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The Social Problem of Attending Pre-kindergarten Programs

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Table of contents

  1. Current Nature of the Social Problem
  2. Description of the Current Policy in the US
  3. Analyses of Current Policy

Friedrich Fröbel opened a ‘play and activity’ institute in 1837 in the village of Bad Blankenburg in the principality of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt, Thuringia, as an experimental social experience for young children entering school. He renamed his institute Kindergarten (meaning garden of children) on June 28, 1840. This reflected his belief that children should be nurtured ‘like plants in a garden’. Fröbel later introduced an educational environment into his school. This is what made his establishment different than other earlier infant programs. Therefore, Frobel was credited the term Kindergartens. Women who were trained by Fröbel opened kindergartens throughout Europe and around the world.

Sparked the creation of the policy. The first few years of life are critical for a child’s cognitive development and learning. Evaluations of well-run pre-kindergarten programs found that children exposed to high-quality early education are less likely to drop out of school, repeat grades, or need special education, when compared with similar children who did not have pre-school exposure. The Abecedarian Study, a scientific study of pre-K programs in North Carolina, revealed students who attended early education programs experienced greater academic success and educational attainment.

Fifty-seven infants were randomly assigned to receive early interventions. Their outcomes were compared with a control group of 54 infants who did not receive the same interventions. The children in the treatment group attended pre-K programs from infancy through age five. These children had followed up assessments at ages 12 and 15. This revealed that children from the treatment group had significantly higher scores in reading and mathematics, compared with the control group. Follow-up assessments with study participants at age 21 revealed that the students from the treatment group were more likely to have recently graduated from or be enrolled in college.

North Carolina’s Pre-K program launched in 2001 and serves at risk 4-year-old children. It was created to provide high-quality educational experiences to enhance school readiness for eligible four-year-old children. Pre-kindergartens have existed in the US since 1922 and was ran by private organizations. Head Start program in the United States was the country’s first federally funded pre-kindergarten program. It was founded in 1967. This attempts to prepare children (especially disadvantaged children) to succeed in school.

North Carolina began the More at Four in 2001 and ended the program in 2011. More at Four was a statewide pre-kindergarten resourcefulness for at-risk-four-year old’s. More at Four was designed to help children be more successful when they entered school. North Carolina Office of Early Learning in Raleigh, North Carolina overseen the program and how it was structured across the state. In late 2011 and early 2012, North Carolina Division of Child Development and Early Education (DCDEE) took responsibility and overseen the program the was once More at Four. More at Four provided funding for classroom-based educational programs statewide. These Pre-K sites were set up and appointed by each local county administration. Children were eligible for More at Four based on poverty status and other risk factors with priority service given to children who were unserved in a preschool program.

Current Nature of the Social Problem

Previous studies suggest why all children should have the opportunity to attend pre-kindergarden programs. There should not be any requirements beside age, because it is plausible to suggest that all children are at risk, whether their parents have finances or not. Schweinhart, Barnes, & Weikart found that the Perry Preschool Project is the best-known study of the long-term effects of a high-quality prekindergarten education. The Educational Research Foundation tracked children ages 3 and 4 through age 27. In the beginning of one study, 123 African Americans were living in poverty. The study provided a comprehensive evaluation of the lasting impact of prekindergarten on the lives of those students. Schweinhart, Barnes, & Weikart also found that comparisons with young people who did not take part in preschool revealed that the preschool participants were more likely to graduate from high school. The children who attended pre-school earned as much as $2,000 more per month, owned homes, and had marriages that lasted longer, and were arrested less frequently.

The most impacted vulnerable population impacted by this social problem are families who have children considered “at risk.” There are two types of approaches used to determine “at risk” children. The Individual Family Risk Factors approach determines each family’s eligibility for the program based on the characteristics of each individual child or family. The Geographic Risk Factors approach determines where the program is offered, based on specific risk factors of residents in that jurisdiction. CEELO Executive Summary identified these risk factors to be developmental disability; limited English Proficiency (LEP) as indicated by the family and/or child speaking limited or no English in the home; an educational need as indicated by the child’s performance results on an approved developmental screening, or in an existing Individualized Education Plan (IEP) and a chronic health condition indicated by the diagnosis from a professional health care provider. CEELO Executive Summary also states that children of eligible military families who at any age is a child of either of the following shall be eligible for the program, without regard to income. While doing research, it is found in many of the policies that the priority is to serve the unserved population.

People who benefit from the social problem are families with children who are considered at risk. For example, a family receiving SNAP benefits, a child who is limited in speaking English, a military child, etc. It is plausible to think that only the government would resist resolution of the social problem. Some reasons for the resist would be teachers pro-testing about wages. Past studies have found that NC has one of the best programs for PRE-K, yet money is an issue. This is stopping children who the government feels are not at risk from getting a head start in life.

Description of the Current Policy in the US

Section 3 of the NC Pre-Kindergarten (NC Pre-K) Program Requirements and Guidance are like when the More at Four began. Some of those requirements were age of child, income of guardian, and children of eligible military family. Children must be age four by august 31st of the year they start PRE-K. The second age requirement is that a child who is eligible for kindergarten cannot be served with PRE-K funds. Other criteria depends on identified developmental disability; limited English Proficiency (LEP) as indicated by the family and/or child speaking limited or no English in the home; an educational need as indicated by the child’s performance results on an approved developmental screening, or in an existing Individualized Education Plan (IEP); or a chronic health condition as indicated by the diagnosis from a professional health care provider.

NC Pre-K Program is governed by the NC Child Care Rules, the NC open meetings law, the NC public records law, and the NC State Board of Education Policy. The guidelines and other policy information is guided by the people covered in this policy which are those children who are deemed “at risk.” They are covered by the NC Pre-Kindergarten (NC Pre-K) Program Requirements and Guidance book. Funding for pre-K programs is split between federal, state and local governments. Research shows that investments in PRE-K are working. One study found that the United States will see a net benefit of at least $83.3 billion in reduced grade retention. Research has found that strong funding does not mean access for all. Atchison, Diffey, & Parker, gave an example that a discrepancy exists in income requirements for participation, how many students can be enrolled and other factors that limit quality preschool experiences for all students. The state of NC is responsible for implementing the policy. The stated goals for this policy are to improve overall quality of children who are considered at risk.

NC Pre-K Program is designed to provide high-quality educational experiences to enhance school readiness for eligible four-year-old children. Some of the resources this policy promises to provide are approaches to play and learning, emotional and social development, health and physical development, language development and communication, cognitive development, etc..

Analyses of Current Policy

In North Carolina, the policy is working for the government officials, but within the NC communities, it has become a social problem. Past studies have found that the policy put in place for NC eligibility program is beneficial to children ages four. However, education is something that all four years olds should have the right to because of the benefits. The weakness of this policy is that it does not include all four-year olds. High quality pre-K programs benefit children at all income levels, and children living in low-income families the most. Each state determines eligibility for pre-K program enrollment based on a variety of factors. These factors include legislative requirements, funding, program capacity and family need. One strength the policy has is including the vulnerable population of four-year-olds. The policy has many unique resources to draw from. One example is the fact that preschool development grant recognizes that a universal enrollment/application process for services for four-year old children is a best practice for coordinating effective service delivery across early childhood education programs. A main weakness of this policy is the only 20% of the children whose parents make above the 75% state median are eligible to attend preschool. The policy can be improved by raising wages of NC PRE-K teachers and improving the quality of programs already in place. This policy does advance some human rights socially and economically. For example, an important component of Pre-K is social and emotional learning including navigating relationships with peers and teachers. This shows that the policy enhances the well being of children. The program offers equality regarding race, color, national origin, etc. So, yes, the program offers environmental justice. The program serves economic justice to the government because the government believes if it is fair, then the “economy,” sees itself as successful because it is fair. The goal for economic justice is to create opportunities for all people to succeed and prosper.

The population most impacted by this policy and the nature of the impact deemed by the government are “at risk,” children. The vulnerability of this population include their families income, children of eligible military families, identified developmental disability, limited English Proficiency (LEP) as indicated by the family and/or child speaking limited or no English in the home, an educational need as indicated by the child’s performance results on an approved developmental screening, or in an existing Individualized Education Plan (IEP), a chronic health condition as indicated by the diagnosis from a professional health care provider.

As a conclusion, in 2019, the National Institute for Early Education released a report looking at why eligible children were unable to enroll and benefit from the high-quality pre-K program offered in North Carolina. Research has shown clear benefits from the program, but many children are unable to enroll due to insufficient funding. There was no research found on why all four years are not considered at risk. Families who receive SNAP can be considered at risk, but it does not affect the chance of the child getting into the program. 

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