Children, Youth, Families & Schools, Nebraska Center for Research on


Document Type


Date of this Version



International Conference on Urban Education Conference Proceedings, 2014


Copyright 2014 Tonia Durden


National educational reform efforts are now focusing on improving the quality of and accessibility to quality early childhood programming for children to decrease economic and achievement gaps. However, providing opportunities for quality early childhood programs for low-income children is not a new phenomenon. Head Start, a comprehensive school readiness program, was launched almost 50 years ago to provide quality preschool programming and services for children and families living in poverty. Nationally, 48% of children under the age of five live in poverty with 66% of Black children living in low-income families. The state in which this study took place, 77% of young Black children live in low income families, and have the least access among cultural groups to high-quality educational experiences and opportunities for success. Current early childhood intervention literature tells us the associated risk factors with living in high poverty urban communities such as disparities in access to quality health care, high levels of toxic stress, exposure to societal violence and low parental education has been linked to challenges in preschool readiness. However, high-quality childcare can improve children’s cognitive, social and emotional development. Yet, what still puzzles many educational reformers is that an achievement gap still exists between minority children and their White peers even when low income and the associated risk factors are a shared reality cross culturally. Therefore, an important question is why or how White children from low-income families have greater and longer lasting achievement outcomes than their minority peers who were also recipients of "high quality" early childhood experiences. In addressing this question, the answer lies in how "high quality" has been defined in traditional early childhood research and literature.