Giving Compass' Take:

•  A national study from the Urban Institute revealed that early childhood education programs are more segregated compared to 1st-grade classrooms in K-12 schools.

• Schools have begun to implement new models centering around integration. How can donors help support or expand these practices? 

• Here are some ideas that early education should adopt from Montessori schools. 

Early-childhood programs — including center- and home-based settings — are twice as likely as kindergarten and 1st-grade classrooms to have all black or all Hispanic children. They’re also less likely to be “somewhat integrated” with 10-20% of children being black or Hispanic, according to a new Urban Institute study comparing segregation between K-12 schools and the variety of learning arrangements for children 5 and under.

The analysis of national early-childhood and K-12 datasets shows home-based early-childhood programs, such as family childcare homes, are more likely than center-based sites to be segregated.  The authors note home-based programs in general face less regulations than center-based programs and that unlicensed sites, which can include care provided by friends and neighbors, are the most segregated.

While policymakers and many education leaders are increasingly focusing on growing racial segregation in public schools — and looking for strategies to reduce it — “segregation in early-childhood programs is even more pronounced than in K-12 classrooms,” the authors write, “and that separation can lead to missed opportunities for contact and kinship during a critical point in child development.”

While black children attend at least one non-parental care arrangement per week at greater rates than white children — 68% compared to 62% — the data still shows "greater segregation than we would expect based on enrollment alone," they add.

The authors also note research showing even infants begin to recognize racial differences and that racial bias can form during the early-childhood years.

Creating integrated early-childhood programs is likely "beyond where many states are thinking," said Danielle Ewen, a senior policy adviser at EducationCounsel, a D.C.-based consulting organization. Most have focused on expanding services to children with the greatest needs, she said, adding that creating more integrated classrooms "is something states might think about when they are looking for best practices."

Read the full article about segregation in pre-k by Linda Jacobson at Education Dive.