Early Learning

Early education encompasses learning that takes place between birth and the end of third grade. Reading is an especially critical component of the learning that takes place during this period.

In the early grades, students focus on learning to read. When they matriculate from third to fourth grade, they are expected to be proficient enough to begin reading to learning other subject matter. In Arizona, students must be reading at grade level by the end of third grade in order to be promoted.

Legislation and policy related to access to high-quality pre-K learning experiences, high-quality full-day kindergarten and reading achievement impact the ability of early education efforts to lay the foundation for learning, development and school success.

Facts: Preschool

  • Arizona ranks 49th in the percentage of children, age 3-5, who attend preschool/early education. Nationally, 46 percent of children attend preschool. In Arizona, only 33 percent attend preschool. (Annie E. Casey Foundation)
  • One in six children who are not reading proficiently in third grade do not graduate from high school on time, a rate for times that of proficient readers. (Annie E. Casey Foundation

Report: The State of Preschool: Arizona
(Source: National Institute for Early Education Research),

Facts: Kindergarten

  • Arizona has no statutory requirement that public schools offer full-day kindergarten.
  • Public schools that offer kindergarten receive half-funding for those students.
  • No state funding is provided to those school districts that offer full-day kindergarten.
  • Phased-in funding for full-day kindergarten was championed by then-Gov. Janet Napolitano and passed by the Legislature in 2004. All public schools that serve kindergarteners received funding in 2007. In 2010, the Legislature, with the support of Gov. Jan Brewer, cut all funding for full-day kindergarten. It has not been reinstated.

Facts: Third-Grade Reading Proficiency
Move on When Reading, the state legislation passed in 2010, requires students who fall far below in reading in third-grade be retained.
2,200 Arizona third-graders tested as falling far below the reading standards in 2014. (Arizona Department of Education)