Policy brief

PreK–3 Alignment in California's Education System

Obstacles and Opportunities
Rachel Valentino
McKinsey & Company
Deborah Stipek
Stanford University


Over the past several years, there has been much attention and advocacy around “PreK-3 Alignment,” both in California and nationwide. The push for alignment comes in the face of a growing body of research documenting the benefits of attending high quality preschool (see Barnett, 2011; Burchinal, Vandergrift, Pianta, & Mashburn, 2010; Camilli, Vargas, Ryan, & Barnett, 2010; Magnuson, Ruhm, & Waldfogel, 2007; Mashburn et al., 2008), along with concerns about the fading of the benefits of preschool by third grade that has been found in many studies (see Kauerz, 2006; see also Lee & Loeb 1995; Magnuson, Ruhm et al., 2007). Supporters of preK-3 alignment note that child development is a continuous process, and that skills developed in one grade must be built upon and reinforced in later grades. Furthermore, in order to sustain gains made in one grade, high quality education must be provided through subsequent grades (PreK Coalition, 2011; see also Magnuson et al., 2007). They claim further that in addition to quality counting at every grade, alignment across grades in such elements as standards, assessments, curricula, and instructional strategies enhances children’s learning and development and helps sustain the gains made in preschool (Kauerz, 2006; Bogard & Takanishi, 2005; Graves, 2006). Assertions about the value of alignment across grades are supported by evidence that programs providing continuity in services and supports from preschool through the early elementary grades have produced particularly impressive long-term effects in child outcomes (see Reynolds, Magnuson, & Ou, 2006).

Suggested citationValentino, R., & Stipek, D. (2016, May). PreK–3 alignment in California’s education system: Obstacles and opportunities [Report]. Policy Analysis for California Education. https://edpolicyinca.org/publications/prek-3-alignment-californias-education-system-obstacles-and-opportunities