kindergarten readiness of Washington State five year olds. Frequencies and percentages can be given for each of the independent variables, so that an independent t test can be used to see if there is a statistically significant relationship between childcare attendance and kindergarten readiness.
The study will explore the following research questions:
1. What are parents' preferences for childcare? (What are the key characteristics parents describe as being important or ideal?)
2. What factors influence parents' choice of care?
3. How does the process of choosing childcare intersect with key factors that can influence childcare decisions, such as parental employment contexts and early care and education supply, information, and related program policies?
4. How do some particular family characteristics (i.e., marital status, race, limited English proficiency, subsidized care, and distance from work) influence childcare decisions?
5. To what degree were the educational (learning activities, group size and socialization) and pragmatic characteristics (e.g., location, cost, reliability and availability) of a childcare arrangement important for families in selecting childcare, and how does the degree of importance of those characteristics predict the use of center-based childcare for working and non-working parents?
Survey Construction
A good questionnaire permits consistent quantitative and qualitative data to be collected and ensures standardization and comparability of the data across interviewers, while increasing the speed and accuracy of the recorded data, thereby expediting the processing (Malhotra, 2012). Likert-type scale questionnaires afford survey designers an excellent way to collect information. Multiple choice questions are easier for respondents to answer and easier for analysts to evaluate and tabulate than open-ended questions (Malhotra, 2012). The Early Childhood Environmental Rating Scale (ECERS) is a research-based assessment instrument used to determine the quality of early care and education programs. The scale is designed for classrooms of children ages 2 1/2- 5 years and is used to assess the general classroom environment as well as program offerings that directly affect children in the early childhood setting. Programs assessed by this scale will be incorporated into this study to see whether children who have attended the programs have achieved kindergarten readiness by the time they enter kindergarten.
Monthly enrollment data for children is critical for stakeholders interested in child well-being and child outcomes (Ewert & Crissey, 2012). Data will be collected through on-line questionnaires and mailed questionnaires to all parents of children 0-5 years in the state of Washington. Online questionnaires will also be sent to all kindergarten teachers in Washington State to gather their observations of kindergarten readiness. Parents of children aged 0 to 5 years will be surveyed by using the format from the household-level sampling in the nationally representative, random digit dial survey compiled by the Gallup panel and from data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau. The results will be compared against the National Child Care survey (Hofferth, Brayfield, Deich, & Holcomb, 1990) and the Children’s Institute study on the impact of child care problems on employment (Montes & Halterman, 2010). The range of possible values will be the city where the household is located, the age of children in the household, the racial background of the parent and child, whether it is a married or single parent household, the highest level of education in the household, the current cost of daycare in the household per child, the income level in the household, and if childcare costs are supplemented.
Survey Questions
Each question will have a code number beside the response, which will allow specification of the response when the researcher enters the data. Some questions will have contingency questions, in order to drill down farther into the factors driving choices in childcare. A good survey design helps a respondent’s recall and motivates answers, so the sequence of questions will create a flow and encourage respondents to complete the survey.
Sample Questions
What is your child’s race (select up to 2 choices): (choices follow)
Is this a * Single parent household * 2-partner/parent household
What is the highest level of education in your household?
What is your yearly household income? * Less than $20,000 * $20,000-$30,000 * $31,000-$50,000 * $51,000-$70,000 * $71,000-$90,000 * $91,000-$110,000 * $111,000 and above
What primary childcare arrangements do you currently have (choose only one) * Self, Spouse or Partner caring for child * Relative caring for child
If relative, pick one: * Aunt or uncle caring for child * Grandparent caring for child * Sibling caring for child * Other relative caring for child * In-home licensed daycare * Childcare Center
How far is your childcare from your home? * 0 to 10 miles * 11 to 20 miles * 21 to 30 miles * 31 miles or greater
What is your current monthly cost for childcare? * $0-$300 * $301-$600 * $601-$900 * $901-$1,200 * More than $1,200
Does your child attend now, or has your child previously attended, preschool? * No (if your answer is no, your survey is completed. Thank you!) * Yes
If Yes, does your child attend: * Private preschool * Public preschool
If a public preschool, please list type (Headstart, Employer, School District, etc.)
If your child attends preschool, how many hours each day is the child at preschool? * 1-2 hours * 3-4 hours * 5 or more hours
How many days each week does your child attend? * Once a week * Twice a week * Three times a week * Four or more times a week
Do you receive any type of subsidy to help pay for preschool? * No * Yes
If yes, what type of subsidy: * Federal * State * Employer * Private (church, foundation, etc.)
How long has your child attended a preschool program? * Less than 6 months * 6 months to less than 1 year * 1 year to less than 3 years * 3 years to less than 5 years
For kindergarten teachers in Washington State, the survey will ask:
In what county in Washington State is your school located?
How many years have you been teaching kindergarten?
What are the racial makeup percentages at your school?
What types of testing does your school perform to assess kindergarten readiness?
Over the past ten years, what has been the kindergarten retention rate at your school?
Does your school offer any preschool programs? * No * Yes * If yes, how many days a week does a child attend: * How many hours each day does a child attend? * Is the program * federally funded * state funded * funded both federally and by the state
Quality childcare outcomes
Childcare programs which promote school readiness lead to better social and academic skills as children progress through school. Children who start kindergarten with stronger cognitive, language, social, and behavioral skills have an easier time in the first few years of school, do better later in school, and are less likely to later repeat grades or drop out of school (Winsler, et. al, 2012). Childcare which offers a readiness for school program can increase a child’s success academically and lower the chance of repeating kindergarten. Many school districts are now offering a TK/JK (transitional or junior kindergarten) program, which gives a child a two-year program to grow emotionally and socially, in order to be better prepared for more rigorous educational requirements (Mugurussa, 2013).
Academic difficulty when entering kindergarten, due to a lack of basic school readiness skills, often continues throughout grade school as children who have not been enrolled in pre-K programs fall further behind. Young children living in high-poverty environments often fall behind as they progress toward and through grade school. Children who experience poverty early in their lives are at significant risk for difficulties with early schooling and tend to remain behind their peers throughout schooling (Winsler, et. al, 2012). Improving access to childcare programs that prepare children academically and socially has a tremendous impact on the lives of children and the communities in which they live. Having more opportunities for selecting quality childcare benefits all groups, but especially the children of the working poor. Low-income children may benefit more from public school pre-K programs, in which specific programs geared toward kindergarten readiness skills are more likely to be found, than in other childcare programs.
More than 16.1 million children in America are poor, but live in working families, with a disproportionate number of Black and Latino children. Poor children trail their peers in many ways beyond income. They are less healthy, lag in emotional and intellectual development, and are less likely to graduate from high school (Children’s Defense Fund, 2013). Every year that children languish in poverty costs America half a trillion dollars in lost productivity, poorer health and increased crime. Preschool programs function as a buffer for children living in poverty, and that buffer helps compensate for other risk factors these children may face throughout childhood.
Future research and marketing research applications As academic requirements continue to rise, more research into the impact of preschool and childcare availability on success in school is warranted, as well as comparisons of kindergarten readiness in children enrolled in subsidized public preschool programs, private preschool programs, and those not having attended preschool. Washington State does not require school districts to offer full-day kindergarten or mandate that children attend kindergarten at all, although it has adopted a common set of educational benchmarks for grades K-12 (Children’s Defense Fund, 2011). A comparison of school readiness program outcomes would be worthwhile in assessing what programs work best in preparing young children for academic success.

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