Report: Tennessee kindergartners already behind peers - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Report: Tennessee kindergartners already behind peers

(WMC-TV) – The National Institute for Early Education Research study shows too many kindergarten students in Tennessee are showing up without being able to count to 100, knowing the difference between shapes and colors or even sit still.

Tennessee children are among those being left furthest behind, according to the report.

Five-year-old Dior Henderson is among the 1.3 million preschoolers enrolled in and learning from a state funded pre-kindergarten program.

"Just having that different set of different people rather than your family to learn from and just to be around," said Dior's mom Aquila Watson.

All but 11 states have state funded pre-k programs and the National Institute for Early Education Research reports enrollment is up.

According to The Tennessean newspaper, Tennessee's pre-k program is among the nation's best with a curriculum hitting nine out of ten nationally accepted benchmarks.

But, while states like Florida and Oklahoma can boast 73 percent of four-year-olds enrolled, only 21 percent of those in Tennessee are enrolled, leaving out thousands of children who don't qualify or get the prerequisites in private programs or at home.

"These kids start off in kindergarten or first grade behind," said Sara Lewis, of the Memphis-Shelby County Unified School Board. "They never catch up. So many of them never catch up."

Lewis says funding is the problem here. The state pays for pre-k only for low income four-year-olds.

She would like to see enough funding for mandatory state funded pre-k programs for all of the state's four-year-olds.

"I don't think it has become an agenda item for the legislators and I don't think it has become an agenda item for the people who are in charge," she said. "I think we as adults, as adult educators, as parents, as supporters need to say this is an equally important as some of the other legislation that we see introduced in Tennessee."

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