Texas School Ready!™


Current State of Affairs in Early Childhood

At the present time, states estimate that as many as half of their children, particularly those from low socioeconomic (SES) backgrounds and/or learning English as a second language (ESL), are entering kindergarten programs without the basic cognitive foundational skills necessary for them to succeed (NAEP, 2003). Discrepancies between early skills for children from low SES versus more advantaged families are known to persist through formal schooling (Snow, Burns, & Griffin, 1998; National Center for Education Statistics Report Card on Mathematics, 2001, & Reading, 2001). Understanding how to provide young children with an early foundation in school readiness skills is becoming a primary goal of many states in order to decrease the high incidence of school failure and drop-out particularly by children from low income homes (NAEP, 2003). Legislators across the country are becoming aware of the critical nature of this problem and are looking for solutions to improve the situation as it can have a grave impact on the economic future of a state and the country.

Recent evidence from longitudinal intervention studies demonstrates that there is a long lasting positive influence of quality prekindergarten education (Campbell, Ramey, Pungello, Sparling, & Miller-Johnson, 2002; Reynolds, Ou, & Topitzes, 2004; Schweinhart, Barnes, & Weikart, 1993). This research further suggests that a child’s experiences during their early years influences the way the brain is developing that, in turn, establishes a trajectory for future learning (e.g., Dawson, Klinger, Panagiotides, Hill, & Spiker, 1992; DiPetro, 2000). Thus, the solution many states are seeking is how to provide children from low income backgrounds with a quality early education. 

Addressing the Issue

For young children, a quality education includes teachers being skilled in the use of instructional approaches that are sensitive to the child’s developmental needs and expose them to experiences with language, emergent literacy, and math within a responsive environment that supports social-emotional development (Landry, 2005). Support of the importance of early cognitive skills for reading success comes from a newly released National Report (National Institute for Literacy, 2007). This large meta-analysis demonstrates that young children’s language skills, including vocabulary and complex language, as well as early literacy abilities, specifically phonological awareness and letter knowledge, are the most important and unique predictors of reading. Thus, in finding solutions to better preparing children for school, attention needs to be given to training teachers in instructional practices that support children’s learning of these cognitive skills.

The Context for the SCECD’s Work

Texas had the fastest growing child population in the US between 2000-2003. There are almost 650,000 three- and four-year-old  children in Texas. Approximately 22% of Texas children under 5 years of age live in poverty. By 2040, Texas school enrollment will double.

Starting Early Equals A Substantial Cost Benefit

Investments in high quality early childhood education programs consistently and conservatively generate benefit-cost ratios exceeding 3-to-1: more than a $3 return for every $1 invested (Lynch, 2004).

Cost-Benefit to the Nation as a Whole

Including all preschoolers, the ECE investment if begun now would return $107 billion to the Gross National Product by 2050 Limited literacy skills cost businesses and taxpayers approximately $20 billion per year in lost wages, profits, and productivity (Lynch, 2004). Including all preschoolers, the ECE investment if begun now would save $155 billion as a result of lower crimes and delinquency rates by 2050. It is estimated that absenteeism caused by poor quality child care costs American business more than $3 billion a year (Lynch, 2004; Brown, 2002).

Cost-Benefit for Texas

Texas could see an increased income of $19 billion from 3- and 4-year-old children when they become future workers IF these children attend high-quality, targeted pre-k programs. The Education Policy Institute calculates these amounts to be in place by 2050. Crime-related savings in Texas would amount to $9.9 billion. Those two figures, along with the $8.9 billion generated from taxes collected- and welfare not paid - would bring a financial benefit to Texas of $37.8 billion in just 44 years (Education Policy Institute, 2007). A 2005 cost-benefit analysis of high quality prekindergarten conducted by the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University found that for every $1 invested, at least $3.50 was returned specifically to Texas communities (Bush School of Government and Public Service, 2005).

Research Basis

With grants from IES, NIH, and USDOE, CIRCLE experimentally confirmed the powerful and necessary combination of key instructional components that maximize positive change for teachers and children across a wide variety of early childcare programs. These results provided the strong design for TEEM: The Texas Early Education Model.

Research Underpinnings of TEEM School Readiness

  • Responsive teaching promotes social and cognitive development.
  • Cognitive readiness can be achieved in ways that support the whole child.
  • Early childhood is a critical period for social, emotional, language, and cognitive foundational skills known to predict later school success.
  • Research-based comprehensive curricula are critical classroom tools.
  • Progress monitoring that directs teaching better assures school readiness.
  • “Effective” professional development for teachers is key to assuring goals are achieved.

Background and Significance

The Texas Legislature directed the SCECD under Senate Bill 76 to explore how to better integrate the delivery of early childhood education for three- and four-year-old children at risk for school failure. From this effort a model was found to be robust enough to implement more widely and to form the basis for a statewide early childhood education program quality rating system of school readiness. Senate Bill 23 charged the SCECD with developing this system for use in determining the effectiveness of early childhood care and education programs for three- and four-year-old children at risk for school failure.

With previous results from major research grants, CIRCLE experimentally confirmed through the TEEM program the powerful and necessary combination of key instructional components that maximize positive
change for teachers and children across a wide variety of early childcare programs.
Who Had Input Into the SRCS?

  •   Advisory Committee
  •   Task Force
  •   Resource Panel
  •   National Expert Panel
  •   Early Childhood Education Providers
  •   School Districts
  •   Parents of Preschoolers

The focus of the System is to:

  •  Be fair and objective
  •  Be evidence driven
  •  Concentrate on outcomes
  •  Link to existing indicators
  • Align with later school performance expectations

Key research questions to be answered include:

  • What is the appropriate cut-off score on the Texas Primary Reading Inventory (TPRI) and Tejas LEE (TJL) and social screener for an early childhood education program to be considered a School Ready Program?
  • What percent of children from a program must score above the cut-off?
  • Which information from the early childhood education program is most critical to collect in order to determine that children entering kindergarten are ready for school?
  • What, if any, exclusions or exemptions should be made?

The SRCS On-line Process

Purpose and Approach
To build a valid research-based web application for the Texas School Readiness Certification System through which early childhood education programs can submit an application to be certified a School Ready Program.

  • In the fall, participating early childhood education programs begin to complete the School Readiness Certification System application by setting up information on their classrooms, teachers, and children.
  • In the spring, programs submit information about their instructional program for preschoolers.
  • In the spring, preschool teachers complete a survey about their teaching practices.
  • In the following fall, the preschool children enter kindergarten and their kindergarten teachers enter reading and social screener scores.

The application is built and includes four components:

  • Pre-K Manage My School/Student Report on type and amount of instruction per student, monthly student attendance, along with basic demographic information completed by a data clerk or administrator designee on all kinderbound children.
  • Pre-K Facility Report on such areas as staffing, curriculum, professional development, community integration completed by the principal or director about the early childhood program. In addition, photographs of each pre-k classroom are uploaded and daily schedules and lesson plans mailed to the State Center.
  • Pre-K Teacher Self-Report on teaching practices and beliefs completed by each pre-k teacher in a program who has children going to kindergarten the following school year.
  • K Reading and Social Screener Report which includes the reading scores (i.e., Texas Primary Reading Inventory: TPRI, Tejas LEE: TJL) and a validated 10-item social screener completed by the kindergarten teacher on all children previously in a pre-k program that submitted an application.

Together, these data are used to determine certification within the Texas School Ready! Program.


The Texas School Readiness Certification System can be used to:

  • Prepare more children for school readiness in cost-effective ways,
  • Focus on proven and demonstrated outcomes and
  • Provide parents with tools to make informed decisions.


Brown, J. (2002). How Does High Quality Child Care Benefit Business and the Local Economy? Seattle, WA: Economic Opportunity Institute

Bush School of Government and Public Service. (2005). A Cost Benefit Analysis of Universally Accessible Prekindergarten Education in Texas. College Station, TX: Texas A&M University.

Campbell, F. A., et al. (2002). Early childhood education: Young adult outcomes from the Abecedarian Project.” Applied Developmental Science, 6, 42-57.

Dawson, G., Klinger, L. F., Panagiotides, H., Hill, D., & Spieker, S. (1992). Frontal lobe activity and affective behavior of infants of mothers with depressive symptoms. Child Development, 63, 725-737.

DiPietro, J. A. (2000). Baby and the brain: Advances in child development. Annual Review of Public Health, 21, 455-471.

Landry, S. (2005). Effective Early Childhood Programs: Turning Knowledge Into Action. Houston, TX: The University of Texas Health Science Center and the Rice University James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy.
Lynch, R. G. (2004). Exceptional Returns: Economic, Fiscal, and Social Benefits of Investment in Early Childhood Development. Washington, DC: Economic Policy Institute.

National Assessment for Educational Progress (2003). Highlighting NAEP 2003. National Assessment for Educational Progress [On-line]. Available: http://www.ode.state.or.us/initiatives/naep/naepnewsvol01num01.pdf
National Center for Education Statistics (2001). The nation's report card: Mathematics 2000. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office (NCES 2001-517).

National Center for Education Statistics (2007). The nation's report card: Reading 2000 (Rep. No. NCES 2001-517).

National Institute for Literacy, 2007. Accessed 10-25-2008 from http://www.nifl.gov/
Reynolds, A. J., Ou, S.-R., & Topitzes, J. W. (2004). Paths of effects of early childhood intervention on educational attainment and delinquency: A confirmatory analysis of the Chicago child–parent centers. Child Development, 75, 1299–1328.

Schweinhart, L. J.; Barnes, H. V.; and Weikart, D. P. (1993). Significant benefits: The High/Scope Perry Preschool Study through age 27. Monographs of the High/Scope Educational Research Foundation. Ypsilanti, MI: High/Scope Press.

Snow, C. E., Burns, M. S., & Griffin, P. (1998). Preventing reading difficulties in young children. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.

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