Kindergarten Readiness


Kindergarten Readiness


percent of seats available to meet need
  • UNDER 50%
  • 50-75%
  • 75-100%
  • 100-125%
  • 125-150%
  • OVER 150%
Kindergarten Readiness

High-quality preschool improves students’ social, cognitive and developmental readiness for kindergarten, putting them on track to long-term success in school.5 The benefits are especially critical for low-income students, who typically hear 30 million fewer words spoken than their wealthier peers by age 2 and face an uphill battle to early literacy and math proficiency throughout their education.6

Less than a decade ago, Illinois was a national leader in early education. In 2007 the state launched Preschool for All and a year later led the nation in preschool access for 3-year-olds.7 But when the recession prompted budget cuts, Preschool for All lost ground. By 2014, state-funded preschool was serving only about three-quarters of the children it had reached just five years earlier.8 Disappointingly, today Illinois only has enough publicly funded preschool spots to serve about 80% of low-income 3- and 4-year olds.9 Worse, preschool providers across the state have reported unfilled seats, highlighting barriers to participation.

There are too few public preschool seats available in many areas of the state. For example, DuPage, Kane, Lake, and Will counties need approximately twice as many seats to serve low-income 3- and 4-year olds. Meanwhile, the Cook County suburbs have almost 8,000 fewer preschool seats than eligible low-income children, the greatest shortfall in the state. Even as the state made a significant investment to restore Preschool for All to 2012 funding levels, continued support will be needed to increase the number of seats available across the state to serve every child who needs it.10


Sources: National Institute for Early Education Research; American Community Survey, U.S. Census Bureau

Community Spotlight

East St. Louis

Improving access to early education programs and services for children under 5 has been a major priority in Greater East St. Louis, where 99% of public school children are considered low-income1 and too few families were taking advantage of available early care and education programs. In 2015, Greater East St. Louis launched a regional effort to solve this problem. The Greater East St. Louis and The Greater East St. Louis Early Learning Partnership & Innovation Zone (ELP) launched Ready, Set, ENROLL!—an effort to educate families about their program options and reduce barriers to enrollment. ELP collaborated with early childhood centers, Head Start, Preschool for All, Prevention Initiative, and Home Visiting programs to create a universal application for early education and prioritize the applications of families with the highest need. Since its launch in 2015, Ready, Set, ENROLL! has reached 500 families, which is approximately 10% of Greater East St. Louis children who are 5 and under.2

Like other collective impact initiatives, East Side Aligned and ELP creates links between people, organizations and systems to collaboratively tackle complex issues. A centralized intake offered at 12 community locations provided developmental screenings, too. Applications are prioritized based on 13 risk factors (including homelessness, welfare eligibility, and poverty). The program also helps ensure families have access to the highest-quality programs by working with early childhood centers to achieve, maintain or advance their ratings through the state’s ExceleRate system, thereby improving access to high-quality programs for families.

Community-level collaboration is at the heart of Ready, Set, ENROLL! After receiving feedback from parents in 2015, the program has done the following this year: expanded enrollment events to 12 community locations; trained parent ambassadors to greet families; offered transportation and extended hours; and expanded advertising and outreach efforts in priority neighborhoods. A next phase of new initiatives has been inspired by the community as well, including expanding access to healthcare screenings, creating an online application, and reinvigorating outreach efforts.

The student- and family-centered approach of Ready, Set, ENROLL! is one any community in Illinois can follow. To ensure that our neediest students are given a chance to learn and succeed early, nonprofit organizations, early care and education programs and other stakeholders must work with families and communities to understand their needs and implement solutions.

1 Illinois State Board of Education, Illinois Report Card 2016.
2 Greater East St. Louis Early Learning Partnership and Innovation Zone


2014 2015
Early Childhood 11 13

Are Children Entering Kindergarten Ready?

Historical Performance Equity
2015 2013 2010 2005 Leading State Leading State's
IL Rank Rank Change White African American Asian Latino Non-Latino
8 Children Demonstrating Readiness for Kindergarten Not Available Not Available Not Available
2013 2011 2009 2005
19 Early learners receiving developmental screening 53% 48% 32%

8. Children demonstrating readiness for kindergarten: Number of children who meet readiness milestones on the Kids Individual Development Survey (KIDS) as determined by teacher observations. Districts across the state piloted the program during the 2015-16 school year, but this data has not yet become publicly available.

19. Early learners receiving developmental screening: The percentage of 1-, 2-, and 3-year-olds screened for delays in motor, language, and social development. Source: Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, Children's Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act Data Book, 2014.

Do Illinois Children Have Access to High Quality Programs?

Historical Performance Equity
2015 2013 2009 2007 Leading State Leading State'sPerformance IL Rank Rank Change White African American Asian Latino Non-Latino
9A At-risk children under 3 with access to a state-funded program that includes home visiting* 7% 11%** 37% 28% 2% 31% 69%***
9B At-risk children under 3 with access to a federally-funded program that includes home visiting* 3% 1% 1% 30% 40% 1% 32% 68%***
2015 2013 2009 2005
10A 3-year-olds enrolled in state-funded preschool* 20% 18% 21% 12% VT 26% 3rd 0 18% 35% 15% 30%
10B 3-year-olds enrolled in federally-funded preschool* 10% 9% 8% 8% MS 29% 16th -3
11A 4-year-olds enrolled in state-funded preschool* 27% 27% 29% 26% VT 84% 19th -2 18% 35% 15% 30%
11B 4-year-olds enrolled in federally-funded preschool* 11% 11% 11% 11% MS 31% 17th 0 17%
12 Children served by licensed private childcare programs with national accreditation 15% 17% 16% VT 50% 8th -1
13 English Language Learners in appropriate program
17 Percent of 3 ad 4-year olds in full-day, state funded preschool 11% AR 39% 11 out of 25

9. At-risk children under three with access to a program that includes home visiting: Number of home-visiting slots divided by Illinois' at-risk population under three, defined as the percentage of children under 185% of the federal poverty line. Sources: State-funded Illinois Governor's Office of Early Childhood Development, via email. IPUMS American Community Survey.

10. 3-year-olds enrolled in publicly-funded preschool: Sources: NIEER, The State of Preschool: 2015, 2013, 2009, 2005. Head Start PIR Enrollment and Disability Reports: 2015, 2013. Preschool for All FY 2015 Report from the Ounce of Prevention Fund, via direct request.

11. 4-year-olds enrolled in publicly-funded preschool: Sources: NIEER, The State of Preschool: 2015, 2013, 2009, 2005. Head Start PIR Enrollment and Disability Reports: 2015, 2013. Preschool for All FY 2015 Report from the Ounce of Prevention Fund, via direct request.

13. English-language learners in appropriate program: Data unavailable.

Are Illinois children taught by effective educators?

Historical Performance Equity
2015 2013 2009 2005 Leading State Leading State'sPerformance IL Rank Rank Change White African American Asian Latino Non-Latino
14 Highly qualified instructors in state- funded preschools**** 3 out of 4 Quality Benchmarks met 3 out of 4 Quality Benchmarks met 3 out of 4 Quality Benchmarks met 3 out of 4 Quality Benchmarks met AL, AK, GA, LA, ME, MS, MO, NC, PA, RI, WV, WI 3 out of 4 Benchmarks met 13th of 43 -6
15 Percent of state-funded preschool teachers with a bilingual or ESL endorsement
16 Teachers demonstrating effectiveness
18A Quality of environment -- % licensed programs ranking Silver or above on ExceleRate 20%
18B % children (in licensed programs) in a program ranking Silver or above on ExceleRate 48%

14. Highly qualified instructors: States ranked based on number of NIERR quality standard benchmarks met. Benchmarks include requiring teachers to have a BA, take specialized training in pre-K, and undergo at least 15 teacher in-service hours a year. Assistant teachers must have a Child Development Associate (CDA) credential. Source: NIEER, The State of Preschool: 2015, 2013, 2009, 2005.

16. Teachers demonstrating effectiveness: Data unavailable.

17. 3- and 4- year olds enrolled in full day preschool. We calculated the percent of 3- and 4-year olds attending full-day state preschool programs by assuming a standard preschool day of 6 hours, and looking at state’s minimum requirements for preschool. Source: NIEER, State of Preschool: 2015. Ounce of Prevention.

18. Quality of environment: Quality Rating Information Systems (QRIS) are used across the country to measure the quality of care provided to young children. ExceleRate Illinois, Illinois’ QRIS system, awards four “Circle of Quality” designations: licensed, bronze, silver, and gold. In this metric, programs rated as silver or above were deemed high-quality. Licensed programs include family home care, Head Start programs, and Preschool for All programs. ExceleRate does not track programs that are not licensed. Source: QRIS Compendium, 2015.

Data does not reflect the demographics of the children served in Chicago Public Schools, who do not breakdown their enrollment by race.

Prior to 2015, state home visiting counts were not unduplicated. This likely explains much of the drop.

Source identifies race and ethnicity separately

Highly qualified is defined as requiring teachers to have bachelor's degrees and specialized training in pre-K, requiring assistant teachers to have Child Development Associate (CDA) certification, and requiring at least 15 hours per year of in-service. Illinois does not meet NIEER's qualification for assistant teachers with CDA certification.


For more information, including a snapshot of every school in Illinois, visit the Illinois School Report Card.