This from the Chicago Tribune by Tara Malone:
In Illinois, Latino children were half as likely to enroll in preschool as white and African-American students, a disparity that threatens to widen the academic divide between them, according to a new report out Tuesday.

About 35 percent of Latino 4-year-olds attended some type of preschool, while 66 percent of white children and 54 percent of African-American children enrolled, the findings show.

With preschool increasingly seen as the front door to the education system, the enrollment gaps could leave Latino children behind their peers even before the start of kindergarten.

"If we put all our school reform eggs in the K-to-12 basket, it's going to be too late," said Bruce Fuller, a professor of education and public policy at the University of California at Berkeley. Fuller will present his findings Tuesday at DePaul University during a conference sponsored by the New Journalism on Latino Children project.

While past reports have measured achievement gaps between Latino students and their peers starting in grade school, the new research reveals that such disparities begin at an even earlier age.

Researchers tracked 380 Illinois children born in 2001 as part of a national study that included more than 10,000 children across the country for nearly a decade, monitoring everything from the child's social and cognitive development to how often they read with their parents at home. As early as age 2, Latino children started to lag in their early literacy skills, such as recognizing words or turning to the title page of a children's book, the study found.

Fuller said the gap equates to about six months of kindergarten instruction.

Early childhood education advocates call the disparity in preschool access a "civil rights issue."

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